Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Meet the Cast - Avenue Q - Kristina Hopkins

What do you find appealing about your character?
Kate Monster, for me, is one of those rare characters that I already have so much love for.  One of the reasons I think Kate is so special is that there is a little bit of Kate Monster in everyone.  Old or young, male or female, everyone knows what it feels like to want to feel loved, or to dream, or to be just a little bit different.  I also love Kate’s emotional journey through the show.  She differs from other female love interests in that she’s not your typical “I’m in love and everything’s wonderful” kind of girl.  She’s sassy and knows how to stand up for herself.  She can be really strong in challenging situations, and she’s not some na├»ve young girl who gets depressed when things don’t go her way.

What do you want the audience to take away from this show?
I hope we reach new people with this show, who came in not knowing what to expect and find upon leaving that they were truly moved.  I hope that people learn something from this show, about themselves, about life…just something.  Avenue Q reaches out to people on a level that many shows fail to achieve.  People find that they have something in common with all of the characters.  Like Kate, we all want to find love.  Or like Rod, we all struggle with accepting who we are rather than being what we think other people want to see.  Or even like Trekkie, we all love something that other people may not understand.  Avenue Q brings these things out into the open, so that it becomes ok to talk about them, and so that we, as an audience, may believe that life will go on and everything will eventually be ok.

How does this show differ from other shows you have worked on?
Well, the obvious difference between Avenue Q and most other musicals is the puppetry.  As actors, we are challenged to bring life into someone who’s made out of foam and fur and glue, and we have to make that look effortless and believable.  You want the audience to feel for the puppets as if they are real people.  This show is also the most adult in terms of content that I’ve worked on, and most shows I’ve been in have around 20-25 people, as compared to our cast of 8.

How long have you been acting and what made you get involved in theatre?
When I was little, the people who inspired me most were performers.  I knew that I had to do that one day; to move people somehow.  I don’t care whether people laugh or cry, as long as they feel.  I started performing before I can even remember.  My dad used to have a band and I’d go with him at Christmas time and sing Christmas carols at nursing homes.  I don’t think I even knew how to form real words yet, but when you’re two or three, people don’t really care.  To this day I still picture the “radiant beans that form thy holy face” when I sing Silent Night.  I did my first play the summer before second grade.  In fifth grade, I had my first two really big roles: Grace in Annie and Judas in Godspell, and I told my mom then, when I was 10 years old, that I was going to be on Broadway one day.  I started doing community theatre when I was in seventh grade.  After my freshman year of high school, I played Pennywise in Urinetown, which is when my parents realized that I really did have a shot.  I started working teen professionally when I was 15, getting some amazing opportunities with roles like (my other dream role, besides Kate Monster) Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, Paulette in Legally Blonde, and Fantine in Les Miserables.  I made my professional debut when I was 17, understudying Erzulie in Once on This Island.  I’m currently working toward a B.F.A. in musical theatre from Wright State University, and hope to eventually move to London and perform in the West End.

How did you get involved with LTA?
It never ceases to amaze me how small the theatre world is.  I heard about LTA several times before I auditioned.  A friend of mine was in Spelling Bee here. Another friend of mine runs the MD Theatre Guide, and has reviewed shows here.  He also nominated LTA for the MD Theatre Guide Readers’ Choice Awards last year, one of which I also won.  Avenue Q is one of my all-time favorite shows, and I’d been watching for auditions since the rights became available.  The first audition call I found, they asked for you to be at least 18, and I wasn’t yet.  I saw another call, but I would have been away at school during the actual run of the show.  Finally I saw LTA’s audition announcement, and the schedule fit perfectly.  With what I’d already heard about LTA’s reputation of high quality shows, I didn’t hesitate to audition.  I’m very impressed with how extremely talented and professional everyone is, and how welcome they made me feel.

What advice would you give others who are interested in working in theatre?
Being on stage is the most rewarding experience anyone can ever have.  What a lot of people don’t realize is that it’s also the most difficult.  For anyone who really wants it, go for it, but do so knowing that you’re going to have to put the work into it.  That means finding good voice and acting and dance teachers to help you, because raw talent alone isn’t enough.  Those performances that really move and inspire you only occur because a performer took the time to hone their craft, and then put the work into really understanding their character.  But for anyone who’s willing to work for it, nothing else could give you greater satisfaction.  Even though the path I’ve chosen is extremely challenging, I know I could never settle for the easier route.

Catch Kristina & her cast mates in Avenue Q at LTA  from July 27 - Aug. 17!
Tickets: www.thelittletheatre.com / 703-683-0496