By Jessica Foreman
WaterTower Theater in Addison featured the award-winning play “Spring Awakening” on Oct. 3, and Baylor students, alumni and faculty are well established within the production, which will run until Oct. 23. After opening night, the production had an influx of positive reviews, including The Dallas Morning News who said the play “detonates with brilliant, blinding force.” Huntsville senior theater performance major Joshua Gonzales tells the Lariat about his experience playing Ernst in the play.
Question: How did you feel making a debut performance at WaterTower Theater?
Gonzales: Well, it felt awesome. This is my first real professional theater job, so I’m so excited and feel so blessed to be a part of it. I’ve been training and earning my degree to do just this, and it is very nice to get a head start on my career before I graduate.
Question: You are performing with other Baylor alumni. Tell me about that. Have you performed with them before?
Gonzales: I have performed with Matt Tolbert (’11), and Adam Garst (’10) before, but Clay Wheeler was already graduated before I came to Baylor, so I haven’t ever [performed] with him before now.
Also, my professor, Steven Pounders, is in the show, and getting to perform with him and watch him every night is a real treat. It’s wonderful being involved with this show with all of these Bears. There is a definite brotherhood that we have had, and a support you know is always there for you. I think we always hope to see old friends again, and getting to create such beautiful art with them is even better.
Question: How was the audition process?
Gonzales: Here is where my experience gets crazy. So I knew that I really, really wanted to be in this production as Ernst, but the theater announced that they were holding auditions the week that I was going to be in New York City. I was going to New York City for a few weeks to train with the American Theater Wing.
I was really bummed but decided to send in my headshot and resume to the theater in case they wanted to hold a different audition or have me send in a video or something. So while I’m in New York City, my other Baylor friends go through the auditions and callbacks (second round of auditions), and tell me that the casting would be announced soon. I thought I missed my chance.
Then I hear that the theater didn’t really find all what they were looking for so they decided to have a second round of callbacks. So I immediately went to my phone to see if I could email them and see if I could audition at those callbacks, and when I opened up my email, I already had an email from the theater asking if I would come in.
I believe I flew back into Dallas on a Friday, auditioned that Saturday and then got the phone call that I had the part on Monday.
It was all fast. In the audition, I sang different selections that Ernst sings, and then they did a little rock-out session, where they could see how we rocked out. It was one of the most fun auditions I’ve been a part of.
Question: Describe your character, Ernst, and how he connects with our generation.
Gonzales: Ernst, I’m sure, is like a lot of young teen boys. The musical is about this group of teens all feeling their “Spring Awakening” like every teen does, and like every teen will do for the rest of time. The show’s world, although very realistic with a lot of societies today, is very controlling and tries to restrict these teens from exploring or gaining knowledge in a healthy way about all the changes that they are experiencing. Ernst is very naïve and innocent and is tragically willing to quickly pledge his loyalty and love to anyone who shows him affection even if it is someone whose intentions are negative.
Question: Was this an easy role for you to take on? Were you able to connect with your character?
Gonzales: Ernst is a lot like me. He is meek, small, polite, nice. But there are very distinct differences. Ernst is younger and very confused about all the changes and emotions and attractions he is feeling. He also is very needy. He just wants somebody. He doesn’t care who, [he needs someone] to just love him.
It’s was a little bit of a challenge to step in those shoes. And remember what it was like discovering what this world of sex and intimacy and love is. And [you have] to try and take this journey with someone like Ernst who is so unsure about it and doesn’t really know anything about it because of the time and place that he is living in.
Question: What measures does an actor have to take to adapt to a character?
Gonzales: First and foremost, I think an actor must find as much of themselves in the character as possible. Once you discover how much of yourself is in the character, then you can explore the speech, movement, mannerisms and everything else that is this other being that you are giving life to. It is a very rewarding process with all the new discoveries you can make about yourself, the character and the piece that you are working on.
Question: How does a Baylor theater major gain acting experience outside of campus?
Gonzales: Other than doing shows in Austin or Dallas during the school year, which can be very tough, there are plenty of other training programs and summer work that can be found across the country. In my past summers I have worked in Austin, trained in NYC and started my own theater company and produced a musical right here in Waco.
Question: Any advice for other theater majors looking to land auditions/performances?
Gonzales: My strongest advice is be proactive. You have to research, do all the hard work of preparing and then show up, fully confident in your abilities. There are a million silly things that directors look for; you cannot stress about trying to fit all of them. All you can do is be you. They want you. Not you trying to be somebody or something other than yourself.
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