What do you find appealing about your character?
Gary Colema’s character appealed to me because he’s one of the only humans in the show. There’s something really surreal about interacting with puppets and I always loved how when watching Sesame Street, the humans made the puppets seem real because they spoke and interacted with them like they were. Gary is the celebrity guest, but in true Avenue Q fashion, he’s a washed up celebrity instead of a big star. I had never seen Different Strokes before being cast in this role. Part of my homework was watching episodes and I have to say, I really enjoyed the show. It was truly entertaining to watch and see how Gary Coleman rose to fame. As far as how that impacted me, well I have to admit, I developed a lot more respect for the character I'm playing. I was able to get a better understanding of why the creators put him in this show. I feel like the creators wanted the audience to experience a little firsthand schadenfreude by having my character here and I'm more than happy to fulfill the role.
What do you find appealing about this show?
I love Avenue Q! I know, a surprise! Really though, I feel like this show starts where Sesame Street left off. I think being twenty-something’s, we’re often feeling like Princeton, recently graduated and realizing we have no clue what we want to do with the degree we just spent so much money earning. I feel like Avenue Q demonstrates that it is okay to not be like your law school friend, or the one in the Army, but to just to be you. On top of that, it takes such an in your face look at such sensitive topics that we normally only speak about in whispers. I think that because you’re laughing at topics you’re normally not allowed to talk about, it makes it easier to break down some of those barriers and start open and honest dialogue about things like racism, homosexuality, and even porn.
What do you want the audience to experience/take away from this show?
I want the audience to have a blast watching this show and realize it’s okay to laugh because it’s meant to be funny. There are so many stereotypes and some of them are pretty hilarious!! We all know they exist but we don’t talk about them. Why? I think this show forces you to. I’d like audiences to leave with their stomachs sore from laughing and feeling a bit more comfortable too. I hate how we have to walk on eggshells because we don’t want to offend somebody. Some of the most “politically correct” terms are, in reality, the most offensive. If you don’t know, ASK! It’s not that hard and the person will probably appreciate it!
How does this show differ from other shows you have worked on?
This is one of the smallest shows I’ve ever been a part of. There are only 8 of us and because of that we’re doing a lot more work. Even when you’re not on stage your backstage singing or helping someone with a puppet! It’s really allowed the cast to bond and I can already sense there could be some tears during closing weekend. This show is also very new as opposed to typical community theatre shows. Most of us in the show remember when it came out in high school or the early years of college, so it’s something we grew up with. This is one of those “dream role” shows for a lot of the cast! Then, of course, there’s the content. Because of the dialogue of this show, we’re all known to come up with some pretty awesome zingers of our own during rehearsals. We’re a very multicultural cast, as intended when this show was created and it makes it a blast because we’re constantly saying “highly inappropriate” things. Then of course there’s our director, Frank Shutts! Besides being a brilliant director, he also made sure that this show is not only fun but a learning experience. He does this by asking us why we’re doing or saying something, to get to the meat of the story. He was very quick to point out that there is a story behind all the dirty jokes and it’s our job to bring it out.
How long have you been acting and what made you get involved in theatre? How did you get involved with LTA?
I’ve been acting since I was 5. My dad cast me in my very first show “Down by the Creek Bank. After that, I began doing a lot of shows in my church youth group. Once I went to high school, I began taking every acting class offered by my school. So it comes as no surprise that I went on to minor in theatre at Lynchburg College, before moving onto acting in the Lynchburg community. When I moved out of my college town, I didn’t know anything about theatre in the DMV area so it took a while before I auditioned for anything up here. I found the NVTA webpage and saw auditions for The Full Monty. After much encouragement from the husband Ben and my dearest friend Brooke, I decided to give it a go. This is my second show with LTA and I hope it won’t be my last, I love this company! They are so genuine and the love of theatre is prevalent in everyone, from the costumers to the box office. These are people who really care and it shows.
What advice would you give others who are interested in working in theatre?
Go for it !! You have nothing to lose. You may get cast, you may not. In auditions anyone and everyone has a chance. You can’t get cast in every show either, sometimes you’re just not the right fit, but that’s doesn’t mean you’re not talented. Keep trying. If you can’t sing, or act but want to be involved then do something backstage. Every piece of theatre is important. LTA wouldn’t be the award winning theatre that it is without the gems working the lighting and the people designing and building our sets. Seriously, these shows can’t happen without dozens of people who aren’t on stage working on it.
Catch Aerika & her cast mates in Avenue Q at LTA from July 27 - Aug. 17!
Tickets: www.thelittletheatre.com / 703-683-0496