In Part 3 of 5 interviews with the Playwright/Director and cast members of House at Arts Collective @ HCC, meet Brandon Furr, Chaseedaw Giles, Warren Harris, and Wesley LeRoux.
Joel: Please introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you on our local stages and who you play in HOUSE.
Brandon Furr: Hi my name is Brandon Furr. I play the role of Michael Mandrakes in House., and I most recently appeard in HCC’s Theatre Program’s production of by Mary Zimmerman. I am a full-time student at Howard Community College.
Chaseedaw Giles: My name is Chaseedaw Giles. I play Elaine in House., the crude yet charming reality contestant who dreams of hip-hop stardom. Originally from Roxbury, MA, I moved to DC 4 years ago. I have primarily been a film actress, but since moving to the District I have become more involved in theater. Theater has really helped me grow as an artist. It’s where I discovered my love of comedy. I recently performed in my first comedy with the Colonial Players of Annapolis, as Hildegarde in Why Torture is Wrong and the People Who Love Them and The Rocky Horror Picture Show as Columbia, For Colored Girls as Lady in Green, and The Vagina Monologues. You may have also seen me on television in House of Cards, Veep, or in the indie film Thick.
Warren Harris: My name is Warren Harris. I play Micky Stockwell (a contestant) in House. I also assisted with providing a few original music cues/themes for the show. I am a student at Howard Community College studying theatre arts. I recently performed in HCC’s Theatre Program’s production of Argonautika, directed by Jenny Male (which was also a part of The Kennedy Center Theatre Festival this winter).
Wesley LeRoux: My name is Wesley LeRoux and I play the role of Carlos Morales in House. Most recently, I performed in HCC’s Theatre Department’s production of Argonautika, which went to KCACTF this winter. I am also currently in rehearsal for their production of As You Like It as Charles the Wrestle, which will be a part of HCC’s Shakespeare Celebration at HCC April 27th and 28th.
What inspired you to audition for this show? Have you worked with Arts Collective previously?
Chaseedaw: No. This is my first show with HCC’s Arts Collective.
Wesley: I was inspired to audition based on how the script was set up. It came off to me as a “Survivor” or “Big Brother” stage play, and I loved the idea. I’m glad this is the first show I’m doing with Arts Collective because it’s such a strong show!
How has this workshop production experience been different than previous productions?
Brandon: I usually tend to enjoy workshop productions because the main focus isn’t on the set, etc., but on the acting instead. Everyone knows that in workshop productions, there is no budget. This creates a more intimate atmosphere for the audience because they are focused on what was said and not exactly what is seen.
Chaseedaw: The amount of improv woven into each rehearsal is a new experience for me. Each week we warm up our voices, we team build and we improv. We’ve spent entire rehearsals improvising in character. It’s challenging, but it has helped me figure out who Elaine is and how she reacts to her fellow housemates.
Wesley: Since I’ve only been in two productions, I can’t say that I have any different opinion about how it’s run, except for how the cast acts. Both of the shows I’ve been in have had strong casts, just in different manners.
What has it been like to work on an original play as an actor?
Brandon: Working on an original play has been an awesome experience because I have gotten the opportunity to watch a show build from the ground up. No other productions to look back to and compare notes.
Chaseedaw: It’s exciting, because it’s new material that has never been seen. No one has played Elaine and that gives me so much creative freedom to build her character. Being able to work with the director to actualize his vision for the first time is an opportunity not many actors get.
Warren: Being in an original production is a great creative opportunity. Being in the first ever cast, you get to really drive into who your character is. Our in-depth character development sets the cornerstone for future actors who would perform in this play.
Wesley: It’s been fun! I get to build a character that is still in development. To me, it’s great because I get to create the first Carlos Morales that actors can later develop into a masterpiece of their own!
How has your character changed since day one?
Brandon: My character at the very beginning of the process was just words on a page and emotions behind them, but now Michael Mandrakes is an actual person. He has his background, he has his problems, and he has positive characteristics.
