In Part 5 of a series of interviews with the cast of August: Osage County at The Highwood Theatre, meet Shannon Leach.
Joel: Please introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you perform on the stage before.
My name is Shannon Leach. I’m a junior and I’m sixteen. You may have seen me before as Diana in Next to Normal, Mae Peterson in Bye Bye Birdie, or the infamous extra holding a squeegee in Rent.
Why did you want to be in this production of August: Osage County?
I felt like the show itself was unique in how it approached serious topics. There’s so much honesty when it comes to the darker, more private sides of mental illness, and I think the show’s exploration of ugliness, addiction and pain is extremely moving.
Who do you play in the show, and how do you relate to your character. What do you admire about your character and what do you not admire?
I play Violet Weston. While she’s not responsible at all, I have a respect and admiration for her own individual self-awareness, no matter how flawed it may be.
What have you learned about mental illness while working with the Active Minds organization that you didn’t know before and how has this experience given you more insight into the character you are playing?
I’ve learned how to better understand the shame that surrounds mental illness in our society and the sometimes devastating physical, mental and emotional impact of internalized stigma, repressing one’s emotions and trauma, etc.
How has this Highwood Theatre experience changed your life and made you a better person and actor?
It’s made me a much more empathetic person. I reveal much of myself on stage and I am often extremely vulnerable in front of a room full of strangers. It’s freeing, and I’ve learned how to reveal similar (much less intense) vulnerabilities in my day to day life.
August: Osage County is a long play. Any tricks or methods or advice on learning so many lines that you can share with other actors who are about to learn their lines in another production of this play?
Pretend it’s easier than it really is. False confidence is really quite amazing sometimes. Write your lines over and over in a notebook. Listen to voice memos of yourself reciting lines. Be obsessive.
What scene or scenes were the most challenging to learn?
The scene at the end of the show where Violet breaks down completely. Lines wise, it was fine, easy to memorize. It took me a while to fully realize her emotional state and have it come across the way I wanted it to.
Which character in this play is so much like you and why?
People who know me might disagree (or agree, who knows?) but I most identify with Violet since I’ve spent so many hours with her, analyzing motives, intentions, experimenting with different ways of getting into character and seeing her as a human being. We’re similar in a multitude of ways.
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing you perform in August: Osage County at The Highwood Theatre?
What’s missing from most character relationships and dynamics in this show is understanding. I hope seeing this extreme scenario will encourage audience members to practice compassion and help people feel more comfortable and open with talking about mental illness.
August: Osage County plays from March 27-29, 2015 at The Highwood Theatre – 914 Silver Spring Avenue, Suite 102, in Silver Spring, MD. For tickets, purchase them at the box office, or purchase them online.
Meet the Cast of ‘August: Osage County’ at The Highwood Theatre Part 1: Max Rome.
Meet the Cast of ‘August: Osage County’ at The Highwood Theatre Part 2: Madison Middleton.
Meet the Cast of ‘August: Osage County’ at The Highwood Theatre Part 3: Layla Edwards.
Meet the Cast of ‘August: Osage County’ at The Highwood Theatre Part 4: Eva Silverman.
Meet the Cast of ‘August: Osage County’ at The Highwood Theatre: Part 5: Shannon Leach.
Meet the Cast of ‘August: Osage County’ at The Highwood Theatre Part 6: Elena Meiman.
Meet the Cast of ‘August: Osage County’ at The Highwood Theatre Part 7: Laura Goldberg.