If you have not seen the play The Gospel of Colonus get your tickets to today. This is a very dynamic and I”m going to church felt play. I say church felt because the opening of the play the cast sing Down By The Riverside. As an audience member I was immediately drawn in and I couldn’t hold back from clapping and singing along. The cast transforms a Greek play into a morality play of our time. This is my interview with cast member Roderick Sanford.
UM: When were you introduced to theatre? When did you decide it was what you wanted to do?
RS: As a child growing up in Fort Worth it was a regular occurrence for school children to be bussed to Casa Manana Theater for different productions. I recall sitting in the audience and loving the spectacle and the music and the lights and the costumes. At the time I didn’t think about me ever being on that stage as a performer. It was such a thrill and an honor to step foot back on that stage many years later to do a production of Kiss Me Kate. I think my first role was in a church Easter pageant. I was Pontius Pilate, I think I may have been around 10 or 11. The first Broadway production I attended was in high school. It was A Chorus Line. I left singing the song “I Can Do That” from the show. This idea of me being an actor was still not present. I grew up singing in my Fathers church, my Mother played the piano and I sang. No thoughts of acting …just singing. I wasn’t a part of the theater group in high school and sad to say I didn’t attend any of the productions that were put on by the theater department. I started Southwestern University as an English major and was talked into auditioning for the spring musical…and that was the beginning of it all. So I was a late bloomer in regards to acting or making a decision on having this as a part of my life. I changed my major and started taking theater classes. Through the course of school I was priviledged to be a part of several productions. My first show here in Austin was in 1991 at Hyde Park theater, they were doing a production of Little Shop of Horrors…another favorite of mine. Things have been goin since that time.
UM: Tell our readers a little bit about your character in the Gospel at Colonus.
RS: My character is that of the Balladeer. Through the course of this production, there are several participants that act as the primary chorus, we assist in the telling of the story through song. In some cases these are individual solos and some are performed as a small group or quartet.
UM: You were apart of the production in 1996. You are returning after 18 years to perform again. What have you found to be different and exciting about your part this time?
RS: The different and exciting thing about being a part of this production lies in the fact that it has been 18 years. I have grown, Zach has grown. We have both matured in a way. I listened to a recording of our earlier production and kept asking who this kid was that was singing this song. I know it is me, but I have changed. It goes without saying how ZACH Theater has changed. This new space is bigger and allows for a completely different degree of staging. The technology advances that are now available to us now, the sound, the set….everything is bigger and better.
Being able to share this experience with some of the same people from 18 years ago is truly a blessing. When you have a cast that is familiar with each other there is a level of comfort that make the whole process easier. You know how to feed off of each other. You all have the desire to present nothing but the best.
UM: How do you prepare for your role?
RS: I am a preacher’s kid, I am also heavily involved with the music program at my church. Being that this show is based on the feelings of a church revival, my main objective was to learn my songs and blocking. I already have the nuances of being in a service. So in a way I was already prepared. The objective in this production is to tell the story as honestly as possible. You can’t just get up there and “ play church.” That would read as fake and the audience would most definitely call you on that. As with everyone in this cast, there is a connection to our roles. We each have been that Sunday morning soloist. We know that there needs to be an earnest connection with the word and the audience or else you are just screaming for nothing. So the main preparation was just reaching back into real life and bringing that to this role……. Hope that answered that hahahaha
UM: What is your favorite thing about performing in front of a live audience? Does it help your performance?
RS: We feed off of the audience. In any performance, be it band, theater, work or church you need the reaction of the people in front of you. When rehearsing you try to gauge how a performance will go over, but you never know until you have someone in front of you reacting or not reacting. You are giving something to them and they in turn give back to you onstage. I love the moment when you know you have connected with a person in the audience. You can see the light come on inside them. So many people leave this show touched in a way they were not prepared for, and that is something that means a lot to us as performers. Without the audience we wouldn’t have a show. Especially in this production. The audience is included. They are part of the service. Their AMENS and responses are just as important to the show as the scripted lines.
UM: What do you hope people feel or experience when they attend the Gospel of Colonus?
RS: Joy. This show is a show of resurrection. One of the last lines is “Now Let The Weeping Cease… Let No Man Morn Again”. Regardless of whether or not you get every line of the text within the show you should definitely get the “Spirit” of Love and Joy by the end of the show.
UM: Any advice for someone who wants to break into theatre?
RS: As with anything in life, do it because you love it, not because you want to become rich or famous. Do it from your heart and your talent will shine through Trust in yourself. Persevere. Keep moving forward in your goal. Continue to grow and work on yourself and your craft. Oh and audition, audition, audition… Get your face out there and make sure people remember you. I have been fortunate enough to be connected to a great theater company for a long time. But it all started because of an audition.
UM: Do you have any last words to share?
RS: Thank you for this opportunity. And as for last words… to anyone that hasn’t seen this show… or any theater productions lately. Get out and see something. Whether that be a local production or a national tour, get out there and support the arts. I love it when people say there is nothing to do here in Austin. Yes there is. And it’s right down the street.
UM: How can our readers follow you?
RS: I am on Facebook under Roderick Sanford. The website for my band is http://www.theatlanticsaustin.com<http://www.theatlanticsaustin.com> or you can come see me at church one Sunday http://www.unityhills.org<http://www.unityhills.org>.
For tickets to the play visit http://www.zachtheatre.org or call 512-476-0541 ext. 1
Damita Miller-Shanlkin is the Publisher and Founder of Ujima Magazine. Host of Ujma TV and Co-host of Ujima Sistah Radio.