Playwright Halie Kendra Smith Opens up About "Addicted."

Rogue Theatre 2020's second production at this year's virtual Theatre Festival is Halie Kendra Smith's new play, Addicted, In a short play, giving us an inside look at the experiences the main character faces with addiction. Loss, weakness, and hopefully some restoration or redemption carries this story.

Playwright | Director Hallie Kendra Smith

Rogue Theatre Festival founder, Allison Hohman talked with the playwright/director Halie Kendra Smith about her play, her inspiration, and the challenges of directing during a pandemic.


Also in this interview, Addicted actor, Alexia Rastelli, sharing her experience with the festival and this project from an actor's perspective.


She shares her conversations with LocalTheatreUSA.com just days before the festival opens, and Addicted debuts as the second play of the festival.


Allison Hohman: Where did you get the inspiration for writing your piece?


Halie Kendra Smith: I had to write an anti realistic piece for a class in college, and I’ve always wanted to talk more about my experiences with my own addiction and recovery and I thought this was the perfect outlet to discuss it. So, the inspiration was partially my life, but it also helped that the assignment itself had criteria and a deadline!


Allison Hohman: What is your writing process? When inspiration strikes? One hour a day?

Halie Kendra Smith: Purely when inspiration strikes. I tried to force myself to write, I used prompts, all that jazz - but it was never the same as when I had a stroke of “I need to tell this story NOW.” So I stopped forcing myself to do it and I let it happen when it happens.


Allison Hohman: How did you first get involved with theater and becoming a playwright?

Halie Kendra Smith: I’ve always been interested in theatre - as a child I would watch The Sound of Music so often that now if you mention it in my mother’s presence she has severe PTSD. But I started getting involved in it, in high school on the performing side of things, and then I went to DeSales University to get a BA in Acting and Directing. I was more focused on the directing, and if it weren’t for that focus I would have never became a playwright. The first thing I ever wrote was this piece and I was so scared it wasn’t anything special. Now, I know better. But, if it weren’t for directing I may have never been a playwright.


Allison Hohman: What do you love about this piece and what will others love about it?

Halie Kendra Smith: It’s universal. The opioid epidemic hasn’t gone anywhere, in fact, it’s gotten much worse in the wake of the pandemic we’re going through. I think this piece speaks to the struggle addicts have felt, the relationships addicts have lost, and maybe it speaks to the hope they’ve found in recovery or maybe it’s going to speak to that feeling hope when they do decide to seek recovery.


Allison Hohman: How important do you think it is for theatre festivals to offer opportunities for new or up and coming playwrights?

Halie Kendra Smith: It’s incredibly important! It’s very hard to get a work published, and even then, will it be produced after? Who knows? I always say it’s important to create your own work, and find your own work, and I think festivals are a perfect outlet for that to happen, especially for new and up and coming playwrights, directors, and actors.


Allison Hohman: Have you participated in theater festivals before? What was that experience like? What

has your experience with Rogue Theater Festival been?

Halie Kendra Smith: Addicted was actually featured in a playwriting festival in Philadelphia two years ago called A Flight of Feathers, who took my play and produced and directed it on their own, which was equal parts scary and exciting, but overall, they’re a great festival to work with and it was awesome seeing my work onstage. I also participated in the New York Winterfest last year, right before COVID shut everything down. My experience at that festival was less than spectacular and almost turned me off to doing festivals. However, with the shutdown, I thought this might be the only opportunity available for a long time, and I’m incredibly glad I took that leap. Working with Rogue Theater Festival has been so refreshing - They’re there with you every step of the way, the communication that happens is key to creating a welcoming environment, and also - they’re out here trying to do the impossible right now. I’m incredibly thankful for my experience at Rogue Theater Festival.


Allison Hohman: How has the rehearsal and performance process differed now in Covid times vs. regular times?

Halie Kendra Smith: Most of our rehearsals were done over zoom, which is challenging when you’re trying to talk spacing, blocking, choreo, etc. When we did have in person rehearsals, they were all masked, especially with half of our cast being from Pennsylvania and the other half being from New York, but there was also an extra special feeling of “wow we get to be here, right now, and not over zoom!” Zoom has its challenges, but it’s the safest option right now, and it makes you feel ten times more grateful when you do get to be “in the room.”


Allison Hohman: If you weren’t a playwright, what would you be doing?

Halie Kendra Smith: Well, on top of being a playwright, I’m also an actor, director, sound designer and lighting technician, so, I’d definitely still be working in the industry! However, if I wasn’t working in the industry, I’d probably study to be a sociologist or politician (but the cool kind, I promise!). Right now, as a survival job, I’m also a server and bartender.


Allison Hohman: Any advice for aspiring playwrights?

Halie Kendra Smith: Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t have it in you to write anything - especially right now. This is an incredibly draining time, and you can’t force yourself to give a piece of yourself that might not be there right now. Also, look into creating a New Play Exchange account! It’s incredibly inexpensive and a useful tool!


Allison Hohman: What’s up next for you?

Halie Kendra Smith: Next, I will actually be sound designing a virtual production of Crumb from the Table of Joy by Lynn Nottage this December, and then, in February I will be directing a virtual production for DeSales University - Hopefully, She Kills Monsters, but I’m waiting for confirmation on that. And of course, PROMOTING ROGUE THEATER FESTIVAL!


Allison Hohman: When were you first inspired to be a director?

Halie Kendra Smith: I was first inspired to direct actually about halfway through my required directing class at DeSales University. I was directing a scene from DeathTrap and I just found myself smiling, even though the scene wasn’t necessarily a smiley type of scene, and I just felt like “wow, this is it, this is what I want to do.”


Allison Hohman: What is your preparation process before going into rehearsals?

