As we over here on 7th and Jordan gear up for the 2019–2020 season of IU Theatre, we’ll be shining a spotlight on the artists currently taking on their thesis projects during the Fall season. First up, Ellise Chase, a third year MFA actor who is about to open in the role of Hester Swane in By the Bog of Cats, by Marina Carr, the first show of the 2019–2020 season. I threw some questions her way about the show, her work, and her time here at IU.
How do you feel the role of Hester is a culmination of your time here at IU, both in the classroom and onstage?
Ellise: Hester is using every ounce of knowledge I’ve gained here at IU and beyond. This rehearsal process has allowed me to use every facet of our actor training: dialect, vocal work, physicality, stage combat, awareness of atmosphere, ensemble work, following impulses, and working in the realm of non-realism, just to name a few. The most useful tool is the confidence and peace of having faith in my hard work over the years has given me an extensive tool belt to draw from.
What drew you to the role of Hester?
Ellise: Honestly, what drew me to the role was that the challenge scared me (and still does, a bit). Hester Swane is intense, erratic, entirely unique, and completely intimidating. She is unlike anyone I’ve ever played, and I’ve had to utilize every ounce of acting training I have to make something of this character. Hester is an roller coaster ride, constantly changing. It is so incredibly fun and challenging to go on this ride with her.
Thoughts on the joys of dialogue work and working with Ansley (Valentine, the director, and Head of Acting)?
Ellise: I absolutely love dialogue work. It is such a clear and straightforward way to click into the world of the play. I was lucky enough to study abroad in Ireland, west of where By the Bog of Cats is set, so I had some insight into the dialect, but there was a lot of study as an ensemble with the help of Nancy Lipschultz, our dialect/vocal coach to get us all on the same page.
Ansley is a freaking delight. I have worked with him as an adviser, teacher, and now finally director. He is truly an actor’s dream. He has a clear vision, knows what he wants from the actors, but gives us room to play, explore, and discover the world together. He is also so clearly a teacher in his directing. It’s a group of gifted youngsters, and he is leading us by helping us not only grow in this production, but future productions and in the professional world moving forward.
Fun facts – where ya from? Hobbies? What you do to unwind after a long day of class and rehearsal? Fave current tv show (or podcast)?
Ellise: I am from Erie, PA (the home of the famous Pizza Bomber) and my fiancé and I share an awesome doggo named Chloe! She is a black lab mix we adopted from the Bloomington Animal Shelter. Grad school doesn’t give me a lot of down time, but in the rare moments I find some, you can usually find me cooking, up-cycling furniture from Goodwill, or recently planning my wedding. I am getting married October 20th (mere days away) and it has taken over my free moments!
After our long days with rehearsal (usually you will find the grad students in the building from 9:00 am until about 10:30 pm) I unwind with a glass of Merlot, a few rounds of fetch with Chloe, and The Great British Baking Show.
Toilet paper – over or under? Why? (we here over at 7th and Jordan ask the hard questions)
Ellise: This question rocked my world because I didn’t even know this was a thing! I have never noticed whether or not the toilet paper is over or under. I am just happy whenever there is toilet paper actually on the holder, and not on the back of the seat.
Break legs Ellise! Check out Ellise Chase as Hester Swane in By the Bog of Cats, opening THIS Friday September 27th and running through October 5th in the Wells-Metz Theatre.