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Interview: Sasha Hutchings Talks Tour of OKLAHOMA!

Playing the lead role of Laurey Williams in the Daniel Fish revival of OKLAHOMA! is Sasha Hutchings, a fiercely passionate actress who is committed to her craft.

Oklahoma!Currently playing the lead role of Laurey Williams in Broadway's revival of OKLAHOMA! and known for her contributions to well-known projects such as My Fair Lady, Motown the Musical, Rocky, and Memphis, Sasha Hutchings is a skilled, successful actress. Her willingness to bring truth to her characters proves her committment to her craft.

BroadwayWorld spoke with Hutchings about her current roles, her meaningful past roles, and more!

What is your favorite aspect of your character, Laurey Williams?

I really like how bold she is and that she is making choices for herself. With every step, Laurey is deciding things about her life, giving voice to what she wants, and making really bold choices about how she's going to get it.

What's the most enjoyable part of playing Laurey? What are some challenges you've faced in this role?

The character has been very layered for me. This is a character that we're very familiar with. Laurey lives in a lot of people's minds as an iconic American musical character. I have been going back to the words and the script, really uncovering what I had never considered about this woman in this situation-being in Oklahoma, falling in love, and coming of age. There are a lot of things about her that I had never considered. I think I had taken her character, and probably a lot of the characters in the show, for granted. So approaching this show in a different way, digging into the reality of these people with the lens that we have in 2022, approaching these characters with all the knowledge we have of ourselves and our history and our country, and looking at Laurey anew-it's been in layers. Her words, and what it means to say them every night, grows every day, depending on what I'm going through as an actress and a person or what we're going through as a country. It's been a tough time in the past three weeks, and just saying her words has been enjoyable. I'm discovering her character anew as I think about her now in 2022.

The initial challenge was figuring out how not to take her for granted-how to truly approach her anew, look at the words, and try to understand her in my body as a Black woman in 2022. It was challenging not to look at Laurey and take her for granted for what I've seen in movies or my prior knowledge of the show. Another challenge I can speak to is just the gruel of touring. It's hard to come to a new city, put a show up in a day, perform the show for a week, and then pack up and leave to go to the next city. Coming fresh to the stage every day takes real discipline. I've had fun crafting this discipline, but it's definitely a big challenge and a big learning experience.

One of my favorite musical numbers was "The Surrey with the Fringe on Top." Laurey Williams and Curly McLain seem to have clear chemistry on stage. Was this chemistry something you and Sean Grandillo had to build, or did it click right away?

I think "The Surrey with the Fringe on Top" is a favorite in Dallas, and I love it. It's a fun number. It's this really awesome shift in the show, and I think it's one of the first moments we started to realize that this show is different. We were already on stage, reading the words, saying the lines, singing the songs, and all of a sudden there was this green light-we were completely washed in this green-and we were like, "oh man, what's happening!?"

Sean and I definitely had a real connection at the beginning. He's a kind person, and we were both really excited and open to creating these moments in the show. It's still something you have to build, and you build it by showing up for that person 100% at every show and rehearsal, being open, and building trust. It's definitely something that has grown a lot over the past few months. I'm really grateful for him as a co-star because there's a level of play and trust that we both have, and you don't always get that kind of match. It's a very safe space, I would say for me as an actress, which you always want with a co-star. We play with each other on stage; we have jokes and things that we have crafted. I can say that he was very open to figuring out his Curly with my Laurey, and it was the same for me. I was excited to figure out what our compatibility, rhythm, and vibe would be. It takes a lot, but it's grown a lot. It's a partnership.

This production of OKLAHOMA! has many new creative choices and angles. What has been the most challenging part of maneuvering these changes and the new subject matter in the revival?

There's something that's actually so simple about it. Getting on stage, saying the words, meaning them, and being honest with the questions you're asking or statements you're making-just telling the truth. There's also something so hard about that because our lives are so complicated.

Nothing in the revival has been changed, so to speak. The words are exactly the same. The music is exactly the same. The orchestrations are new, but they're very much in the same spirit. The book is the same, and the characters are the same. There really aren't any changes I'm maneuvering. I think what we're maneuvering around, and I think what is sometimes hard for audiences, are our expectations-our previous encounters with this show and this narrative, our preconceived ideas about who these people are and what this show means-that's what's hard to maneuver.

