Cody Elsensohn, a Season 45 Resident Actor, has previously been seen on the Dock Street Theatre stage in The Play That Goes Wrong, The Addams Family – A New Musical, and A Christmas Carol. Now in the weighty, yet buoyant, role of Pablo Del Valle in Native Gardens, his acting skills are particularly shining. Hear from him about his preparation for this role below:
What do you love about theatre as an art form?
I love the energy that is created by the audience and the actors. From the moment the stage manager calls “house is open” and voices of an audience begin to hum over the monitor, it’s as if a pulse for that day’s show has started. By the time “places” is called there’s a buzzing, electric energy in the theatre. The best part is when the curtain finally rises and the audience and actors share in that energy together; the actors playing off the audience, the audience engaging with the actors. There’s a heightened, supported, intimate feel when we’re all engaged in the story together. That synergistic relationship is something I love about theatre.
How have you been preparing for the role of Pablo Del Valle in Native Gardens?
My process is pretty similar for any role I do. First, I like to listen to music that inspires me. For example, if the show is set in the 1920s, I will listen to instrumental music from the era while I work to aid in world building. For Native Gardens I looked up traditional and pop Chilean music, just listening to new sounds and getting a sense for the energy that Pablo grew up with in Chile. The next step is considering who this character is, what he wants, where he is, why he wants it—the preliminary questions to get to know who this character is at the top of the show.
Next I go through the script and Google literally anything I don’t understand, any pronunciations I need, any words I don’t know, and learn those things. For Pablo I needed to familiarize myself with topics mentioned in the script: native gardening, D.C. squatter’s rights, Lockheed Martin, life as an attorney. All these things help me know what I’m talking about and have a clear mental picture when I deliver lines.
I’ll also list out what other characters mention about my character to get a clearer picture on his relationships with others. After I’ve done all of this preliminary work, it’s just about playing with lines and dynamics with my scene partners; exploring Pablo through interactions with the others.
Tell us more about your character. What do you want us to know about him?
Pablo is a rising, successful, young attorney at Smith, Krause, & Wilson; a law firm in D.C. Pablo is originally from Las Condes, Santiago, Chile, attended boarding school in America, met in college and married Tania, and was disowned by his father for this. Years later at the top of the show, he and his expecting wife Tania have just moved into a long untended, fixer-upper house in an old, historic neighborhood. He’s viewed as a foreigner in his law firm, and feeling like an underdog leads him to try to be someone he imagines his colleagues will like. His pressures at work ultimately result in him having to scramble to stick true to his word, no matter what.
What I want people to know about Pablo is that he feels he has something to prove. He wants to provide for his family, support Tania’s interests, and rectify his relationship with his father through a new relationship with their baby. He feels a lot of pressure to do all of these things, but that pressure comes out of love.
What do you hope audiences will receive and ponder after seeing this show?
I hope our audiences’ notions of race and class are challenged by seeing the show, that they gain new perspectives about those who seem different. I hope people are excited by the show, and I hope they can walk away from it and see someone pass them by on the street and recognize their humanity just a little more clearly.
What is your favorite show of all time?
For a musical, I’d have to say Cabaret; I just love the aesthetic, the story, the mood, etc. For a play I’d have to say Nick Staffords’ War Horse, which is a magnificent play with singing, interesting staging, and a massive multi-person operated horse puppet.
Cody is ecstatic to join Charleston Stage in its 45th season as a Resident Actor! A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, Cody earned his B.F.A. in Acting from the University of Southern Mississippi in May of 2022. Some of his recent credits include Billy Cane in Bright Star, Jerry Hyland in Once in a Lifetime, Actor 1 in The Stinky Cheeseman, and Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Cody would like to thank his family, friends, and teachers who endlessly encourage and support him; it is highly valued! Keep up with Cody by following his Instagram: @cody.elsensohn