Spotlight on Rachel Spencer Hewitt
How did you get involved with acting?
My parents were artists, so I grew up surrounded by the desire to create beautiful things, emphasize imagination and problem-solve bravely. My dad was an actor for quite a few years, and through him I was involved in every church and school play and choir performance since I could walk. I recently got to work with my dad again on an independent film he wrote and directed called “Return to the Hiding Place” which comes out this fall. In middle school I discovered community theatre and by high school it took up the majority of my time. By the time I got to college, I was on scholarship for theatre, but, funnily enough, it took me until my sophomore year to realize that my studies could be devoted to my craft. It simply made sense. I always preferred to be at dance class or rehearsal rather than anywhere else, playing and creating, unearthing the human experience and different ways to communicate what we find – I can’t think of a better pursuit in the world.
What has been your favorite role to play and why?
What an impossible question! So many for so many different reasons, but if I had to choose, I would say Masha in The Three Sisters and Homebody in Homebody/Kabul, both in graduate school, and Margaret here at STC in Much Ado About Nothing. I love Masha’s depth, her darkness and how capable she is of great pleasure as well as pain. I adore this brilliant young woman trapped in her own circumstances, containing a light that refuses to die out, grabbing for love with a final leap. With Homebody, it was such an exciting opportunity to enter the world of a woman who contained entire worlds within herself and suffocated due to her inability to express them. For all the words in the world, she fails to communicate with those she loves, and so finally, she must act, leaving in silence which later screams volumes. With Margaret, it was a thrilling opportunity to dig deeply into very little text and ask, “ok, who is this woman? what is her story? why her?” The excavation of seemingly small characters is so satisfying for me, because – as in the case of Margaret – they are often larger than life and need very little stage time to have a very big effect on the story. The more I discovered about Margaret, the more I fell in love. Her passion, fiery, free spirit, her relish for affection, rejection of propriety, her invisible status but very visible mistakes and an arc that ends in forgiveness. She is a small but vibrant thread weaving through one of my favorite Shakespearean comedies.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Yes. It varies a little show by show, but music is very important for me to find focus. I arrive early at the theatre to get comfortable and calm in the space, and I either run or dance for an hour before a show, using my iPod and selected playlists to get my mind listening, engaged in the present and moving. Having a warm body and mind is especially important in a show like The Servant of Two Masters because my costars will often take opportunities for improv or something will change due to audience response, and lightning fast, just like that, the play shifts and you go right along with it! It’s an incredible challenge that has such pleasurable results. After the physical work, I take a hot shower and dry and prep my hair for wigs at the theater while going through my vocal work. Still, very often, to music. It’s all about the listening. Also, I usually start the day with a Starbucks Iced Green Tea.
What are you most excited about with The Servant of Two Masters?
The audience members will be really exciting to experience night to night. I’m looking forward to their interaction and attention, what they respond to, how they respond. I’m really hoping people will come ready to let their raucous side come out and play. I know we’re looking forward to it and will be ready to play right back! In true commedia form, the piece is a constant paradox of scripted and improv, tradition and topical, comfort and controversy, and – as with most things human – a whole lot of brave, messy love. I’m looking forward to how each hilarious moment changes night to night depending on the audience’s response! I’ve learned so much working with Chris Bayes as a director because training with him in school only scratched the surface for me of the incredibly mad, beautiful, tender and tumultuous world of commedia and its characters. Chris has a real understanding of the rhythm and spirit of the piece and has created with Steve [Epp, who plays Truffaldino] a world where severe precision and reckless abandon go hand in hand, and it feels like flying! You’ll see what I mean when you see it. I’m most excited to share it with everyone. It’s a wild ride with a lot of heart, music and story. What more could you ask for?