Q&A with The Twelve Dates of Christmas’ Evender Hodges Sanders
Q: What is your history of acting?
A: When I was 6 or 7 I was cast in our church’s play as … a Christmas Tree, and that is where my love of storytelling began. While I continued with the occasional church play, I didn’t get involved with theatre while in High School; unfortunately, our theatre program wasn’t robust and my involvement in other after school activities and sports hindered my participation. So it wasn’t until I attended undergrad at Transylvania University … for accounting … that I was able to tread the boards again, with a couple of my favorite roles being, Betty in Sure Thing by David Ives and Laertes in an all-female production of Hamletby, I’m sure, everyone knows who. When I attended graduate school at Wake Forest … for accounting … I was able to work with the Little Theatre in Winston-Salem as Elaine in Arsenic and Old Lace. After that production, I moved to Nashville, TN and started my career in public accounting. This was the beginning of long hiatus from the stage as I traveled too much with my job to audition for anything. But I lived vicariously through my husband, Michael Sanders’, job with the Nashville Children’s Theatre where he was Technical Director. I helped build and paint sets, I made props, but most importantly, I got to see EVERY production. So while I was not acting during that period of my life, I was learning from some of the most incredibly talented and incredibly lovely and generous people I’ve known. Life brought us back to Lexington, KY, and when my daughters were four and two years old, with the loving support of my husband, I decided to give acting a go again. I had very low expectations of getting cast, I mean I had been out a LONG time … was it like riding a bike??? Well, I guess I did something notable and Studio Players welcomed me. I have not looked back. Over the past five years I have been so fortunate to work on productions with several local theatres including Woodford Theatre, Studio Players, Bluegrass Mystery Theatre; many festivals and staged readings including the Girl Project’s Voices Heard, Studio Players’ 10 Minute Play Festival, AthensWest’s Horsefeathers and the Bluegrass Playwrights Festival; and on independent films with Red Serial Films in Owensboro, KY and Ronin Noir Films in Louisville, KY. I have LOVED every opportunity I’ve been given as I learn something new from every character I discover. But, if I had to choose, some of my favorite pre-Mary roles include, (another Mary) Mary Hatch Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life, Peaches in The Red Velvet Cake War, L’Inconnue in L’Inconnue, Claire Ganz in Rumors and Dorothy Parker in Nights at the Algonquin Round Table. I hope this is only the beginning of my history!
Q: Did you study in school? Other training?
A: I did NOT study in school. I have never taken an acting class. I wish I had. But it wasn’t in the cards for me at the time given my family’s situation. So, I attended undergrad and graduate school for accounting and I am an accountant (auditor) by trade. But I’m still hopeful one day I can follow my passion for acting! My training has all been through working on productions. By listening to and learning from those around me. Even when I wasn’t in productions, I went to SEE live theatre, and I tried to glean whatever I could from those artists as I watched. When I couldn’t be onstage, I volunteered backstage, which I think is just as important; to understand what goes into designing a set, to building it, dressing it, making props, sewing costumes, programming lights and sound. It’s all an education toward the entire experience. I’ve also come to learn that it isn’t just about taking acting classes. It’s learning how to read music, how to sing, how to play an instrument, learning gymnastics, karate, how to move and control your body, learning dialects, or tap dance or roller skating. Any skill could, at some time, be written into a play. So I’ve found it’s a good thing to be a constant learner. I’ve also learned that it’s about life. Every experience you have, from heartbreak to marriage, from the loss of a loved one to the birth of a child, the entire span of human emotions, and the shades of those emotions, are the core of storytelling. So the biggest training for me has been to live.
Q: What have you done to prepare for this?
A: LOTS and LOTS of repeating the lines out loud. LOTS. My poor husband probably knows the script as well as I do. But I also tried really hard to create a distinct character for each person in Mary’s life that we meet. Which meant finding a voice for them and finding their physicality. So I spent some time in the mirror making faces and time in the shower talking to myself in various voices. My sister-in-law even recorded my 5 year old nephew saying certain lines so that I can try to mimic his speech pattern. But what I’ve probably spent the most time doing is making sure the humor comes across. This is a FUNNY script and I want to make sure the audiences get all those laughs. I appreciate all different types of stories, but comedy is my favorite. Laughter is, in my opinion, one of the BEST sounds in the entire world, it feeds my soul, it’s a big reason why I do theatre. We all have our day jobs, we are all dealing with stuff, so when someone chooses to come and spend a couple hours with me, I want to make them laugh. I want to help them forget, for even a little while, about all that stuff they’re dealing with. And I want them to leave with a memory they can think back on and say, “that was fun”. What’s even better about this script is that it’s got a GREAT message to go along with the humor. Icing on the seven layer bars.
Q: What scares you about doing a one person show?
A: ALL THE LINES. I admit, I’m nervous I’m going to forget something. And truth be told, I probably will. But, I’m hopeful I’ve been at this long enough that I can vamp and adlib until I get back on track! I’m so very thankful that we have some great singers / storytellers who will be coming in and out of the scenes and I’ve asked them to please, if they see me floundering, please give me a cue! If all else fails, I’ve decided I will just tap dance and signal for the fireworks and glitter cannons. AND SCENE!
Q: What have you learned about yourself as an actor?
A: To roll (and role) with it. To enjoy it. This is, by far, the biggest role I’ve ever had, or may ever have. When I first started back into theatre, I used to go over each of my scenes in the dressing room before I would go out on stage; but there’s no chance of that with this. Once this show starts going it’s a freight train. So, I have to trust that I know it. That I’ve spent enough time with the words and the characters, that I’ve put the work in, so that when I walk out on stage, I can let myself feel it, that I can let myself be in it. Oh, and that the word ‘stumbling’ is tricksey.