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Interview: Collin Baja & Evan Strand Play the Loveable Reindeer, Sven in DISNEY'S FROZEN at Hobby Center For The Performing Arts

On stage in Houston through June 30th!

When the movie Frozen came out, I was in New York City, and the most fascinating part about that time in Disney movie history was how Frozen was so excellently merchandised. Elsa and Anna dolls were on shelves everywhere, and little did anyone know in those early days how big of a hit the movie, and now the musical would become. When the decision to bring the movie to musical life came to fruition, I had my trepidations, but after discussing the production with the talented, athletic, and down-to-earth actors that play the lovable reindeer, Sven, it only heightens the excitement that Houston will be able to witness the incredible talents of not only Collin Baja and Evan Strand. These two wonderful actors are double cast in the touring production of Disney's Frozen because of the physical demands of the role. I personally can't wait to witness the athletic mastery of these two actors in one of the most iconic Disney musicals of our age.


Interview: Collin Baja & Evan Strand Play the Loveable Reindeer, Sven in DISNEY'S FROZEN at Hobby Center For The Performing Arts
Caroline Bowman as Elsa in the North American Tour of Disney's Frozen.

How did you get into performing? What was that experience like?

Evan: My Grandmother got me into dancing, (my first love). She just mentioned one day when I was about 7 years old that I should start dancing. I started with a jazz class and after the first year my director told me I needed to get into ballet and asked if I wanted to really pursue the art. I played a lot of sports growing up and when I had to decide to stick with ballet or anything else, the dancing always won out! I started acting when I was in my early 20's and singing when I turned 26.

Collin: I was performing as soon as I was born. I was that typical kid that put on shows in the living room for the entire family and creating worlds and routines of my own every chance I got. I started making it a profession and honest pursuit in high school. I was heavily involved in local dance classes, the school choir, and the musicals. However, I was lucky enough to audition and be accepted to The Interlochen Arts Academy which is a performing arts boarding school. I was a dance major there and that is when I truly began down the road of carving my individual pathway inside the performing arts as a full time profession.

Interview: Collin Baja & Evan Strand Play the Loveable Reindeer, Sven in DISNEY'S FROZEN at Hobby Center For The Performing Arts
Company of the North American Tour of Disney's Frozen.

What is it like touring as we are slowly coming out of the pandemic?

Evan: Touring has been a whirlwind! A lot of different cities back-to-back and each has their own atmosphere and environment to engage with and explore! This being my first tour, it's all terribly exciting and moving quickly all at the same time.

Collin: Touring in general is a mixed bag. It can be isolating, frustrating to move every couple weeks, tough to do the long drives, and to keep all the other aspects of your life balanced and nourished. Doing a tour inside a COVID world is even more intense. Our company is brilliant, and everyone is stepping up to the challenge, but our industry is one that is affected in very large ways with this pandemic. Everyone in the world is collectively exhausted and tired of being in this pandemic, yet doing live theater is still such a tricky balance. Overall, I am grateful that we have the guidelines and frequent testing to keep us as safe as possible, but it is a constant struggle to feel free to create and play when there is this constant threat of our show or industry being shut down again.

Interview: Collin Baja & Evan Strand Play the Loveable Reindeer, Sven in DISNEY'S FROZEN at Hobby Center For The Performing Arts
F. Michael Haynie as Olaf in Disney's Frozen.

What is the one thing you look forward to when you reach a new city?

Evan: I love to check out what the best food is in each city. They all have their staples and what's the best! New Orleans had amazing grilled oysters, we have a ramen club that gets together in each city, Seattle had wonderful fish and coffee, but Buffalo NY has been my favorite for all around great food every day!

Collin: I personally look for great parks. I travel with my 5-year-old golden doodle Balu. So, when I am booking Airbnb's or looking ahead to a new city, I am always seeking out the best outdoor areas for our walks, play time, and for me to connect to nature. That feeds my soul and is how I usually meet people as well. You will never find better or faster ways of getting local recommendations than you will by meeting other dog owners and having your pups play together.

Interview: Collin Baja & Evan Strand Play the Loveable Reindeer, Sven in DISNEY'S FROZEN at Hobby Center For The Performing Arts
Caroline Bowman and the Company of Disney's Frozen.

Is there something you are looking forward to when you come to Houston?

Evan: I have a dear friend that lives just outside Houston, so I am very excited to reconnect with her and see her kids and family. I was also told that pig hunting is year round and I would love to find time to do that!

Collin: I have not been to Houston in years! I am nervous about the heat in the dead of summer! Haha. Overall, I am excited to see what has changed, find some local eateries, and to hopefully inspire some youth to understand they CAN make a living out of performing.

Interview: Collin Baja & Evan Strand Play the Loveable Reindeer, Sven in DISNEY'S FROZEN at Hobby Center For The Performing Arts
Collin Baja as Sven and F. Michael Haynie as Olaf in Disney's Frozen.

What is your favorite part of the production and why?

Evan: Truthfully, any time I get to be on stage. However, I love being able to participate in the talkbacks. With the shut down, and the safety guidelines we have to follow, I don't get to engage and interact with the audience as much, but the talkbacks give me a chance to share the joy I have on stage with the audience that much more.

