"BUS STOP"Cast Interview – Meet Angela Van Epps (Elma)
It was nice to have a few minutes with Angela Van Epps, a vibrant, talented actress who is cast in the role of "Elma" the waitress in WTC's production of William Inge's Bus Stop. I know, it is cliché to say someone "lights up a room" when they enter; however, in the case of Angela, that is exactly my first impression of her. She is a cheerful, smiling, and of course, experienced actress.
Dave: Welcome to the Wilsonville Theater Company. We are pleased to have you among the gifted members of this cast. Just coming off of Director Matt Russell's delightful production of White Christmas at the HART Theater in Hillsboro, you find yourself back on stage. This time at our Frog Pond Grange Hall.Angela: Thank you. I'm happy to be part of this play.
Dave: Let's start with some background information. Where were you born and raised?
Angela: I was actually born in Hudson, Wisconsin, but never lived there. I was raised in a small railroad town, Litchfield, Minnesota. I'm a Minnesota girl, so I know all about being snowed in and being cold.Dave: What high school did you attend?
Angela: Litchfield High School.Dave: Were you involved in theater in high school?
Angela: Actually, in middle school.Dave: What was your first role in a school play?
Angela: The first role was "Polynesia the Parrot" in Doctor Doolittle. It was my first play, so I was very excited.Dave: How old were you?
Angela: I was in the seventh grade.Dave: What about theater in high school?
Angela: I did all the musicals and one-act plays in high school.Dave: What were some of the memorable roles in those plays?
Angela: I got to do "Mrs. Molloy" in Hello Dolly! She was the hat-shop owner, so it was kind of a big deal. My first high school musical was Once Upon a Mattress, then Lady in Waiting. We did a really sweet act called Yellow Boat. It was about a boy who contracted AIDS, before they monitored donor blood. It was a very moving piece. It really opened the discussion of AIDS.
Dave: Then on to college. Bethel University, same as your husband, Chase, right?Angela: Yes. I graduated in 2011. I received my BA degree in acting and directing.
Dave: Were you more involved in directing or acting in college?Angela: Acting. But I did direct a bit. For some reason they call the degree "Acting and Directing."
Dave: What was your first play at Bethel University?Angela: Brigadoon. The musical. I was a chorus girl. My first role there. You have to start small. (Laughing). My favorite role in college was when I was cast as "Viola" in Twelfth Night, and "Elvira" in Blythe Spirit. That was a lot of fun.
Dave: After college. Did you perform in community theater? That sort of thing?Angela: Not a lot. I lived in Minneapolis and did some acting at a local theater company called "Intergenerational Theater Productions." It was a program that included kids as well as senior citizens. Located in Eagan, Minnesota. I played the "Queen of Hearts" in Alice in Wonderland.
Dave: Have you had any vocal or dance training?Angela: Not very much. I took some dance in my undergrad. It was part of the courses.
Dave: So you pretty much stuck to acting, is that right?Angela: Yes. Except when I was in Australia. I did some physical theater work. I did two "study abroad" trips in Australia. After the first one, I fell in love with the country, so I went a second time.
Dave: With whom were you affiliated in Australia?Angela: Wesley Institute. It's a little art school tucked away in one of the neighborhoods in Sydney.
Dave: What theater did you do at Wesley?
Angela: We did physical theater. Like created this massive puppet dragon. I was the 'heart' of the dragon. We also did a Hans Christian Anderson play called the Red Shoe. That included a lot of mask work. This was during the time I call the "Bethel Years.' Then after graduation I lived in Minneapolis for a year. Chase and I were married, then we moved to Blue Lake, California.
Dave: What brought you to Blue Lake?Angela: I was reading about interesting places and was intrigued. It seemed to have all of the things I was interested in. I sent in my audition tape to enroll in Dell' Arte International, the North American Center for Actor-Creator Training. I was accepted for the one-year professional training program.
Dave: Did you work outside the program while in Blue Lake?Angela: No. I was too involved in the training program. We started at 8:30 in the morning and studied until 5:30 in the evening. No time for anything else. Lots of rehearsing, because every Friday you had to do a performance class. They would give you something on Monday or Tuesday and had just a few days to put it all together. In addition to the training program, you were required to perform some volunteer work. I volunteered at the local library on Sundays.
Dave: Did you come to Portland right after Blue Lake?Angela: Yes. Almost two years ago.
Dave: Why Portland?Angela: We wanted someplace to live away from cold Minnesota. We had brought all of our worldly possessions to Blue Lake, so we were ready to settle somewhere. Chase had put in job applications in several cities and Trackers in Portland offered him a job. So, we moved up here.
Dave: Trackers? Tell me about that.Angela: It’s a program for summer day camp for kids. They go hiking, archery, those sorts of summer camp things. He did that for the one summer.
Dave: What does he do now?Angela: He is the Youth Pastor at East Woods Presbyterian Church, in Vancouver.
Dave: And, what about you? What do you do here?Angela: I work in the library at Valley Catholic High School in Beaverton.
Dave: What theater involvement have you had since you moved to Portland?Angela: After the intensive work at Dell' Arte, I had to have some time off, so to speak. Time for myself. I didn't perform at all until this past Fall. I was in Arsenic and Old Lace with the North End Players Theater Company. I played the role of "Elaine." After that, White Christmas, Directed by Matt Russell. I played "Rita." That was the first musical I had done since Brigadoon.
Dave: I assume your work for Matt in White Christmas brought you here.Angela: Yes. I auditioned for "Elma" and got the part.
Dave: That brings us up to date. What are your thoughts, opinions, regarding the play, Bus Stop?Angela: I first read it before the cast did a live reading. I thought, okay, it's alright. But when it was read by the cast, I really enjoyed it. It's so layered, with things that are very funny, then times when it is sad. It brings out the truth in people. It's a fascinating story.
Dave: What is it about the role that you like?Angela: I relate to "Elma" so well. Growing up in a small rural town, with its snowy Winters. I love the challenge of being on stage during the whole play, mostly observing and acting. I also love how "Elma" doesn't judge anyone. She treats everyone the same way. She's joyful and open.
Dave: One last question. Why should people come to Wilsonville to see this play?Angela: It's good acting. Very good acting. Everyone is cast perfectly and we work so well together as a cast.
Dave: What will the audience go away with after the performance?Angela: They will wonder, 'What's next?' Where will these people go?
Dave: Thank you very much. I appreciate you taking time away from the rehearsal so we can meet Angela Van Epps and "Elma."
*Mark Putnam as "Lyman"
Angela Van Epps as "Elma"
Wilsonville Theater Company.