In Part 4 of 5 interviews with the Playwright/Director and cast members of House at Arts Collective @ HCC, meet cast members Tom Matera, Christian Preziosi, and Taylor Purnell, and crew member Chania Hudson.
Joel: Please introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you on our local stages and who you play in HOUSE.
Chania Hudson: My name is Chania Hudson and I am the Production Assistant for House. Previously, I was both actress and Production Assistant for HCC’s Theatre Program’s production of Mary Zimmerman’s Argonautika, directed by Jenny Male. Prior to attending HCC, I was involved in many high school productions.
Thomas Matera: My name is Tom Matera, I play Peter Vines in House. I am also in Arts Collective’s improv group, “What Improv Group?!?!” (W.I.G.).
Christian Preziosi: Hi everyone! My name is Christian Preziosi. In House, I play Liston Rhodes, one of the contestants on the show. I’m a theatre major at HCC and most recently I played King Pelias as well as Idmon in HCC’s Theatre Program’s production of Argonautika, directed by Jenny Male.
Taylor Purnell: My name is Taylor Purnell and I play Pearl Stone in House., a co-host. I have previously been in Argonautika (HCC Theatre Program), Twelfth Night (HCC Theatre Program), It’s A Wonderful Life (HCC’s Arts Collective), and Southern Crisis (HCC Theatre Program).
What inspired you to audition for this show? Are you a fan of Reality TV? Which ones?
Chania Hudson: I decided to get involved in House. as production assistant because I love reality shows, such as Dance Moms and The Real World.
Christian Preziosi: Actually, I’m not very much into reality television. A friend and fellow castmate, Sierra Young, talked me into auditioning for House. She read the play, told me how funny it was, and made me interested in auditioning for it.
Taylor Purnell: I don’t watch much reality TV now, but I used to watch Survivor all the time with my family. Everything I know of reality TV comes from Survivor.
Have you worked with Arts Collective previously?
Chania Hudson: This is my first time working with AC! I’m a fan of Arts Collective’s work, and jumped at the opportunity to work with them on this show!
Christian Preziosi: I’ve never worked with Arts Collective, but I’ve seen their improv shows and their production of It’s A Wonderful Life. I was impressed and excited by the prospect of possibly working with them.
Taylor Purnell: I have worked with Arts Collective previously, in It’s A Wonderful Life! It was a great production and when I heard about auditions for House. I immediately picked up the script. As soon as I read it I was in love, and I knew I had to be a part of the show.
How has this workshop production experience been different than previous productions?
Christian Preziosi: For me, the main difference between this workshop production and others I’ve worked on is the extremely brief rehearsal process. I’ve only acted in three plays but in those plays, I’ve had much longer to get ready for opening than I have for this show. We really had to hit the ground running from day one, and luckily all of our actors were definitely up to the task.
Taylor Purnell: This workshop production is very different from previous productions I’ve worked in, because our director wrote the script. It’s been very interesting to go through it and complete the author’s original vision of the play.
What has it been like to work on an original play as an actor?
Christian Preziosi: Working on an original play has been both intimidating and educational. The cast has the Herculean task of bringing the director and writer’s characters from text to stage with no reference. We all have to build our characters from complete scratch and it has taught me so much about myself as an actor.
Taylor Purnell: As an actor, it’s been great working on an original play. We get immediate feedback from the writer himself, Daniel Johnston. The passion he has for this play fuels us all as well as our own passion. I love that were able to make his vision come alive.
How has your character changed since day one?
Chania Hudson: I’ve really enjoyed seeing how much this show has evolved since our first rehearsal. It’s fascinating seeing these characters come alive. I’ve seen how they’ve grown throughout the course of the rehearsal process, and I’ve listened to all of their backstories; it’s hard to not get attached to them.
Thomas Matera: Day one is, you read the script and have your first impression of a character. As you continue to get into deeper layers of the character, what they want, why they want it, and what would they do to get it, you begin to really learn who that person is, and you can really start to reflect that in your work. And Peter has a lot of layers.
Christian Preziosi: Liston has been a bit of an enigma for me. He keeps his reasoning for his actions to himself instead of talking about them, which means that I, as the actor, have to portray that to the audience non-verbally. In the beginning of the rehearsal process I was playing him as harsher than he really is. After multiple conversations about my character with Daniel Johnston, I have been able to pull him back, play him a bit milder while maintaining his intelligent determination, as well as discovering him as a person and fleshing out his background and arc throughout the show.
Taylor Purnell: My character has changed a lot since day one. When I came in, myself and Daniel and no idea which direction to go with my character. She was a blank canvas, and we collaborated to create her and solidify her. She now has opinions and feelings and a whole background that gives her personality.
What have you enjoyed the most about this particular process?
Chania Hudson: Seeing how a show can go from an idea to an actual production has been amazing.
Thomas Matera: The process of House has been one of the best experiences I’ve had. Daniel Johnston does an outstanding job of leading me in a great direction to find what really drives Peter. He also has put together an excellent cast, who are all clever, talented, and dedicated actors, which continue to inspire me and help elevate my own talents.
Christian Preziosi: My favorite part about working on this show is definitely working with the director and writer, Daniel Johnston. Having the writer present at rehearsal and guiding us through the process of blocking and discovering our characters is an amazing thing. Not to mention he is really fun and super funny!
What’s been the most challenging part of the process?
Christian Preziosi: As I said before, the most challenging part of House. is bringing a character from the pages of the script to the stage as a whole and complete person with no previous production to look back on or draw inspiration from. I’m relishing the challenge, however. It is teaching me so much and helping me to become a better actor.
What do you hope the audiences will take away after seeing it on stage?
Thomas Matera: The amount of hard work all of the cast and crew have put into this process. The work outside of rehearsals, adding all sorts of details to make such rich characters. As well as all the hours in rehearsals to make sure everything runs smoothly, from placing props to the sound cues. These people “ain’t the least bit lazy.”
Christian Preziosi: I want audiences to come see our show for the same reason people watch reality TV. Because competition is exciting. There is a blend of comedy, love, and maybe tragedy, depending on how much you like certain characters, but what presides over all that is a fierce contest. I want audiences to root for and against their favorite and least favorite characters and walk away with the sense that they just saw an exciting game.\
What do you hope to leave the process with?
Christian Preziosi: What struck me most when reading the script for the first time was the human interaction. Ten completely different people, who otherwise would never have crossed paths, are thrown together in a house and are not allowed to leave. That right there would provoke some interesting discourse, but add the prospect of winning a million dollars to the mix and the stakes rise exponentially. I want to walk away from this process with a deeper understanding of interactions between people as well as a firmer grasp on character development.
Taylor Purnell: I hope to leave this process with another successful show having been done, and roomful of amazing new friends.
What did you learn about yourself, the actor-during this whole experience?
Christian Preziosi: I have actually learned a lot about myself during this whole process. I’m fairly new to acting and I’ve pretty much been given creative freedom over my character. I was encouraged to create a backstory for him, develop habits and gestures he might have and use, and, basically, bring him to life. To know that I have the ability to do that when required to is something I’ll always be grateful to Daniel for. I have also discovered how hard I can push myself to master the lines and blocking. Ours is the shortest rehearsal time I’ve ever had before opening and I’m happy to know that I can get a full performance ready in just six weeks.
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.