“First Date” to feature contemporary love

The Shield interviewed Jacelyn Stewart, a junior theater arts major, who will be performing in the upcoming production “First Date,” which will take place at 7:00 p.m Thursday-Friday and 2 p.m. Sunday in the Performance Center. The event is free to USI students one hour before show based on availability.

The Shield: Why did you get involved?

Jacelyn Stewart: I look forward to the musicals every single year, it is basically why I wanted to start doing theater in college because I loved musicals so much in high school. Every year, I am preparing myself for the musical because I really want to be in them. “First Date” really seemed fun. I have known the music, I have heard the album before, and this is the first show I have been able to do in college that I normally would have not been able to do in high school. It is a little bit edgier and a little more targeted towards college audiences compared to a younger audience.

The Shield: What is the play about?

Stewart: The play is about two main characters, Casey and Aaron, and they are on a blind date. It takes place in New York and basically, the whole show just runs an hour-and-half long with no intermission. (The scene) takes place in a restaurant and it is an actual date. None of us really leave the restaurant, we kind of just stay there. It (shows) the struggle between your inner self when you are on a date. For both characters, it is vastly different and they both have their own doubts about dating and how their past has brought them to this point. The show (itself) is told through a series of inner mind monologues. Casey and Aaron will talk for a little bit and then have a thought about their past and then the restaurant will come to life, (by) playing out their imagination. For example, Casey has a song where she is thinking about her past lovers and they were “bad boy” types, so two of the guys who are in the restaurant as patrons will get up and portray her two ex-lovers. Casey then thinks “oh, I used to love them” and they go “you love bad-boys, you can’t go for Aaron.” Aaron is completely different, he is kind of straight to getting to the point and he is an accountant, so he is not really like a “bad boy,” and Aaron is also Jewish in the show. Whenever he finds out that Casey is not Jewish he has the whole sequence of thoughts in his mind of his Jewish grandmother coming back from the grave saying, “you can’t date this girl because she is not Jewish.” The whole show is just fun, I really love it.

The Shield: Why should people come to the play?

Stewart: I think people should come because it’s nothing I have never seen at USI shows. It is more of the adult-funny shows, and I think it is perfect for this audience because of the dating life. They talk about dating on social media and stuff like that, and I think that is a big thing in college life or just in our age group now. I feel like it is a fun alternative to see a different side of the dating game. I’ve thought about half the stuff they mention in the show while I am on a date so I just think it is a good opportunity to see someone’s inner thoughts portrayed on stage.

The Shield: What role do you play in the show?

Stewart: I play multiple roles in the show, we play a bunch of roles to fit the scenarios that Casey and Aaron are bringing up. I play grandma Ida, his Jewish grandmother, I play Aaron’s mom as well, and I play Casey’s sister Lauren. All of the ensemble cast play three to four roles for each scenario.

The Shield: How would you describe your characters?

Stewart: I would say that Casey’s sister, Lauren, really wants what is best for her sister and she is like the older sister type. She has been successful. She is married and has kids. Lauren doesn’t understand what is taking her sister so long in finding someone. Lauren has the best intentions, but she comes across as being controlling. Aaron’s mom is only really in one song, and for that one, I believe she is really portraying all her regrets for not being there for Aaron when he was younger and wishing that she could change things and I think she portrays that she really loves him. She knows she messed up and wishes she had more time with him when he was younger. Then Aaron’s grandmother, she is just a fun character, she is supposed to be over the top and I think she is just meant to be silly. I don’t think she is meant to have a strong characterization because she is only in one song as well. She is just there to tell him to follow his family path and do the same thing that his family did, but I think it is good that Aaron doesn’t necessarily want to do that because it is not always fun to stick with what you’re family does.

The Shield: What is the main conflict your character goes through?

Stewart: I think that Lauren’s journey in the show, out of all my characters, has the most rounded journey. I think her major conflict is just trying so hard to help her sister, but she realizes that her sister is not her. I think that is her major thing, is that at the end she realizes that she can’t expect the same expectations for her from her sister because they are not the same people. In the end, I think Lauren accepts that she has to allow her sister to make her own decisions, make her future for herself and accept that she (Lauren) can’t control everything.

The Shield: What has been the hardest part of this show for you?

Stewart: The hardest part of the show is the fact that we are on stage every second of the show. I have never been in a show where I am on stage, even when I am not the focal point or when we are not talking, I have to still interact with my dinner partner. We still have to act like we are on a date and be aware that people are watching us still, even though we may not be where the attention is drawn. I have never had to do that, I have never had to be on stage the entire time with no intermission nor restroom breaks. It is especially hard being on stage all the time because you really need water for this show because we dance a lot, so they have written in some of our “run crew” to come in and fill up our water bottles. It’s nice, but you have to be careful to not run out of water, and make sure that you’re in the moment all the time, by actively listening and acting so that you don’t miss a cue. The show has been a real experience, and I have had a lot of fun doing it, I have never been in a show like this one so I am really excited for it to open.

The Shield: What has been the most rewarding part of the show?

Stewart: I think getting to the end and seeing how far the show has come and me just feeling more confident as a performer, in these types of roles, is just so fun and I was so nervous about it at first and I am really happy that I’ve grown as an actor. The show itself is so rewarding because it is so fun, the music is so fun, and we just finished with lighting and tech. The lighting just makes it so much more than it was and once those lights went on yesterday, with the run-through with the band, I just felt so good. I talked with my friends too and we were like ‘that was insane’ like we all felt so connected in the moment and it just felt right. I know we have a few more days but I can’t wait to keep going over it before opening night.