The Grackle

Observations, Reflections and Miscellany from the Wacoan

Lights, Camera, Action! A Day in the Life of an Actor 

Community Actor Talks Performances, Craft and Overcoming Fear

4 weeks ago

Pictured: Photos by Avery Ballmann

By Skylla Mumana

When I was younger, like most kids, I dreamed of stardom. I’d watch Disney Channel and picture myself standing in tandem with all of the child actors I’d admired. Obviously, that didn’t happen, but I still find myself thinking about what it would’ve been like to be an actor — to stand in front of a film camera or take center stage in a play. How do they prepare for roles? How do they get over stage fright? To quell my curiosity, my photographer Avery Ballmann and I went over to the Brazos Theatre of Waco to spend a day in their shoes and see what it’s like to be an actor.  

The Brazos Theatre of Waco is a theatre group founded in 2013 by theater artists who were looking to help create more opportunities for acting and performances in Waco. Run by Beth Richards, the theater puts on a variety of performances for the Central Texas community to enjoy, such as their monthly stand-up comedy and variety shows. Recently, the theater put on Neil Simon’s 1988 play “Rumors,” a comedy about a catastrophic wedding anniversary dinner full of miscommunication and confusion. 

Before the show, we headed backstage to meet with Rachel Velasco, a local actor and Waco resident who is also the community engagement coordinator for Waco’s public radio station, KWBU. As someone who has always enjoyed public speaking, she often found herself relating her work back to her passion for acting.  

“I’ve always loved speaking in front of people,” Velasco said. “Public speaking, performance, it’s a big part of what I do in my job, to be community facing. This feels a little bit like an extension of that.”  

Velasco is no stranger to the stage, however, she took a hiatus from her craft after college due to a health issue.  

“I acted all through high school and college, but I ended up with a nerve condition in my throat,” Velasco said. “It causes this pretty chronic, aggressive cough. It’s not a small thing. It can be disruptive to my life. I’ve been wanting to get back on stage for a long time because I just enjoy it and I enjoy the people and the process, but it was scary.”  

However, after hearing about the open auditions for the dinner theater play, Velasco found the courage to audition. After making the cut, she was cast in the role of Claire Ganz, a snarky social climber who loves to gossip. Velasco notes that despite how seamless each show runs, a lot of planning and preparation goes into perfecting each scene.  

“You see this show and it’s great and it goes by pretty quickly, but there’s a lot that goes into it as far as figuring out blocking — where you’re supposed to be on the stage — and memorizing your lines,” Velasco said. “And then it’s creating those little moments in the show. How can I play this to make it a little funnier? How can I create more dynamic connections with other characters? It’s not just walking around doing your blocking and saying your lines. You kind of have to be in the actual scene.”  

To prepare for her role, Velasco studied her character deeply. She found that the best way for her to get into character is to think of Claire as a whole person, not just a fictional being made up of lines on a page.  

“Every night before we start our show, I’m thinking, ‘Ok, in these different scenarios that we’re going to play through, what would Claire authentically do?’” Velasco said. “Even if the material we’re given makes Claire seem very superficial or one dimensional, she isn’t. She’s a whole person. So in order to make the character work, I have to think about what that means outside of just the lines I was given.”   

The play went off without a hitch. Not only did Velasco and the rest of the cast put on a hilarious performance, but they all managed to embody their characters incredibly well. Each joke and witty line was met with roaring laughter from the audience.  

If you’re someone who wants to be an actor, then Velasco’s biggest piece of advice is to be brave and take chances.  

“Don’t be afraid,” Velasco said. “Fear keeps us from doing a lot of things, so step out of your comfort zone and try it. Just go out for stuff, talk to people who are doing it, go see shows, go meet people. That’s the best way to get involved with anything. See where it takes you and don’t be scared.”