Halie Kendra Smith: I like to make a list of all the things I want to work on before arriving, which is especially important because I’ve never actually had my own stage manager to keep me in line as the director, and so, I definitely like to go in with a sense of what needs to happen that day in order to continue on a trajectory that I’m comfortable with.


Allison Hohman: How did you get involved with theater and directing?

Halie Kendra Smith: I got involved with theater when I was in high school and I was mostly on the performing side of things, and it wasn’t really until my junior year of college that I got involved with directing while taking a mandatory class.


Allison Hohman: What did you love most about directing this piece and what will others love about it?

Halie Kendra Smith: I loved that I got to direct my own work - to me that makes it all the more special and cohesive. I not only got to write the story, I get to take part in telling it.


Allison Hohman: What has been most exciting about bringing this script to life? Most challenging?

Halie Kendra Smith: The most exciting part about it was being able to bring it to life again! This is my second time directing this piece! The most challenging was finding different elements to bring to the table this time around and not lean on the elements I used the first time. I wanted to see growth in my work.


Allison Hohman: What are some things this rehearsal and performance process has taught you?

Halie Kendra Smith: 1) Zoom is challenging! 2) I would do anything to be able to perform in front of a live audience again. 3) I will never ever ever take stepping into a theater space and being able to use it for granted ever again.


Allison Hohman: How has the rehearsal and performance process differed now in Covid times vs. regular times?

Halie Kendra Smith: I think the question prior kind of hinted at this, but obviously not being able to have in person rehearsals all the time, having to wear the masks when we did have in person rehearsals, and not having a live audience are all challenges the actors and I had to face. I think not having the live audience really made the tone different and I wonder what would have happened had we been able to have a full house of people to perform too.


Allison Hohman: Any advice for aspiring directors?

Halie Kendra Smith: Try everything! At least once! Even if you don’t think it’ll work, try it. You want to see a certain scene with the actor sitting and not standing? Try it. You want to add confetti to an ending even though it might not call for it? Try it. The worst that can happen is that you change your mind about something and don’t end up doing it, but the point of a rehearsal process is to try new things and see what works and what doesn’t, so use rehearsals for that.


______________________


Conversation with Alexia Rastelli, Actor


Allison Hohman: When were you first inspired to be an actor?

Alexia Rastelli: I was 12 years old, and I was in my first musical production. I had been singing for a few years and by that point I knew that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.


Allison Hohman: What is your preparation process before going into rehearsals?

Alexia Rastelli: Usually, I’ll review dances or my lines or song, whatever we’re working on that day. I like to give myself a refresher of the material!


Allison Hohman: How did you get involved with theater and acting?

Alexia Rastelli: When I was 9 I started singing and in 5th grade I joined a song and dance group my school had where I was introduced to theatre.


Allison Hohman: What do you love about your character and what will others love about it?

Alexia Rastelli: My character is this element belonging to Arrianna that haunts her throughout the piece until we completely take over her senses. I think those watching will enjoy the way we are brought out into the story through dance.


Allison Hohman:

Alexia Rastelli: We did this a few years ago for a directing project Halie had! It was so much to bring it back to life and make it a little new versus the last time. The challenge definitely was the zoom rehearsals, but we made do!


Allison Hohman: What are some things this rehearsal and performance process has taught you?

Alexia Rastelli: Don’t take your art for granted!! This was the first live project I worked on since the pandemic. It was really special in that way.


Allison Hohman: How has the rehearsal and performance process differed now in Covid times vs.regular times?

Alexia Rastelli: In person we are able to connect better than in online rehearsals. Even when we met in person, the masks definitely had an effect and also being 6 feet apart.


Allison Hohman: If you weren’t an actor, what would you be doing?

Alexia Rastelli: I’d be a makeup artist or would pursue a singing career!


Allison Hohman: Any advice for aspiring actors?

Alexia Rastelli: Do not give up. Keep pushing, keep learning. Get any education you can!


Allison Hohman: What’s up next for you?

Alexia Rastelli: Hoping to relocate to NYC in March to continue pursuing my career!


About The Playwright

Halie Kendra Smith (She/Her) is incredibly humbled to be able to share this work with people again. As the playwright, director, and sound designer, she put an incredible amount of work into this very personal piece and she can’t wait to share it with the world! Addicted made it’s debut at DeSales University, where Halie Kendra recently graduated from, in 2018. Since then, it has been seen in one other festival, A Flight Of Feathers, at the Mayfair Blackbox theater in Philadelphia just last year. Recent credits include Dog Sees God* (Director), Clybourne Park* (Sound Designer), Prince Whiner (The Princess King) and making her New York debut in New York Winterfest’s playwriting festival with her other original work, Work(s) In Progress. Halie would like to thank her grandmother for always supporting her, even from a distance. She’d also like to thank Noah, Rylie, Althea, River, and her incredible cast of friends for keeping her sane, and one last thank you to Rogue Theater Festival for giving us a taste of live theatre in a world where that seemed impossible.


About The Talent

Alexia Rastelli (She/Her) is a Philly based actor who will soon be relocating to NYC. She is a recent graduate from DeSales University where she graduated with a BA in Musical Theatre. Some of her more recent credits include: Tricia (Dog Sees God*), Mash (Stupid F*cking Bird*), Kate Rushton (Working: A Musical), and Kate Monster (Avenue Q). Alexia is super excited to be working on this incredibly personal project and getting a taste of live theatre after many many months. She would like to thank Halie for her art and allowing her to help tell this story. She would also like to thank the rest of the cast for being the artists that they are.

*Denotes an online project*


Addicted

By: Halie Kendra Smith

Runs Thursday, December 10th

7:30pm

Buy Tickets: https://www.showtix4u.com/event-details/40495

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