SCR Conservatory Students Share Role in "Once" and the Magic of the Show

Beth Fhaner
 | Sep 13, 2017

Theatre Conservatory students Jacqueline Vellandi and Aoife McEvoy on the set of Once.


Jacqueline Vellandi and Aoife McEvoy along with their fellow cast members from ​Once.

In SCR’s current production of Once, Theatre Conservatory students Jacqueline Vellandi and Aoife McEvoy share the role of Ivonka, the young girl who is the daughter of the Czech immigrant known as “Girl.” McEvoy and Vellandi have been in the Conservatory since 2013, and they both attend the Orange County School of the Arts. Both performers are thrilled to be a part of the cast of Once; for McEvoy, the role is especially meaningful, as her grandparents and all of her aunts, uncles and cousins live in Ireland. In addition, her dad used to busk on the streets of Killarney and even played in a pub once with Glen Hansard, the original main character in the indie movie and the songwriter for Once. In the following Q&A, McEvoy and Vellandi talk about what they’re enjoying about being part of a multi-award-winning musical.

What does it mean to you to have this opportunity?
McEvoy: It is so wonderful to work on a popular Broadway show! I have wanted to work as an actress on Broadway, so this is very special for me to have this opportunity. I get to work with—and learn from—amazing actors and actresses, get a taste of what a professional show is like and perform in a beautiful production!
Vellandi: Working on a popular show like Once is incredible because it attracts actors who have been part of the national tour or had been in the Broadway show and originated their roles or even won Tony Awards. The excitement from the crowd the first night, singing along to music they love, was pretty awesome to hear. It is such an honor to be part of a show like Once, where every actor is also an accomplished musician. I play the piano, guitar and ukulele and write music, so having the opportunity to play the role of “Ivonka” and be surrounded by all this incredible music is magical. I just love every minute.

What is this experience teaching you?
Vellandi:I’m learning firsthand how hard these actors work. The effort to learn accents, choreography, lines and develop a character the audience relates to—it’s exhausting and exhilarating. I love the release this story gives to our audience, giving them a break from their daily struggles.
McEvoy: This experience has taught me that when you play a character who has already been played before in a big show, don’t be afraid to make new choices and have your own perspective on what the character is to you, even if it isn’t exactly like how it was on Broadway. It has also taught me that you shouldn’t be afraid to go up and talk with the cast, even if they are adults, because the stronger the connection the ensemble has, the stronger the work is. Another thing I’ve learned is that active listening is key in developing the character’s personality and thoughts.

Who in the Theatre Conservatory has had the greatest influence on you?
Vellandi: I love my Junior Players’ teacher, Mercy Vasquez. She sees a special spark in every student she works with and forces them to make that spark grow by challenging them. Mercy found a way to show me that I could be more than just the cute, young girl by constantly giving me contrasting characters—some comedic and some very emotional and dramatic. She challenges us and encourages us, with a few harsh words and a lot of laughter. I am a better actor today because of my year with Mercy.
McEvoy: My favorite teacher is also Mercy Vasquez because she really cares about her students and helping them learn in the process leading up to a show. She has a great eye for what shows fit which cast members and makes all the classes really fun and educational. She has taught me so much about being a good actress as well as being a good person.

How does the experience of performing in Once help in your non-theatre studies?
McEvoy: Once has really helped me learn how to balance school and theatre, and how to give my all to both of them without over-extending myself.
Vellandi: Being part of Once has inspired me to work harder at guitar and piano; I am playing every day right now! Also, being in a show with all of these adults has made me more responsible with my time management skills. Not only do I want to be on time and on cue at rehearsal, but I want to be sure I do my schoolwork promptly so I’m rested and ready for what’s next. I’ve also learned that I don’t need to be afraid to talk to adults who are experts in their field; I can ask them questions and learn from them. This is a pretty special group of people in the cast of Once.

Learn more about Once.

Learn more about acting classes at the Theatre Conservatory.