Meet the Cast of NextStop Theatre Company’s ‘Into the Woods’ Part 5: Priscilla Cuellar

In between battling witches, wolves, and giants the cast of NextStop Theatre Company’s Into the Woods shared with us their journey of preparing for their roles in this popular Stephen Sondheim musical. In Part 5: Meet Priscilla Cuellar.

Priscilla Cuellar. Photo courtesy of NextStop Theatre Company.

Priscilla Cuellar.

Joel: Why did you want to be part of this production of Into the Woods? Who do you play?

Priscilla: I play the Witch. I got the opportunity to play this part before at Redbranch theatre. It was several years ago and I felt that I could look at it in a different light this time around. As an actor you always want to try to improve your work and I thought this was a perfect opportunity to do that.

How do you relate to your character?

Well, the witch is not the nicest person. She is bitter and angry and I’d like to think I’m neither of those things. However, there is one aspect of her that I do understand. In the play she has a daughter she is extremely protective of. In that way we are similar. I can, at times, be overly protective of my close friends and family. But it’s all out of love!

Have you appeared in any other productions of Into the Woods and who have you played? If you have played your character before how is this performance similar or different?

This will be my 4th time being in Into the Woods. Did I mention I love this show? My first time was at Montgomery College and I played the Stepmother. Second, at Signature where I played a stepsister. And third time, as I mentioned before, I played the Witch at Red Branch Theatre. As I get older I can appreciate a role like the Witch more. Lyrics and lines that meant one thing to me before, mean something completely different this time around.

Have you worked with any of your castmates before?

I’ve worked with a couple castmates before. Danny Tippett, who plays the Steward, and I have done a ton of shows together. We just wrapped up Spamalot at Toby’s. And I was in The Full Monty at Keegan Theatre with John Loughney, the baker. I am enjoying working with and getting to know the rest of the cast.

Which character is most like you?

I would say the character that is most like me at the moment would be, Cinderella. For one, she’s clumsy. And that’s totally me. She is a little all over the place and very indecisive. She thinks she knows what she wants, but then changes her mind and changes it again. I have those problems a lot. I think things through, sometimes too hard or not enough, and then end up talking myself out of something or just confusing myself even more.

Tell me about your solos and what we learn about the witch as you sing them.

I sing, or speak in rhythm, in the “Witchs Rap” in the opening sequence. It pretty much tells everything you need to know about the Witch. How she came to be in the woods. Where she came from and where she is going. I also sing “Stay with me” which is a ballad she sings to her kidnapped daughter Rapunzel. It’s about the dangers of the cruel world outside her tower. This is one of the few moments we get to see a softer and more human side of the witch . The “Lament” is sung after the death of her daughter where you can see that the Witch feels she has failed as a mother and was not able to protect her child. And finally “Last Midnight”, which is probably my favorite to sing. You can see different levels of anger and frustration build and build into ultimately maddness.

What do you admire most about your fellow castmates?

I think each of them is so unique and wonderful. Each of them has a different take on these characters that I haven’t seen before. They are all awesomely talented!

What are your favorite Sondheim lyrics in the show?

There are so many! How can I choose only two? Of the lyrics I sing, my favorite comes from “Stay with Me: I sing “Princes wait there in the world, it’s true. Princes, yes, but wolves and humans too.” Another favorite line that I don’t sing is a song the Bakers Wife sings:”Oh if life were made of moments, even now and then a bad one! But if life were only moments , then you’d never know you had one.”

What is your favorite song that you don’t sing in the show?

My favorite song that I don’t sing is “Moments in the Woods.” It’s the same song my favorite lyrics are from. I love the message and the way Sondheim uses and arranges the lyrics is simply brilliant.

How can today’s audiences relate to Into the Woods?

In this show all the characters are wishing and wanting something. Which is what prompts all of them to go into the woods to begin with. I think people can relate to this piece because everyone wants something. Everyone has or has had something in life that they are willing to do almost anything to get.

Why is the show still so popular?

Everyone loves Fairy tales! I think the show is still so popular because it’s just so well written. No matter how many times you’ve heard it, there’s also something new that you hadn’t noticed before. And I can’t say enough how brilliant the lyrics are.

What was the best advice or suggestion that Director Evan Hoffman and Musical Director Elisa Rosman gave you when you were preparing your performance?

A couple rehearsals Evan had us play our parts from one extreme to the other. It was helpful in discovering the different emotions and what moments we could go to those extremes. Elisa is great! Always on us about diction and cut-offs. Which is super important for this show.

John Loughney (The Baker), Katie McManus (The Baker’s WIfe), and Priscilla Cuellar (The Witch). Photo by Traci J Brooks Studios.

John Loughney (The Baker), Katie McManus (The Baker’s WIfe), and Priscilla Cuellar (The Witch). Photo by Traci J Brooks Studios.

What makes this production of Into the Woods so unique?

Well, Kathie Lee {Gifford, the voice of the Giant’s angry wife) of course! I think the set is really neat and a different take on the show than what the norm is for his show.

What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing this production of Into the Woods?

Hopefully an entertaining evening! Perhaps a different take on these fairy tale characters that people know so well. I think a big message in this show is that sometimes what you think you want or need, isn’t always what’s best. No matter what life throws at you, anyone can overcome any obstacle. And just because it may not be what you planned, you can still live happily ever after!

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Into the Woods plays through June 1, 2014 at NextStop Theatre Company at the Industrial Strength Theatre -269 Sunset Park Drive, in Herndon, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (866) 811-4111, or purchase them online.

LINKS
Meet the Cast of NextStop Theatre Company’s ‘Into the Woods’ Part 1: Brittany Martz.

Meet the Cast of NextStop Theatre Company’s ‘Into the Woods’ Part 2: John Loughney.

Meet the Cast of NextStop Theatre Company’s ‘Into the Woods’ Part 3: Alizon Reggioli.

Meet the Cast of NextStop Theatre Company’s ‘Into the Woods’ Part 4: Katie McManus.

Diane Jackson Schnoor’s review of Into the Woods on DCMetroTheaterArts.

Kathy Lee Gifford joins NextStop Theatre Company’s ‘Into the Woods.’

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