*Editor’s Note: “Stage Write/Stage Wrong” is a continuing series by Madison Magazine theater reviewer Aaron R. Conklin about those occasions when live theater performances don’t go entirely according to the stage directions. Most actors, directors and designers have the grace and style to appreciate and/or survive dropped lines, stumbles and misbehaving props, but it's the confident ones who are willing to relive and share those experiences with us.
By now, Alistair Sewell is used to playing teenagers in Forward Theatre Company productions. The 20-something actor broke big on the local scene in Forward’s 2014 production of “From Up Here.” Now he’s heading back to high school, this time as a popular football player who befriends an introverted student over a school project in Forward’s production of playwright Lauren Gunderson’s “I and You,” opening this Friday.
Sewell took a break from this week to share some stories from his young acting career.
Stage Right: Not surprisingly, Sewell’s favorite role is, in fact, Kenny, the troubled teenager he played in “From Up Here.”
“That role was cathartic in a way,” recalls Sewell, who had just graduated high school at the time. “At the end of every night, I found myself uplifted and looking forward to something.”
Sewell says Kenny was far from the easiest role he’s performed, in part because Kenny’s introverted and troubled nature is far from his own. In real life, he resembles Anthony more—the popular kid he’ll play in “I and You.”
“For Kenny, I had to invent the character. Anthony is closer to he top of the food chain,” Sewell notes. “It would be interesting to see if they would ever be friends in real life.”
Stage Wrong: Sewell was part of Children’s Theater of Madison’s production of “And Then They Came for Me,” James Still’s multimedia-style mashup that combined footage of actual interviews with the friends of Anne Frank who survived the Holocaust and actors playing those roles on stage. Sewell, who was 16 at the time, played the role of Ed Silberberg. He was supposed to speak the simple line, “My family moved from Germany to Belgium.” But in the moment, something in his brain froze, and he found himself on the fast train to Line Transposition City.
“My mouth opened, and I said, ‘My family moved from Belgium….to Belgium,’” Sewell says, laughing. “There was this awkward pause. You could just hear the skeptical faces in the audience.”
Backstage, Sewell discovered his fellow cast members had caught the flub, too. “They were all like, ‘What?’” he recalls. “Deborah Hearst said, ‘I could see your face freeze on the backstage monitor.’ That is definitely NOT living in the moment.”
Forward’s production of “I and You” runs Nov. 2-19. For ticket information, click here.
Aaron R. Conklin writes his award-winning coverage of the Madison-area theater scene for madisonmagazine.com.