The show must go on.
For the last year, former Mercer Islander and drama major Sophie Kelly-Hedrick has been rolling through her remote courses at New York University and eagerly awaiting her return to whatever form of stage is available in the theater realm during the pandemic.
That time is now. On April 1, Kelly-Hedrick will join Taylor Schilling (“Orange Is the New Black”) and Kelvin Harrison Jr. (“The Trial Of The Chicago 7”) virtually in the first installment of Seattle Rep’s Plays in Process program. The trio will read some excerpts, giving audiences a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the development process of director Erica Schmidt’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”
The event, which will also feature artistic director Braden Abraham and include interviews with the actors, will be streamed at 7:30 p.m. at https://www.seattlerep.org/audience-programs/newplay/plays-in-process/hamlet/.
Recorded a few weeks ago on Zoom, the presentation will feature Kelly-Hedrick reading for the character of Ophelia, Schilling handling the part of Gertrude and Harrison Jr. bringing both Hamlet and Horatio to life.
Kelly-Hedrick, 20, graduated from Mercer Island High School (MIHS) in 2018 and will earn her bachelor of fine arts degree in drama from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts in December of 2021.
This new form of theater has been challenging for the performer, who first acted in Youth Theatre Northwest’s production of “101 Dalmatians” as a fourth-grader. As the French-speaking Poodle No. 2 character, she took the stage with a cast on her broken right arm. She yanked her costume over the cast and got the job done.
Speaking over the phone from New York on a recent day, Kelly-Hedrick said, “It’s hard to sit on Zoom for sometimes eight hours a day and do something that you’re supposed to do with other people and not have other people next to you. It’s certainly draining.”
Although Zoom theater events can reach an even wider audience, the performers greatly miss interacting with the attendees in person, said Kelly-Hedrick, adding that actors are adapting to the situation and are still making an impact wherever they’re located.
“I also think right now at a time of grief and despair and desperation in a lot of peoples’ lives, I hope that arts can remain a place of solace and joy or comfort, and so I think it remains all that more important,” she added.
Theater has always played a major role in Kelly-Hedrick’s life and she remembers attending performances in Seattle and Shakespeare in the Park on the Island.
After watching a friend act in “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” at Youth Theatre Northwest, she remembers thinking, “‘This is dope’ and I fell in love. Since then, I’ve just kind of learned the power of theater and what it can truly accomplish. I’ve just fallen more deeply in love with it.”
Through her involvement with the MIHS drama program, Kelly-Hedrick became acquainted with Seattle Rep’s education program team and staff. Casting director Kaytlin McIntyre spotted Kelly-Hedrick performing in a monologue competition in 2017 and asked her to audition for Schmidt’s adaptation of “Mac Beth,” which is their spelling of the Shakespeare title.
After performing in “Mac Beth” at Seattle Rep for one run in 2018, Kelly-Hedrick followed Schmidt to New York for an additional two runs in off-Broadway theaters the following two years, right up until the pandemic hit.
Schmidt and Kelly-Hedrick have formed a tight relationship over the years, and that’s led them back to Seattle Rep for “Hamlet.”
Kelly-Hedrick said that along her drama journey, she’s become a more empathetic person.
“It’s part of my job to be able to understand other people because I want to get inside their heads and maybe potentially become them, and you can’t do that if you’re close minded or judgmental of others,” she said.
As for the overall impact theater can have on performers and the audience, she adds that it has “the power to motivate and inspire and educate and infuriate — and do anything.”