Lauren Dong and Mitchell Huntley.
Lauren Dong and Mitchell Huntley in the 2012 production of Seussical.
Theatre Conservatory students Lauren Dong and Mitchell Huntley appeared in SCR’s 2012 production of Seussical, and they’re both back for the Summer Players’ production of Seussical this August. We talk with them about their roles, how they’ve evolved in their acting craft since the 2012 production and what they’re most looking forward to regarding this summer’s musical extravaganza.
What role did you play in the 2012 production of Seussical? What role will you play this summer?
Dong: In the 2012 production of Seussical, I played a Who, Fish, Circus Member and the Baby Elephant Bird. In this summer’s production of Seussical, I will play Gertrude McFuzz.
Huntley: Back in the 2012 production, I was thrilled to play a Who in the Ensemble. This time around, I am fortunate to be playing the role of Horton the Elephant.
What have you learned as an actor since the 2012 production?
Huntley: Since the 2012 production, I have learned more about how to relax and breathe into the character and how to blend the character and myself. I have evolved my craft from being a little boy who was just eager to sing and act to being a young adult who has the ability to think deeply about the character’s needs and how that affects their perspective on what’s happening around them.
Dong: Where do I even begin? Well, I’ve learned a lot—that’s for sure. I’ve learned how to listen. Listening sounds simple, but for me, listening is about escaping the chaos and tension in my mind and allowing myself to be very open. That is frightening for me to do. But vulnerability isn’t about being comfortable or even uncomfortable and awkward; it’s about being courageous and believing in myself, which SCR has taught me to be. Additionally, I’ve learned to observe more deeply, and have been vastly exposed to the beauty of human behavior, of which I am fascinated by. Although, when I look at all my seven years of training at SCR in one big picture, I think the most important thing I’ve learned as an actor, which has helped me evolve not only in my craft but as a person, too, is trust: how to trust, what it means, why it’s important and so on.
What do you enjoy the most about Players’ productions?
Huntley: I enjoy how we always dive deep into the story and characters. The Player's productions also bring together a group of people who, by the end of the process, are really your second family. I also appreciate the amazing opportunity to work with SCR's professional staff and technicians.
Dong: The thing I most enjoy about Players’ productions is the beauty of telling a story with people who have the same passion and motivation. With any production, nothing makes acting seem more satisfying and freeing to me than when I am a part of making people feel something, and knowing that they had a memorable experience. The whole reason I wanted to start acting was because I fell in love with the thrill of seeing a story come to life right before my eyes. Most of all, I love how Players’ focus is on the process of acting versus the product of the show, which allows the actors’ organic work to really develop. It also makes the experience so much more engaging and you feel like you’re growing in a positive way.
What’s the best thing about SCR’s acting classes?
Dong: How they have such an intimate, safe environment where students are encouraged to explore and express themselves in very creative ways. And there are never wrong answers or someone telling you that a choice you make is wrong, only people and choices that help you be the best you can be. You don’t even have to be in love with acting or want to pursue it to take a class. When I’m in class, I feel proud about what I love to do and am able to share my passion freely.
Huntley: SCR’s acting classes are constructive and welcoming. It is all about the process and growing as a person, as well as an actor. It truly is a safe space to make bold choices; even if you fall flat on your face, you learn to use that mistake to grow and become a better actor.
What excites you the most regarding the upcoming Summer Players’ production of Seussical?
Huntley: Seussical is a complex show. It is very easy to fall into the trap of viewing it simply as a children’s story. But in our production, we dig deeper into the characters’ motivations, the worlds they live in, the stories and messages each character tells. I am very excited to be telling Horton’s story and, in particular, being able to sing “Solla Sollew,” this time as Horton, and view the song from an entirely new perspective.
Dong: I’m most excited about getting to work with new people, especially the younger kids, because I was in their shoes six years ago. At that time, being new to Summer Players, I didn’t know many people. On the first day of rehearsal, when the entire cast was sitting down for our first read-through of the script and I was sitting by myself not really talking to anyone, an older teen boy who was playing Horton the Elephant sat down next to me. He introduced himself and asked me what my name was. Instantly, I had made a friend and, today, he still remains a friend. From that moment on, I had gone on to make friends with the entire cast. After that first day, I was so lucky to have felt like I belonged, and I look forward to making more friends this summer.
What can audiences expect?
Dong: When audiences come to see Seussical, they are going to go on an extravagant journey full of surprises and twists and turns. The show is also a bright reminder of classic Seuss stories, a lesson to always believe in yourself, and will remind you to never stop thinking.
Huntley: I think audiences should expect to be on the edge of their seats. It's a colorful, lively and intriguing story and this production will bring some new dimensions to the characters. I think our production will help the audience lose any preconceptions they might have and will keep them curious and thinking until the very last curtain.
Learn more about Seussical and buy tickets.