Collin: My favorite part of the show is probably all the silly antics and fun we have off stage! I cannot sing the praises enough of each performer, crew member, musician, and company member. On stage, I know it is cliché but Let it Go is mesmerizing. Caroline Bowman (Elsa) is family to me and sitting in the wing each show watching her talent astound the masses, while surrounded by the Disney magic of that number, just makes me smile ear to ear.

Interview: Collin Baja & Evan Strand Play the Loveable Reindeer, Sven in DISNEY'S FROZEN at Hobby Center For The Performing Arts
Caroline Bowman as Elsa in Disney's Frozen.

Sven is such a physically-demanding role. How did you prepare for it?

Evan: I have a strict regimen physically and nutritionally that I stick to. Work out as much as I can and eat whenever I'm hungry! HA! It is demanding but I get out what I put into it. We have a wonderful physical therapist on tour with us that really takes care of our needs, little sprains or strains, conditioning or just helping us maintain our bodies that much better. Flexibility is key for me. I have the strength from my ballet training but operating a puppet in a plank position is not how the hum.

Collin: I do a diligent one-hour warm up prior to every show I am on for. I spend the shows I have "off" on the physical therapy table getting lots of rehab work done. I ice after every show I perform. Lastly, I make sure I am still going to the gym for stretching, weight training, mobility, and overall workouts at least four times per week.

Interview: Collin Baja & Evan Strand Play the Loveable Reindeer, Sven in DISNEY'S FROZEN at Hobby Center For The Performing Arts
Caroline Innerbichler as Anna and Mason Reeves as Kristoff in Disney's Frozen.

How do you stay in shape and maintain the stamina to perform the role?

Evan: I find myself in an incredible rhythm with the role. My body is very used to it, after 6 months on and now another 9 months consecutive of working through it. I know when the slightest bit of operation is off in the costume. I know exactly where it is if my eyes or ears get stuck. Thank goodness for our dresser, Sue, who takes amazing care of us and the costume every day. I'm in it now, my body knows this show and this character! I have to trust my muscles and let them do their thing. Beyond that, breath work, controlling my oxygen level is imperative to keeping the character in the right emotional state.

Collin: Well, to be honest, it is a very difficult role, but it has also become part of me now over so much time. Through the diligent pre-show warm up, physical therapy, and my own personal working out, I have grown accustomed to Sven. As long as I do not shy away from these pillars of self-care and maintenance, I can get out there and make sure I am able to bring Sven to life in a fun, stable, and strong fashion.

Interview: Collin Baja & Evan Strand Play the Loveable Reindeer, Sven in DISNEY'S FROZEN at Hobby Center For The Performing Arts
Caroline Innerbichler as Anna in Disney's Frozen.

How does it feel being a part of a Disney production, especially one that has such a massive following?

Evan: Disney makes dreams come true right?! It's very imaginative and the design work that has gone into making Sven so real and life-like is truly amazing! I have the honor of actually filling his lungs with air, but the puppet itself is unbelievable. I argue that kids under 10 do not know it's not a real reindeer! I don't know how many other productions that could have pulled off this kind of quality like Disney has. It's the imagination that brings it to life.

Collin: It is so fun! This show is gorgeous, our company is a collection of superstars, and our crew is the best around. Being part of this show is thrilling and playing Sven can be isolating but once you get out there and hear the response from the audience, it makes it so worth it.

Interview: Collin Baja & Evan Strand Play the Loveable Reindeer, Sven in DISNEY'S FROZEN at Hobby Center For The Performing Arts
Caroline Bowman as Elsa and Company in Disney's Frozen.

Any future plans or projects from you?

Evan: I love performing. Acting in particular. My life goal is to be a big movie star! So, beyond this, when I get to say "Oh yeah! I remember getting to do Sven, that was so cool!" I will still act! I love TV and film and plan to put my attention into those mediums even more.

Collin: I juggle a lot. I am currently getting my Master's degree in clinical mental health counseling, I am a certified life and leadership coach with a brilliant company called a)plan coaching, and I have private coaching I offer to the LGBTQ community. So those are my current projects and that keeps me plenty busy, of service, fulfilled, and creative!

Interview: Collin Baja & Evan Strand Play the Loveable Reindeer, Sven in DISNEY'S FROZEN at Hobby Center For The Performing Arts
Mason Reeves as Kristoff and Collin Baja as Sven in Disney's Frozen.

Disney's Frozen will be running at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts from Thursday, June 30th to Wednesday, July 13th. Weekday evening performances are at 7:30 PM on Tuesday, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, with Friday performances starting at 8:00 PM. Weekend matinee performances are Saturday at 2:00 PM, and Sunday at 1:30 PM respectiviely. Saturday evening performances begin at 8:00 PM and Sunday evening performances begin at 6:30 PM. Tickets can be bought at the Hobby Center Box Office at 800 Bagby St. or at the Hobby Center website. Vaccinations are no longer a requirement but masks are highly encouraged throughout the entire venue.



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From This Author - Armando Urdiales