Interview With 'God is Dead and April's Getting Married' Performer, Anna Shafer!

Written on July 16, 2018

We sat down with Anna Shafer, one of the performers in God is Dead and April’s Getting Married to find out what she had to say about this production, and being a part of Fringe!

Responses have been edited for clarity.

So, tell us a little bit about ‘God is Dead and April’s Getting’ Married.

ANNA: The show takes place both in the present and five years prior. It’s about some recent, or kind of recent graduates from college, but two people: El and Elliot, (and I play El) they get Save-The-Date cards for their high school friend April’s wedding. This is very shocking to both of them, but for different reasons, and both of them have had feeling attached to April for quite some time…when they were in high school El and April were very good friends, Elliot and April had dated for three years, and then April, who is a Mormon, started developing feelings for my character, El. So, she’s kind of struggling with the idea of queerness and how you can be gay and be Mormon, like which is more important to your core person- do you have to pick? Is it like picking a lifestyle or picking your family? Especially in the Mormon church, you can’t really be a practicing Mormon and be gay- that was something her family was very strict about so it kind of causes a big fuss when they’re in high school. It’s just kind of about dealing, five years later, with the effects of that.

And how is the rehearsal process going?

ANNA: Oh, it is so fun! It is truly, truly wonderful. We’ve actually been really blessed to be able to work with the playwright, her name is A.A. Brenner. A.A, (whose name is also Anna, it’s very fun!) um, A. A. is so cool and easygoing, and is really attached to the story; she’s a really fantastic playwright and she came to work with us for our first couple of read-throughs and rehearsals and got kind of a sound for, not just our voice, because the characters have very strong voices already, but when she heard it from us she would adapt certain little things and the story has changed a bit, each of the characters have changed a bit. The play has been seen before. The director, the producer, they were fellows with Shakespeare Theatre Company, and they were able to put up a really small staged version of it a couple of years ago, and now they have the chance to do it for Fringe! What’s really nice is that we do have certain resources because our director, Jess Phillips, who is just incredibly amazing and understanding and interesting, she works at Shakespeare. So, we get to have, for example, our rehearsals in the Shakespeare Theatre Company education spaces in Eastern Market. It’s been really nice to have a dependable space, which I know is something that’s really difficult for a lot of Fringe shows. But getting to work with Lauren is wonderful, our other cast-mate who plays Elliot, Colton Needles he is a Mormon actually, and moved here from Utah and is able to give us a lot of insight on Mormonism. He’s been very helpful with that. It’s all very exciting and new and we discover different things at every rehearsal. Jess has given us a lot of room to play, and A.A. has come and checked in to see our progress and it’s been really wonderful to work with her, just a really great process all around.

That’s so great to hear. What about working on a Fringe show has been different than your past experiences?

ANNA: Well, I mentioned before the idea of space, and so finding, for example…we do have the Shakespeare Theatre Company during the week, but on the weekends it’s been usually in public libraries. And the idea of a rotating space that we have to kind of set up ourselves every time we get there, we don’t really have a set location, we’ve been between different libraries and STC, that’s definitely been different. Slightly challenging, I guess, but mostly just different. It is nice to be doing a production with, like, adults? You know, up til now all I’ve done and all Lauren has done is college productions, and now here we are doing something that will be seen by people other than our peers, which is really exciting. The whole fact that we’re going to be performing at Arena Stage is like…nuts. And so cool. And I feel like a professional! Yeah, and it’s just been so interesting to see, and to have there be, a social media campaign, and we have the postcards, and all these really professional things happening around our production. That is not really something I’d ever been exposed to yet.

Do you have any pre-show rituals that help you get ready to perform?

ANNA: Oooh. Actually, I’m one of those weird actors, I guess, that doesn’t really do that so much? Even in my classes, when it’s been like “Oh, take your moment before,” I don’t really do that necessarily; I don’t find it helpful to me. I would say that I guess I’ve been more mindful when I’m listening to music, like “Oh, this music kind of fits my character,” and I don’t know if I’ll make a playlist before the show, but so far it’s been, I guess, helping to set up the space? Because we have to set up the space in all the rehearsals, that’s kind of helped me, put me in the mindspace because I’m literally building, like, my room. So, yeah, I guess that’s been helpful, to set up my space.

Is there anything else you want to share about the production?

ANNA: : Just that I hope people come to see it! I think it’s a really beautiful, really relevant story. I think we don’t get to see Queer women onstage as much as I would like, as a Queer woman myself, and I think this has really complex people, and young people, complex young people that are very beautiful. I really hope people will come to see our show!

God is Dead and April’s Getting Married, presented by Three Muses, is playing until July 29 in Arena Stage’s Violet location.

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