Kevin Wade: A Life in Theater
Interview by Ryan Waterfield, Director of Communications + Kevin's former English teacher
Kevin Wade. He’s a man of many talents and Sun Valley Community School is proud to “claim” him as one of our own—he was a faculty child, the second son of Major Mike Wade, and grew up running around campus, playing in the gym, or dreaming in the theater. He is also an alumnus, having graduated in 2006. He was our Hamlet. And now, he is the co-director of our Creative Arts Academy, an inspiring classroom teacher, a bright light in our theater program, and a founding member of a local theater company, The Spot. Here+There was curious about how theater had called to Kevin. So we bugged him until he found a free few minutes for us. Here's to perseverance!
H+T: What's your first "on-stage" memory? Or what you recall as your first "I've got to act" memory.
Kevin: When I was about nine years old, I was a part of a Laughingstock Theater Company production of Mame. My character was a precocious child who listened a little too closely to the conversations of his elders, and as a result, develops a vocabulary far beyond his years. Having grown up in a strictly profanity-free household, I was delighted to—at nine years old—utter a curse word on stage in front of hundreds of people. That’s when I knew.
H+T: What's your preference, acting or directing, and why?
Kevin: My background and training is in acting, and that serves me well as a director. I find that directing from the point of view of an actor gives me a more compassionate and process-oriented approach to the work. In brief, I love both pursuits–but I always have my actor hat on, even when I’m directing.
H+T: Would you give us a smattering of the characters you've played throughout your time on stage?
Kevin: I have played kings, princes, lawyers, poets, impish puppets, stodgy detectives, human-sized sandwiches, rodent magicians, and the force of gravity itself. A few favorites include two turns as the title character of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Poet in Kim Rosenstock’s Bride.Widow.Hag, Big Stone in Sarah Ruhl’s
Eurydice, Lewis in Tony Kushner’s epic Angels in America, and the combination boy/demonic sock puppet role of Jason/Tyrone in Robert Askin’s Hand to God.
H+T: What does it take to embody so many vastly different characters? What's your approach, your secret, your strategy?
Kevin: Over a combined seven years of undergraduate and graduate acting training across two institutions, I have been exposed to a multitude of techniques. What I have found is that no one technique is the answer. An actor needs to have a custom toolkit of methods that is specific only to that individual, which is usually an amalgam of several techniques. For me, it’s a combination of Michael Chekhov’s (Anton’s nephew) ideas about outside-in character work and psychophysical gesture, and a rigorous analysis discipline developed by David Mamet and background into my acting work. Teaching at SVCS, I try to expose students to a wide variety of techniques so that they can decide which ones jive with their unique psychological makeup.
H+T For the layperson, it seems like the theater would be a place where re-seeing the text, the characters, and the action is pivotal to how an actor chooses to approach a character or how a director chooses to approach the text. Can you tell us about some particular times as an actor or director where re-seeing a text or character or re-envisioning that text was key?
Kevin: Shakespeare is the best model for this type of directing. Last year, I had the challenge and privilege of directing two of Shakespeare’s tragedies in the span of four months, and with both productions, I attempted to update, reimagine, and re-see the text. With our extremely talented and stalwart group of SVCS actors and technicians, I directed Romeo and Juliet. When approaching Shakespeare with young people, I have found that if they can feel close to the characters, the mystique and intimidation factor of the heightened text will melt away–at least a bit. So we decided that we would set the play in the present, and eliminate the adult presence from the show.