BWW Interview: Samantha Eyler, Paige Vasel And Eve Begelman of FUN HOME at Proud Mary Theatre Company
Samantha Eyler, Paige Vasel and Eve Begelman play lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel at three different ages (43, 19 & 10 respectively) in Proud Mary Theatre Company's production of the groundbreaking - and Tony Award-winning -musical Fun Home. Accompanied by a live orchestra, the show runs June 7-16 in the Venue at the West Main Artists Co-Operative in Spartanburg, SC.
We asked Samantha, Paige and Eve to tell us a little about the show.
BWW: What attracted you to this role? To this musical?
SE: I love musicals with substance. I think the lighthearted, just-for-fun musicals have their place but I think what makes musical theatre special is the ability of music to transcend the words and portray emotion and storytelling on another level. So, I am always drawn to musicals that utilize that technique and tell an engaging, moving, and emotional story.
PV: This musical is so raw and honest - it's based on someone's real life story and it handles that with extreme care. I wanted to take on that challenge of sharing a personal, true story. Hopefully I've done it gracefully! What attracted me to this role in particular is that I'm playing Alison at a very pivotal moment in her life; the moment she defines herself as a gay woman. It's a huge breakthrough for her and making that life altering discovery every night as an actor is a joy.
EB: This musical has a relevant and powerful theme that is important for any audience to learn. I was interested in telling this story and taking on small Alison as I envisioned her.
What was your familiarity with FUN HOME?
SE: My mother bought me Alison Bechdel's graphic novel as a gift knowing only that it had something to do with some musical. I had heard of the musical but hadn't really gotten into yet when I first read the memoir. I was so moved by the way she used the graphic novel genre to tell a completely different type of story.
PV: I've been tracking the show since the soundtrack first came out - though I've actually never seen a production of it! I loved the music and the storytelling is so strong through the lyrics and underscoring that you can understand the heart of the show just by listening to it.
EB: I had seen the Broadway production.
Have you read the memoir was based on?
SE: Reading the memoir was my first introduction to the show and I reread it when I was cast.
PV: I have read the memoir! I had bought it a couple years prior to being apart of this show and reread it once I had gotten the role.
What can you tell our readers about your character?
SE: Of the three iterations of Alison, she is the most at peace with who she is. She has grown into herself and she has already made a career as a "lesbian cartoonist." However, she still hasn't properly mourned the loss of her father. She starts the show very cavalier about her painful memories but as the story unfolds she rediscovers herself and comes to terms with everything she knows about her father.
PV: Medium Alison starts off very unsure of herself but being away at college presents her with an opportunity to learn who she is. And you get to see that journey of self discovery in the show. She's uncomfortable in her body at first, she's more reserved, and timid. And then as she figures out who she really is, she really opens up.
EB: Small Alison is an adamant and strong willed 10 year old. She is passionate about cartoons and gets along well with her siblings.
What are some of the more interesting things you have discovered or done in the rehearsal process?
SE: We got to do a really exciting workshop with an intimacy coordinator. I am not involved in the scene of the show where the techniques were used but it was really interesting to learn the techniques that she uses to choreograph intimate moments in shows.
PV: One thing I noticed about Alison is how similar she is to her father. They are both headstrong, bold, and opinionated. But Medium Alison asserts many times throughout the show that she's nothing like him. But after finding out about her father's queerness, I think that really changes everything for her.
EB: Alison is not rude and pushy, she is clear about what her opinions are and is not afraid to show it.
What is the most challenging part about your role or songs?
SE: This role has been significantly more challenging than I expected. I felt like I had a solid understanding of the character and she show prior to rehearsals. Because I am onstage observing all of the other moments of the show, I have spent a lot more time delving into my emotional and character arc and it has been wonderful but definitely a challenge and certainly time-consuming.
PV: The songs are so wordy! It's hard to find time to breathe. I love Changing My Major but the song can leave me a little breathless at times and I put a lot of effort into enunciating everything to the best of my ability so that the audience can understand what I'm trying to communicate.
EB: The biggest challenge in playing this role is making sure I come off as young as possible and have the energy a 10 year old would.
What have you learned about yourself from playing this role?
SE: Alison talks candidly in the memoir and in interviews about how she didn't know how to properly process her emotions for much of her life, especially following her father's death. I identify with that so much. I have found this to be a very cathartic experience and, though I have a very different story and family life, I have learned a lot about myself and the way I handle emotional experiences whilst wading through Alison's journey.
PV: I've learned that accepting yourself and being open with the world, while scary, can give you a lot of power and strength.
EB: I have learned how much other actors choices can help me form my character.
What do you hope patrons will take away from their Fun Home experience?
SE: I hope they enjoy the show but I also hope that they take away something deep and meaningful from this story. I think there are elements that everyone can connect with and I hope they are able to journey with us and walk away knowing themselves better.
PV: I hope audiences can identify their own narratives within this story. While the show is very personal and unique, it speaks on a broader level about family and acceptance and everyone can relate to that.
EB: I hope patrons take away how important father/daughter relationships are.
You all three play the same character, Alison Bechdel, at three different ages. What has been your strategy among the three of you to assimilate this person? Any physical traits or gestures you all have assumed?
SE: We did a rehearsal where we all tried to see what gestures we were each using and tried to assimilate them across the three of us and get some physical consistency to Alison. As I am in the position of observing most scenes, I am in a good position to try to mimic and mirror the other two without seeming forced. I think we have discovered the character of Alison separately and when we came together we have worked to fill in the gaps to create a smooth transition from one Alison to the next and I'm excited about the growth we portray through her life.
Fun Home runs June 7-16, 2019 at the West Main Artists Co-Operative, 578 West Main St. in Spartanburg. Shows are Friday-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 pm. with one Thursday show June 13 at 8 p.m. which is PAY WHAT YOU CAN THURSDAY. Tickets are $15-25. For more information, visit www.proudmarytheatre.com.