BWW Interview: Andrew Samonsky of COME FROM AWAY at Majestic Theatre
The day of and the days and weeks after the attacks of September 11, 2001 are etched in our memories forever. It was a time of fear and unknowing. It was a time of unifying and reaching out to everyone. Many tried to grasp at reminders that all humanity was not evil. Quite the opposite. In fact, most of humanity is not evil. Trying to find good was a common thread in the world after the attacks. The story of Newfoundland and the town of Gander was a chance to remember the good in so many. COME FROM AWAY is an amazing true story of how 7,000 people were stranded in Gander and how the good in everyone was quickly discovered. BWW was able to chat recently with Andrew Samonsky who plays Kevin and other characters in COME FROM AWAY as it begins its week in San Antonio, Texas at the Majestic Theatre.
Do you remember the first time you ever performed on stage? What are your memories of that first time and how old were you?
It's funny I was a very shy kid, but a friend of the family at my mom's church gave voice lessons and so I started taking voice lessons with her. I would perform at church in the children's choir. I'm gonna give you a better example. When I was in third grade, I had the solo in our school's show; our big end of the school year show. I went up there, got ready to sing my solo and completely went blank and totally messed up the whole thing. I went back to my position with the choir crying and that was that was one of my first experiences performing so naturally, of course, I pursued it for a living. I never put that together quite like that. But I've always loved music and I've always loved singing so if I was able to overcome my stage fright and push through, I'm very lucky today.
What was that moment when you knew this was what you wanted to do for a living?
It wasn't until college and I could not come up with anything that I wanted to do. That same voice teacher that I grew up singing with, she wrote me a letter and she told me that she wouldn't recommend this to anyone but she thought maybe I'd have a chance making a living as a singer and it was a very powerful moment for me. She helped me get into a music school and that's where it started. I owe her a lot. She's a wonderful woman. That started it and I always loved music and so I started having a passion for doing it.
Now you're in COME FROM AWAY, what do you enjoy most about doing this?
It's just a remarkable story about the kindness of humans. So, telling the story every night, being up there and being able to share it with the audiences around the country and in Canada, it feels almost like an act of service to share the story and offer people hope and joy and a reminder of the good in people. It's that kind of a show and it's a really special show. I don't know if I've quite been in the show that affects people like this show does in such an uplifting way. It's real good food for the soul, for my soul for everyone's soul. That's the best part of doing it.
I'm sure at the backstage door, I can just imagine people telling you about their memories of September 11th.
That is exactly what happens. There's this connection that everybody's going to have that is watching the show because we all remember.
What do you think it's been the most challenging part of it?
Certainly the most challenging part of this is being on tour and being away from family. That's the hardest part is we're out here doing this great show and with a great group of people. Being on tour when you're single and you know you have no attachments, it's great fun traveling around the country. But, when you have a kid back home and when you get a little older and you plant roots a little more, it gets a little harder to leave home. We have a we have a real family on tour here but it's certainly hard to be away from the people you love.
Does your family get to come visit you at all while you're out on tour?
They have. My wife is working, so we're both working. I usually go to them every day off. I travel and get to see them so it I've got a lot of frequent flyer miles. It never feels like enough. It's the actor life that we've chosen. It could be worse. I'm very grateful at the end of day.
What do you think the audience will take away from COME FROM AWAY?
I think they're going to take a lot away from it. I think what the show does and what we feel from the audience every night is that I think everyone can relate to this and that we turn on the news, we see what's going on around the country, around the world. There's a lot of divisiveness and there's a lot of fear and there's a lot of vitriol and back and forth between people and to have this show as a reminder of the goodness in people, of the kindness of the humanity that we are all connected to at the basic level. We are all the same and we're all having this human experience. We all need to be supported and loved and cared for. We can't do this without each other. It's just a reminder of the hope and goodness in the world and in all of us. I can feel the people craving that kind of story; this true story. I think the other thing they take away is they ask themselves as they see this they see this town in Newfoundland welcome all these people on this tragic day and open their hearts and homes to them. I think we all think, "Would I've done the same?" I think we all hope that we would but I think we have to really sit with ourselves and ask ourselves, "Would we do the same?" I hope we would. How can I be that type of person? I think that's why we're here to be connected with each other and support each other. It's a really powerful story. It's going to make you laugh, it's going to make you cry, and it's going to make you feel all the things. I think that's what theater does best.
Don't miss the opportunity to see COME FROM AWAY at the Majestic Theatre from Feb.25-Mar. 1, 2020. Get your tickets before they all go away by going to the theatre box office or online at majesticempire.com.
PHOTO CREDIT: Matthew Murphy