Collegiate Theatrics: Belmont University's ASTRID ROTENBERRY
Though definitely hard to believe, fall semester 2017 is quickly drawing to a close - even if it seems it just got under way moments ago - and college students like Belmont University's talented theater major Astrid Rotenberry, it's time to remain focused and to keep their eyes on the proverbial prize.
"I grew up in the small town of Kingsport, Tennessee," she says. "I was in my very first school play when I was eight years old, in which I played an evil mouse who stole Christmas. Shortly after, my parents encouraged me to audition for the role of Gladys in a local production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and, from that production on, I knew I wanted to act. I think that 'bratty Christmas rascal' was my very first 'type.'"
Now, the multi-talented Rotenberry can claim all other stage archetypes as her own, given the wide range of roles she's played onstage since childhood. While at Belmont, she's played such divergent and challenging roles as a young Amish girl killed in an act of domestic terrorism in the Jaclynn Jutting-directed production of The Amish Project, a joint production from Belmont and Actors Bridge Ensemble, and Natasha in The Cherry Orchard, presented in tandem by Belmont and Verge Theatre Company - both productions which gave students the unique opportunity to team up with professional actors in the presentation of deeply affecting and compelling shows. And on the horizon for 2018 is a role in Belmont's production Sense and Sensibility.
Today, Astrid Rotenberry shares details about her life in the theater via our series entitled Collegiate Theatrics, which gives readers an opportunity to get to know up-and-coming, promising young actors:
What's your college experience at Belmont been like so far? Has it lived up to its hype? It's more than lived up to the hype. I had no idea what exactly I was getting into when I arrived at Belmont, and I couldn't be happier with my choice of program. I have been so immersed in my training since arriving here, and I've been introduced to so many aspects of theatre that I had previously never been exposed to before. Our program gives us the opportunity to dip our toes into subjects like directing, scriptwriting, designing, and even the building of sets and costumes. I would have to say that the best part of my experience so far would have to be how many opportunities I've had to perform. Here, we have the opportunity to be in a mainstage production from our very first semester, which is often rare to find. We also have the opportunity to be in student-directed short plays, one-acts, and directing scenes, so we always have the ability to work on our training.
What's your favorite thing about studying at Belmont? I think my favorite thing about studying at Belmont is what a supportive environment I'm surrounded by in the theatre department at all times. We're so much like a family here, and I feel that it's much easier to grow when you're being pushed and nurtured simultaneously. Acting is all about taking risks, and it feels good to know that I am in a place where I can take those risks unashamedly. The professors here know us so well that they know how each of us work best and what methods to use to push us to our best, and I think that makes our program really special. It's a very personalized experience.
What does the future hold for you and have your aspirations changed since you're now an experienced college student? When I originally came to Belmont I was very closed-off to the idea of ensemble/devised theatre and abstract techniques, but now I have found that that is an area I am very passionate about. My ultimate goal for the future would have to be having a residency in an ensemble-based theatre group that produces devised projects and new works.
What collegiate theatrical moment looms largest in your mind? Playing Anna in The Amish Project was a very transformative process for me as a performer. That production was very abstract, we worked a lot with the concept of Chekov's psychological gesture, which was a technique I had not been familiar with previously. That was also the first true ensemble piece I had ever been involved in, and it was such a collaborative process. It was amazing to me, as I felt that connecting to that cast in the way that I did helped me to connect with my character in a deeper way than I ever had before. I feel that production really helped me to mature as an actor, and opened my eyes to a form of theatre that I now feel most passionately about.
From our review of The Amish Project: "As Velda's beloved (and only slightly older) sister Anna, Astrid Rotenberry's beautiful smile and expressive performance ideally captures the restrained joy and amazing maturity of the girl, helping to lead the audience through the chain of events that figure at the center of the play's story."
What advice would you offer to high school students considering making the plunge? It sounds cheesy, but I would say to listen to your heart. The thought of going into an unpredictable field such as acting can be terrifying, but if you are really passionate about being an artist, you should follow that feeling. Be brave, and if nothing else, trust in your passion and let it lead the way.
What's your latest theatrical project and what comes next? I recently played Natasha in the Belmont/Verge Theatre Company collaboration production of Three Sisters which closed in September, and I am happy to say that I will be playing Mrs. Jennings in our upcoming production of Sense and Sensibility in February!