Wesley: On day one, I looked at Carlos, and I thought about how much of a low life he is. He didn’t care about anyone or anything until he met Andrea. Now, he’s been built to where he has a heart, he has confidence, he has goals, ambitions, wants, needs, and he has motivation to win.
What have you enjoyed the most about this particular process?
Chaseedaw: Rehearsing and getting to know the cast and crew. We have gone from doing improv exercises on what our character’s first day would be like in THE HOUSE, to all singing “Let it Go” in unison. There is usually a cast party at the end of every production I’ve been in, but this is the first time the cast has had dinner, or gone to a movie together just to get to know each other more. We’re putting this amazing show together and we’re having a great time. Although many members of the cast already know each other they have all embraced me as a new face at Arts Collective. I feel like I am genuinely part of a team. I have learned something from each of my cast mates, and I appreciate the organic way our characters have grown each week. (The playwright and director) Daniel is amazing, and I am truly excited for opening night.
Warren: What I have enjoyed most about the process of this show is getting to know the cast. I got to spend hours on end with both familiar and new faces, and I learned new things about each and every one of them.
Wesley: The thing I love most about this process is being able to step out of my comfort zone as an actor. Carlos is very physical person, and I’m not used to that so having the chance to become this subtle, yet confident character is really fun!
What’s been the most challenging part of the process?
Brandon: The most challenging part of this process was connecting to the emotion of the character. There are certain things that my character has gone through that I personally have not even been close to going through.
Chaseedaw: I enjoy working with new people and at new theaters. The beauty of living in DC is that I am near Maryland and Virginia. Sometimes that means long travel, long nights, and a lot of running around, but it has always been worth it. Remembering to get enough sleep, eat healthy and exercise while in the middle of a production isn’t always easy. It means tightening up my schedule, and developing a routine that allows me to not only show up for my responsibilities, but to also give my best.
Wesley: The most challenging part of the process again is how physical Carlos is. I’ve never had to kiss another actress on stage before, so bringing the emotion to life on stage, as well as kissing this experienced actress have really been difficult. That might just be me being shy however! Haha!
What do you hope the audiences will take away after seeing it on stage?
Chaseedaw: I hope the audience thinks about their dreams. What would you do with a million dollars? Can you still pursue your dreams even without having everything you think you need? What is holding you back? These are things I think about in my own life. It is important to have a game plan, but it’s also important to take chances. The perfect circumstances may never come along, but how far are you willing to go for what you really want in life? This show is about strategy, but it’s also about chance.
Warren: I hope that the audience will discover a new kind a theatre that combines television with the stage.
What did you learn about yourself, the actor-during this whole experience?
Chaseedaw: There was a time in my life when I was incredibly shy and self-conscious, despite my desire to perform. I barely recognize the actress I am today. I used to second guess myself a lot, but now I am much more willing to try new things and make bold and varied choices. I have become more concerned with who my character is, and being in service to that character than whether or not people will like the choices I make. I have a freedom as an artist that I never had before, and it makes me really happy. I enjoy the stage so much more with this newfound freedom.
Behind the Scenes of Arts Collective @HCC’s Workshop Production of ‘House’: Part 1: Playwright/Director Daniel Johnston by Joel Markowitz.
Behind the Scenes of Arts Collective @HCC’s Workshop Production of ‘House’: Part 2: Cast Members Gabrielle Amaro, Alex Becker, Courtney Branch, and Jordan Colea by Joel Markowitz.
Behind the Scenes of Arts Collective @HCC’s Workshop Production of ‘House’: Part 3: Cast Members Brandon Furr, Chaseedaw Giles, Warren Harris, and Wesley LeRoux by Joel Markowitz.
Behind the Scenes of Arts Collective @HCC’s Workshop Production of ‘House’: Part 4: Cast Members Chania Hudson, Tom Matera, and Christian Preziosi and Crew Member Taylor Purnell by Joel Markowitz.
Behind the Scenes of Arts Collective @HCC’s Workshop Production of ‘House’: Part 5: Cast Members Colin Riley, Iris Shih, and Sierra Young by Joel Markowitz.