It's been really refreshing for me to just let go because for a long time I looked at a story like OKLAHOMA!, and I looked at a show like OKLAHOMA!, and there was an exclusion that I would feel, and I know many other people would feel, looking at it. To break down those barriers and see that I actually relate to these characters a lot, and I actually see them reflected in my hometown where I grew up and my friends now, is refreshing. So this shows that I'm very much a part of this story. I think the challenge to maneuver is actually what we're holding onto as an idea of what this show means. Actually doing the show is delightfully simple. As an actress and as a person, I delight in the honesty and straightforwardness of the direction we've been given-just say the words, mean them, and portray these characters honestly.

What would you say to someone who's skeptical about coming to see this production of OKLAHOMA!?

I would say, "what are you afraid of?"

I'd say, "bring it! Buy your ticket!"

I'd say, "come have an unexpected experience." How often do we get to have those?

I would tell them "come see something you weren't anticipating and participate in the beautiful thing that is live theater." It's a special time to see theater. Every performance is precious. We're all navigating a virus, we've been shut down for two years, and now is a really special time for theater.

So, I'll say, "bring your skepticism. Come see the show, participate in the conversation and discourse, and experience the telling of stories, whether you agree with it, like it, love it, hate it, or some combination of all of those things."

What was the most exciting role you've ever played?

Playing Laurey in OKLAHOMA! is definitely one of them, hands down.

I really liked playing Kathy Selden and Singing in the Rain. I love an old classic, mid century musical. I think they're very special and fun stories. I like to go back to them and find myself in them because again, that was another role that I didn't see myself in, so that made it really fun.

My very favorite was being in Hamilton and being the understudy for Peggy Schuyler and Mariah Renold (I played her a few times.). Overall being a part of that ensemble of people and actors was just incredible. I like ensemble pieces where everyone on the stage is crucial, and this is true of both OKLAHOMA! and Hamilton.

You were once in a television episode of Marvel's Jessica Jones series. What was a unique part of that experience that you can share?

It was one of my first TV roles. I remember seeing Krysten Ritter work and hearing her co-stars talk about how hard of a worker she is. I was happy to see an example of what integrity is in an actress, see the respect it earns you, and learn from that experience. Working with a hardworking lead actress was a great environment to be in.

One of my favorite roles on TV recently has been as Hope on the Starz series, Run the World. It's about Black women living in Harlem, and Hope has been a fun character. The role is very different from Laurey and other roles I've played. Hope is a bit scatterbrained, busy, and excitable, but she's a very fun, quirky character that I have fun playing.

I enjoy creating these people that are recognizable to someone in their own life. We watch television and go to the theater because we recognize pieces of ourselves, and I think that connection is really cool.

What one moment in your career do you still think about and use as motivation for your current and future work?

The moment that comes to mind is in Hamilton, just before "Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)" and one of the big dance breaks, when the ensemble takes a knee on the outskirts of the stage. I used to take that moment as a moment of gratitude, to either pray or say "thank you" for the moment I was in. When you're working, a lot of your moments can be surrounded by stress that no one sees, whether it's professional or personal stress. What is seen and what you perform is the job that you're doing, and when you're in something wonderful like this tour or one of these moments, it can get caught up in a lot of negativity, which is something I have struggled with, and I think a lot of people can relate to that. Those moments of gratitude and being present are really important. I try to remember that so I can show up each time ready to do my best for the performance, for myself, and for the moment that I'm in. This came at such a big moment for me and my career, and it was such a lovely experience, but it was also something that was challenging in its own ways.

Is the cast and crew doing any exploring while you're in the DFW area?

I've been planting seeds and rallying people to go to a Medieval Times dinner, but I don't know if I'm winning that battle. Today is actually our one true day off. We're not traveling, so we will probably find a nice dinner. I'm currently at the pool with some of the castmates. We've been on the road, and we really do like each other, so getting some time to rest together is nice.

Details:

Bass Performance Hall June 21-26. Purchase tickets through the Bass Performance Hall website. Run time: 2 hours and 45 minutes with one intermission. Recommended for ages 12 and up. Visit the tour website to learn more about the amazing Cast, Creative, and Producers.

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade


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