Once a week throughout the month, a different member from Team StarKid is sharing behind-the-scenes insight and backstage scoop with Playbill.com in the exclusive blog "A Summer With the StarKids." Here is the third blog, one from Twisted actor Dylan Saunders.
My heart is full these days.
I feel so grateful to live in this era. I don't know that Team StarKid's story could have existed ten years ago. I try not to take for granted how easy it is to communicate, to share, to create and to present work nowadays. Because theatre and music are both such inherently communal experiences, they are — I believe — something that should absolutely be shared. That is ultimately how I define Team StarKid — a communal sharing of new work. And, that is why I love it. At its core, StarKid is a collaborative effort. So many moving parts from so many people have to fall into place to create our finished product.
I can't believe that I've known some of the actors I work alongside for eight years (literally, one-third of my life!). It's mind-blowing. One of my colleagues and greatest friends, company member Joe Walker, was one of the first people I met in college — and we're still making plays together all these years later.
Because this group formed at the University of Michigan, each time we get into production mode, it feels more like a mad family reunion, rather than a traditional rehearsal process. It's amazing to watch this group grow. I walk up the aisle on a break from tech rehearsal to meet our undeniably talented costume designer June Saito, who's had a hand in every StarKid production since its inception. I watch as she stands together with new collaborators, music director Justin Fischer and actors Alex Grace Paul, Rachael Soglin and Robert Manion. I look up from our sound check to see director Brian Holden giving notes, book writers Nick Lang, Matt Lang and Eric Kahn Gale fixing props and organizing the front-of-house before we open the theatre doors — all friends whose work has inspired me ever since I saw them first create in college. I have grown to truly love that familiarity. It is unbelievable and unique and something that I know doesn't exist in very many places.
Creating a new musical is some of the most fulfilling and demanding work I've ever done. It has tested my limits and abilities in ways that I could have never imagined. Setting the tone for an entirely new story is a tall order — I always want to do right by the writers and my fellow performers.
The day-to-day process of rehearsals is always a mixed bag. One day you go to work, and there is a brand-new song waiting for you, or entire scenes reworked or even cut. I personally love working in this way, since you are always on your toes.
Today, July 18, marks the halfway point for our performances of Twisted: The Untold Story of a Royal Vizier here in Chicago. I love getting to experience the audience's different reactions each night. It makes the performances truly special. Because the work is new, and there is no barometer for how things should be executed, I am always curious to hear how new situations, songs, characters and jokes land differently.
Equally important and uplifting to me is getting to connect on a personal level with the people who have traveled far and wide to see the show. Last week, a young woman stopped me after the show to say how inspired she was and that we should "never stop telling stories." My job as an actor is very sacred to me, so her words felt like a grand re-charging of sorts. It feels pretty remarkable to get to meet so many like-minded people before and after the shows.
I love that sense of community that exists within StarKid. You really can't beat it. Everyone — the performers, the creators, designers, musicians and, most importantly, the audience — are in the trenches together. It creates a pretty magnificent bond.