Alex Hanscom Shanelle Villegas
Interviewed by Robbie Flanagan, Development Associate
R: What is your role at New Rep?
A: I am the Education Manager of our tour and an actor for Classic Repertory Company (CRC). I am in charge of talkabouts and helping to be the bridge between the plays and the students.
S: I am an actor in CRC and I am the production manager of the ensemble.
R: What made you want to join our Classic Repertory Company?
A: The arts had a HUGE impact on me as a teenager. In many ways, it hugely saved me during a dark period of my life—I found the arts, the arts found me, however you want to phrase it. I owe my life, literally, to the arts. I think we have such potential to make such a huge difference particularly by getting theatre out to places where it doesn’t usually go. It’s one thing to do a show in the theatre district in Boston and quite another to drive out to a school in NH and do a show in the white mountains. These students don’t know how to react because they never see it. The reality is that they are starving for it.
S: Classic Repertory Company not only provides stability for me as a working artist but I also really wanted to grow, exponentially, from the instability of the touring lifestyle.
A: The school we went to today, Chelsea, was one of the schools that the Fund-a-need raised money for. We wouldn’t have even been able to go to this school without the donations we received. That show was absolutely wild. An audience has not reacted to Scarlet Letter as largely as they did. These students were so responsive and involved. We finished the talkabout, then this one student grabbed the mic and thanked the company for the show. It sparked applause and great conversation between the audience and the company. You never know the impact we have on these students. Seeing art can be so inspiring and we are seeing this inspiration firsthand. There are so many amazing things that I love about CRC that I didn’t even know about when I signed up.
R: You’ve been touring Romeo and Juliet and The Scarlet Letter all fall across the North East. Do you have any favorite moments or memories from the tour?
A: Oh gosh. There are so many.
S: My favorite moment on tour was when the entire ensemble had an overnight at a cabin in the woods of Vermont. We were all a little rusty on Romeo & Juliet lines because we had been doing The Scarlet Letter for like a week and a half! So we spent the night running the entire play in the woods! Using the Balcony and the trees for the balcony scene, we had a little fire pit going and that’s where the death scenes took place … in this moment I thought “I have always wanted a community to do this with and, with these people, I have found that.”
A: Yes! That’s mine too. It was so fun.
R: What makes CRC special to you?
A: What makes CRC so special to me is that it has the potential for a direct impact. I decided to become an actor when working with Shakespeare Company in high school. They came to my school through outside funding like we do now. It was doing that and really diving into the work that made me know I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. CRC does that, but takes it to schools in the form of a production. My sister is reading Shakespeare in her English class right now. Reading Shakespeare, reading a play—it’s so dry and analytical. It doesn’t connect in the same way that actual live theatre does. We are giving a back door way of learning what these plays mean. There are students sitting in class that say “I hate reading this. It makes no sense” then they see our production of R&J and are surprised by how much they enjoy it.
S: CRC is special to me because it is where I am spending the most time becoming an adult. I’ve never had a life without school and everyone associated with CRC and the people in my ensemble are the main witnesses of me coming into the next stage of my womanhood/adultness. CRC is one source that has allowed me to find comfort in discomfort or, in other words, the calm in the storm because of the unexpected circumstances that we often fall under and must adapt to. CRC is special to me above all because I have found myself amongst like-spirited individuals and we are all in similar boats of not knowing what our next move is in life, and so, we have each other for now.
R: What does being a part of the New Rep Family mean to you?
A: I feel very privileged to be a part of the New Rep Family. Michael has been such a wonderful sort of parent to CRC. He has made all of us feel so welcomed and included. We are made to feel like we are part of something. Even in the choices of the shows for this season, you can see Michael’s leadership strengths. I can feel that change is in the works. People who may not normally be seen, are being seen and shown across the board. It feels special. Right now because Michael just came on board, it’s like the new wave of New Rep. It feels really cool to be an apprentice of this company that is really transitioning and growing in such a great new direction.
S: Being part of the New Rep family means being heard and loved! I haven’t talked to a single person in the office that isn’t a serious listener. Everyone is attentive and really trying to make change.