Schaschl Acts on NYC Stages

Victoria Sansone, News Editor

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What would your first reaction be to missing school for a month? Happiness? Joy? Anxiety? When Kelly Schaschl ‘18 was first offered a role in the Off Broadway LaBute New Theatre Festival, she felt a mix of emotions. “I was excited, nervous, worried, surprised all at the same time. I wasn’t totally sure what to expect from the experience,” she reflects. Mr. Pierson, who directed the festival, had never offered a part in the New York cast to a Burroughs student before. However, after some deliberation with Ms. Salrin and Schaschl’s teachers, a deal was struck. Schaschl would live with her 27-year-old sister in Harlem and take classes during the day via video chat and perform in the show during the evening.

The LaBute New Theatre Festival receives its namesake from Neil LaBute, an acclaimed film director, screenwriter, and playwright best known for his play In the Company of Men. Each year, the festival selection team chooses up to eight previously unproduced one-act plays as well as one new piece from Mr. LaBute to be performed in July at the Gaslight Theatre in the Central West End before traveling to Manhattan’s 59E59 Street Theatre in January. The latter version of the festival runs four of the plays for three weeks in New York.

Schaschl was offered a role in the New York cast based on her performance over the summer as The Girl in one of the festival’s plays called Percentage America. She describes the play as starting off with a man and a woman who are on a first date. “They met on a dating website but the date quickly goes downhill as they both realize their profiles were not very honest. However, as the truth is revealed, they decide to keep the ball rolling by deciphering the evening news. They choose a story about a girl who was seemingly screaming profanities at the president in the Rose Garden.” At the end of the play, Schaschl solemnly sings

“America the Beautiful,” sending chills up the audience’s spines.
On the other hand, Schaschl was completely unfamiliar with her other role as Joanna in the play Winter Break. “I had some difficulty trying to figure out her intentions and where exactly to go with her character, but Mr. Pierson helped me get there,” Schaschl reflects. She describes the play as being about a 21-year-old girl, Joanna/Aisha, who has converted to Islam and is packing to leave for Turkey to discover more about her new faith. Her mother is extremely worried about her safety, and her brother is afraid she will become radical and join the jihadists. Schaschl did not admit to having a favorite role but said that one of her favorite aspects of the festival is its ability to “relate the experiences of unique characters and raise different points on today’s society and ideology.”

Though Schaschl learned in October that she would be traveling to New York, the rehearsal process did not start until she arrived in Manhattan in January. While the typical Burroughs play rehearses for seven weeks before opening night, Schaschl and her three co-stars only had a week and a half to rehearse all three plays. “For the first week, I was working from 10 am to 5 pm with one lunch break. For the next few days after that, we did tech in the evenings,” Schaschl describes. “It was a super condensed rehearsal process, and I definitely felt a lot of pressure.”

Despite facing stress with learning a new part, Schaschl fondly reflects back upon her time in New York, “I would definitely recommend this experience to other young actors. It was a chance for me to not only live out my 6-year-old self’s dream but to also learn what it’s like to act in a professional setting. I would’ve been crazy to pass it up.”

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Schaschl Acts on NYC Stages