Artist spotlight: Olivia Savard prepares to reprise ‘Uncle Vanya’ role
Theater has long been an essential part of Olivia Savard’s life.
Savard became the first junior company member of Thunder River Theatre Company as a teen, and became a full-fledged member following her 16th birthday. Savard is now in her fifth year with the company and will serve as stage manager for a production of “The Tempest” next month.
Since her early days in theater, Savard’s connections have spread and now include involvement with a number of area companies. She also teaches drama at Cornerstone School in Basalt, and intends to pursue a teaching career.
Savard will again assume the role of Sonya in an encore performance of “Uncle Vanya,” an interpretation of Anton Chekhov’s work by the same name. It’s the tale of Vanya and his niece Sonya, and the play explores love, hope and loss. Savard initially played Sonya in Sopris Theatre Company’s 2015-2016 season. The encore show will run at Wheeler Opera House in Aspen on Feb. 2 and 3. The Post Independent spoke to Savard in advance of the show. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Post Independent: How does repeating this role, nearly a year after the show’s original run, compare to the first experience?
Olivia Savard: A lot of actors who do encore performances say that the second go is a lot easier. I disagree (laugh). There’s something about having a new work and it’s fresh, it’s new. To be working on it and living with the characters and the play for four to six weeks is a really incredible thing.
I think that’s why a lot of us choose to do live theater, because we’re able to really envelop ourselves inside the world the playwright creates.
When we’re doing an encore, there’s just not that four-week process. … In terms of feeling really comfortable with the character and knowing who you’re playing, I’m just not feeling that yet. I’ve had eight months away from Sonya and now trying to get back into her mindset, it’s hard.
PI: Tell me more about Sonya. Why does the character appeal to you?
OS: There’s a powerful quote where she says, ‘Don’t tell me the truth because there’s still a possibility of hope when you don’t know the truth, isn’t there?’ She’s trying so hard to stay positive. She’s the rock of the family. She’d rather be naïve in certain realms of her mind than really know.
This is my first time on stage in an actual role I could sink my teeth into since seventh grade. Gary asked me to audition and I did, and I ended up getting cast as Sonya, which was very unexpected.
She’s relatable. There are elements of her that I can draw directly to my life. It’s fun to explore. I know how I handle my own situations. It’s fun to see how someone else handles theirs, and have to put yourself in the mind of somebody else and live in a specific way.
… I didn’t have a lot of prep to draw me to this role. I just ended up falling in love with her.
PI: How has your relationship with theater evolved over the years?
OS: In four years, I did about 30 productions. I started taking a step back. I’m now enrolled at CSU Global and it’s a much larger workload. I also work several jobs.
I’ve taken a bit of a step back, I’m only doing one show a year right now. Except right now I’m doing two. … I love theater and I love being a part of the creative process, but I just couldn’t keep up that energy level.
PI: What are the differences in your attraction to acting and technical theater?
OS: In technical theater, I realized that, as a stage manager you have a lot of pressure put on you. But I also think it’s an easier pressure than getting up in front of other people—no, it’s not easier, it’s just different. Your concerns are making sure everybody’s in the right place at the right time, everybody’s set. If something goes wrong, it really falls onto your head. I like that. I like that if something happens, I can take care of it. I can say, ‘That was me, I can take care of it.’ If it was someone on my crew, I can go talk to them one on one.
But with acting, I’ve found that it’s a whole different kind of stress. There’s the stress of getting up in front of people, which we can all identify with. Especially when playing a more dramatic role … there are a lot of actors that it’s very hard for them to go through a production from start to finish and stay completely sane. I didn’t realize this, but my mom said when I came upstairs after closing night of “Uncle Vanya,” there was a different air about me. I’d let (Sonya) go.
That’s something that contributes greatly to the production, but when you’re out of it, it’s like you’re seeing sunlight for the first time again. So very, very different types of stresses, but both creative and not necessarily bad. There’s good stress and bad stress.
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