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Interview: Sasha Andreev of RUNESTONE! A ROCK MUSICAL at History Theatre

This production runs now though May 29th

Interview: Sasha Andreev of RUNESTONE! A ROCK MUSICAL at History Theatre

1898. Swedish immigrant Olaf Ohman digs up a rock on his property near Kensington, MN with "a story on carved runes" that tells that The Vikings were the first Europeans to set foot in Minnesota. He is praised for his discovery but soon controversy erupts and his life is turned upside down with claims of "Fake! Fraud! Liar!" Step back in time and enjoy the ride with this whimsical rock 'n roll musical. Rock on!!

We chat with Sasha Andrew who stars as Olof Ohman in Runestone!

How does it feel to have live audiences and theatres back?
As much as we pivoted and innovated over the last few years with virtual solutions, performing in front of people live is unmatchable. The audience is very much a part of the dynamic, and their energy is integral to the show, because we can feel their reaction and in turn are empowered by it. So I am thrilled to be in front of a live audience, and appreciate the support of our patrons, especially in at time when the pandemic continues to affect our livelihoods.
What inspired you to pursue a career in performing?
Becoming a performer was always the default for me, not matter how much I tried to pursue other avenues. Growing up I would put on shows for family and neighbors, and when they weren't around, I'd literally put on puppet shows for myself in front of a mirror, or use our camcorder to make silly movies. Ultimately that led to being involved in school plays and then pursuing a drama degree in college. I feel very fortunate to make my living as performer, and even when the frustrations of the business feel discouraging, I still find my way back because it just feels right.
How does this role compare to other roles you've played?
As Olof I spend the show fighting for my truth, which is not unlike some other roles I've played. This show, however, has required us all to flex so many muscles, oscillating between goofy comedy, dramatic scenes, dance numbers and rock tunes. I'd say the diversity in performance styles that "Runestone" asks of the ensemble as a whole is what has made this experience so unique.
What was your process for developing your character?
While I did research Olof Ohman and his family, digging up photos, footage, as well as visiting the Runestone Museum in Alexandria, the character created by Mark Jensen, our playwright, was ultimately the roadmap I followed throughout the process. Olof starts the show filled with optimism and ambition, and as the show progresses, finds himself facing multiple challenges, including (SPOILER ALERT) death, only to return as a ghost to continue the fight for his legacy. My focus was to find the truth of the scenes and navigate the heightened yet grounded world that we created as an ensemble.
Do you have a favorite song in the show?
I admit I have a soft spot for Olof's Lament - the final number that Olof sings alone on stage, asking the audience what they think the truth is after they've witnessed his journey. I also have to give props to "Templar Knights," which is performed by the whole ensemble. It's catchy, silly, has fun choreography, and the cast does a bang up job performing it. I'm not in that number, so I always enjoy watching it from the sidelines.
Did you face any challenges with your character or the production?
The Swedish/MN accent was a big challenge for me. As someone who is not native to MN, for whom English is a second language, it took some time to find the right balance. Now I can't seem to drop it, even when I'm out in the real world. Oofta! And I admit that shifting into rock mode as someone with a more conventional musical background took some effort, but thanks to the guidance of our composer Gary Rue and music director Brian Pekol, I've been enjoying rocking out.
How was working with the cast and the creative team?
From the start, Tyler Michaels, our director, set out to create an ensemble-driven environment, because that's the storytelling mechanism of the show. We tell this story collectively, with the cast transforming into various characters to push the narrative forward. Collaborating with this group has been very rewarding, especially because I hadn't worked with many of them before, and I walk away with many new friends.
Interview: Sasha Andreev of RUNESTONE! A ROCK MUSICAL at History Theatre
What do you hope the audience takes away from seeing this production?
In today's world, we often forget that at the center of our mediated conversations a real people, and it's easy to twist information without consideration for the consequences. I hope the audience reflects on the concept of truth and how we often manipulate information to fit our personal narratives instead of looking at the big picture. And of course I hope they walk way entertained, humming one the tunes.
What are your favorite local spots?
I'm a sucker for Black Sheep Pizza, which is just down the street from History Theatre, with another location a few blocks from my house in Minneapolis. It's what I crave! I also recently learned about Clancey's Meats in Linden Hills, which just might make the best sandwich I've ever had. And Quang Deli always hits the spot if you have a hankering for Pho or wonton soup. I know these are all food-related, but what can I say? I like to eat!

Thank you so much Sasha for your time!

For more ticket and show information, click here

Photo by Rick Spaulding

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