In Focus: Terri Weagant

If you’ve been around the Seattle theatre scene, you’ve probably seen her already. In the last year alone, she has performed in 4 plays, toured Washington in a 3-person production, become the host of Balagan’s monthly variety show Schmorgasborg, and is about to open the classic one-woman show The Search For Intelligent Signs of Life in the Universe.

How does one stay sane with such a hectic theatre schedule? TPS sits down with Terri as she searches for signs of a normal life in the theatre universe.

Every actor loves to stay busy. So it’s no surprise when a talented and charismatic woman like Terri Weagant ends up doing one show after another show followed by a project while hosting a late-night cabaret. Since returning to Seattle from her journeys abroad, Terri has acted in multiple plays up on Capitol Hill, toured with Book-It-All-Over, created and co-hosted Balagan Theatre’s Schmorgasborg late night cabaret, and is now about to appear in what is simultaneously an actor’s dream and nightmare: a 2 hour, one person show. In the midst of opening Jane Wagner’s The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, Terri took a moment to tell Theatre Puget Sound how she stays stable in the unpredictable world of fringe theatre.

Theatre Puget Sound: Okay.. first question.. when do you ever sleep?

Terri Weagant: You caught me at an interesting time. Normally it’s not an issue, but I am currently working on a solo show for the first time, so my sleep schedule is… well… I’ll pencil it in next week sometime.

Photo by Nik Perleros

Photo by Nik Perleros

TPS: What are your biggest influences to your acting style? (coaches, teachers, authors, etc.)

TW: I’m not sure if I have a specific “acting style, ” but I definitely gravitate more towards comedy. I grew up idolizing the great comediennes of the 60s, 70s and 80s: Gilda Radner, Madeline Kahn, Lily Tomlin, Bea Arthur, Eve Arden and my hero, Carol Burnett. As a kid I would spend countless hours in front of the mirror trying to contort my face like they did. I came to Seattle to attend Cornish College of the Arts and I can’t say enough about their faculty. It was an experience that I would never trade for anything in the world, but I don’t know if I could do it again. It was an immense challenge. The faculty push the students way out of their comfort zone and force them to think analytically as well as to act on impulse. The faculty are all working theatre artists. They teach technique, but they also give practical advice on how to survive as an actor. Since graduating I have learned a ton from observing other actors that I love and respect go about their own process. I could watch Ray Tagavilla and Emily Chisholm read the phone book. Not a bad idea actually. Consider this project in the works now. A 26 part mini-opera. You steal my idea and I’ll sue.

TPS: How do you balance so much theatre with earning a living and having any sort of a social life?

TW: I think that the key to finding balance is to be extremely flexible. It can be a big ole’ challenging at times, for sure, but no one ever said that this job was going to be easy. Ah, money. Most of the theatre that I have done in Seattle has been fringe work, and I think it’s no secret that it can’t financially support you. I have done many, many jobs just to try to pay the bills. Serving, bartending, elevator operating, landscaping. Big fun party. I have figured out a way to pare down my expenses to basic needs. I don’t think that I am sacrificing anything so much as making compromises. It forces you to be resourceful. I want to be doing this shit, so I’m going to do everything within my power to make it happen. That last bit of the question: Socia-what? That’s a new phrase. Is that French?

TPS: What are your recommendations for those just starting out in the Seattle theatre scene?

TW: Audition for EVERYTHING. TPS is great resource for all audition postings. Go out for as many auditions as possible. You may end up doing a lot of crappy theatre. I have done a ton of crappy theatre and chances are I will do more crappy theatre down the line. These experiences are very humbling, but where else are you going to cut your teeth besides going out and doing it? Great theatre connections are made with every show you do. In addition to auditioning for everything, be sure to go see as many shows as humanly possible. There is some really exciting stuff happening in this town. GO SEE IT! When I first started doing theatre here a good buddy of mine offered up this advice: “Just be cool.” Don’t worry about having to schmooze. Just do the work and let the chips fall where they may.

TPS: What keeps you here in Seattle ?

TW: I came back to Seattle a year ago after putting theatre on hold and traveling around the world for a couple of years. Mind you, I was having the time of my life while I was abroad, but there were many times I found myself pining to do theatre again. It wasn’t until I finally performed in Byron Bay, Australia, that I knew I had to get back to it. I found myself back in Seattle within a few months. Seattle is pretty happening town. There is so much theatre happening all around, but the community is small enough that you have wonderful opportunities to collaborate with other artists. As theatre artists we need to keep learning and honing our craft and I’m not sure how easy it would be to do consistent work in larger cities/markets. And Seattle is just a gorgeous town. I’m an outdoorsy person and I love that we are only an hour from the mountains. I do love the rain….most of the time.

TPS: What are your goals for the next 5 years?

TW: Shoot, am I supposed to know this now? I am currently in the process of applying to graduate school in Glasgow, Scotland, so we’ll see if that happens. Fingers crossed. The ultimate goal for me now is trying to figure out how to marry my love of theatre with my love of travel. There are hundreds of fringe festivals around the world and I want to head out and be a part of it. I would like to start generating my own work as well. Writing intimidates the hell out of me, so I figure I should do it.

TPS: How many things do you already have planned for the next year?

TW: I have a few acting projects coming up, but I am getting wicked excited about directing a full length show for the first time. The show, The Jammer, has been called the “King Lear of derby plays.” Sex, violence, live derby bouts. Ooh, too fun.

Terri Weagant is currently in The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe at Balagan Theatre. She also hosts their monthly late-night cabaret, Schmorgasborg. Terri’s TPS Profile

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