Hello friends, my name is Berkley Baughman and I’m a Junior Ambassador for Houston Family Magazine. I was blessed with the opportunity to go watch the Alley Theatre’s current play “Sherlock Holmes and the case of the Jersey Lily”. The production is starring Todd Waite, Orlando Arriaga, Krystel Lucas, Elizabeth Bunch, Christopher Salazar, Brandon Hearnsberger, Levin Valayil. From my earliest memories of going to the theater with my family I was always in awe of the elegant red carpeted spiral staircase and instinctively knew that I’d walk out of the Alley impressed and hungry for more. After the incredible performance given from the masterful cast and crew of the Alley, I had the opportunity to interview one of Alley’s own resident company members, Elizabeth Bunch. Elizabeth was so very kind to me and delivered her answers not only directly but took the time to be very thoughtful in her responses.
How do you raise two kids and still be a successful actor?
“You have to make up how you get things done. You can’t do things like a regular family, it’s always been difficult but we’ve always found a way. I have to go day by day but, it’s been great, my kids, until covid, were half-raised at the theater. My sons both played Tiny Tim at different times in “A Christmas Carol ”. It’s great, one has ended up totally loving the theater and the other is maybe a little iffy about it but, you just have to make it up as you go along, be creative, lean on people around you.”
What’s your journey? When and how did you become an actor?
“When I was about in 4th grade I did my first play with my dad, who was not an actor, he was a real estate guy. There was a theater in the basement of my church and they were going to do “A Christmas Carol.” We had gone to see another play and I was like I really want to do it. He said, you can audition for “A Christmas Carol. And I asked, will you audition with me? So he played Bob Cratchit and I played Belinda Cratchit. So the Cratchit’s and “A Christmas Carol” have a long history in my life. I also had a really strong high school program and my high school theater teacher was very serious about it. I dove in completely. It was like being at a school of arts for me.”
As a young actor myself, what advice would you give to someone trying to start in the business?
“See as many things as you can. It’s kinda a special time right now because not everyone has bounced back from Covid. You can actually see a lot online that you used to never have access to. Use that while you can. It’s really important to soak up as much as you can. There are a lot of great small theaters in town, Fourth Wall Theater, Catastrophic Theater and The Ensemble. Going to see as much as you can really opens up worlds for you. Also, it’s important to not be too focused, because if you want to be able to do this, you need to have a great knowledge of art and history. If you can learn to play instruments or other languages, all of these things feed into helping you become a more well rounded performer. It’s important to be a student of the world so that you’re learning about all different kinds of people, different cultures, and different places. All of that helps you”.
What are your likes and dislikes about being in show business?
“The schedule is definitely a dislike, as it is really hard and it’s not typical. When I lived in New York there were so many actors and some many people in the theater that there isn’t a typical schedule. You meet people all the time that are making it up as they go along. Here i’ts really different. We live in a very 9-5 world and it’s really hard to not be in that world. Until I was a resident company member, the great unknown makes it really difficult. You don’t know if you’re gonna book a national commercial tomorrow or if you’re not gonna work for 3 months, there are so many things that are out of your control. I love being a resident company member. It’s as normal as an actor’s life could ever be. The fact that I have one job and I am not spending time auditioning and wondering what’s gonna happen next made it possible to have a family in a relatively sane way; that’s fantastic.
I love being an actor, because I love my version of going to work everyday changes every 6 weeks. You’re normally with a different group of people, some people remain the same. For example, one person I haven’t worked with in 7 years, one person that I worked with during the pandemic virtually, but never met in person and another actor I’ve never worked with at all. It’s so neat to have a new family every couple of weeks that you’re creating something with; I love that.”
What is a resident company member in the Alley?
“The Alley is one of the only theaters in the country that still has what is called a ‘resident company of actors’. So there are 9 of us and we work full time at the Alley. We can go and do another job if something comes up and fits with our schedule, but we are really the core group here. Based on what plays we are doing, they cast outside of the company for a specific role based on abilities. I feel really lucky because I have a full time job as an actor, and when I was in New York by the time you’re in dress rehearsal for one show you’re starting auditions for something else because you’ve gotta line something else up after that. I don’t have to do something like that anymore, just go to show to show to show. Which I love.”
What do you do to prepare for an audition?
“I think auditioning is a different skill from acting. It’s like being a student. You can be really knowledgeable, but you can have trouble taking tests. Learning those executive skill functions about how to manage your time on a test is key. It’s the same thing as auditioning, I took specific auditioning classes that teach you tips and tricks. It’s great to work with a coach when you have certain auditions that are important, so to prepare for an audition for me I would try to work with somebody else if I could. I would always try to be as familiar as possible when, even though you don’t technically have to memorize lines for an audition. You can hold the paper, but as much as you can look up, you feel that much more free. Also, taking risks and knowing that when you walk into an audition the folks that are there to watch you. They want you to be the right person and if you don’t get the role it has nothing to do with you or them. It’s just the fit isn’t right and I think that actors take on themselves and think, I messed this up, I could have done that, you don’t want to be in a play that you’re not right for, you’ll gonna fail.”
My final thoughts are if you haven’t experienced a show at the Alley Theatre, I strongly suggest you do. They have something for all ages to enjoy whether you’re “young at heart” or “old in the soul”. The Alley Theatre will always have you sitting on the edge of your seat.
Sherlock Holmes and the case of the Jersey Lily runs through May 14th, 2023
Tickets are available at https://www.alleytheatre.org/plays/sherlock-holmes-jersey-lily/