For Sophie Schulman, 28, acting is often just child’s play. The California native, who moved to Washington to attend American University, is now a regular in the area’s theater scene. We caught up with her to find out how, sometimes, all acting takes is bringing out your inner kid.
What’s the show you’re in right now?
It’s the premier of the musical “Blueberries for Sal,” which is a popular children’s book by [Robert McCloskey,] the same man who wrote “Make Way for Ducklings.” It’s at Adventure Theater in Glen Echo Park.
Are you playing a child in this play?
Yes. I am the Sal with the blueberries and she’s about 5. She and her mother are going blueberry picking. They run into some bears. It’s all very adventurous. Basically she learns to be more aware of her surroundings and to make more prudent choices. She’s kind of a jump-straight-into-things kind of a kid and she learns that she can still explore while being more cautious.
Is it a challenge to play children? Do you enjoy it?
I love doing it. I feel like everyone still has their child-like spirit inside them, so you have to reach in and find it. As actors, our job is to play, and in some ways that’s also the job of a child. It’s kind of like experiencing the world more electrically, sensory-wise. Everything is just amplified and everything is new and exciting. Sometimes that means it’s scary, sometimes it means you want to run and see everything you can. But everything just looms really large.
Were you interested in acting as a child?
I’ve done shows for forever. My mom really loved musicals, so I got raised on that. I still remember seeing my dance teacher doing “A Chorus Line” and I remember being really shocked because she was the girl who gets her boobs done and there’s a whole song about it. I was like, whoa, crazy! And it was the first time I’d seen anyone I knew in a professional production, so it made me think this is a career path that someone could actually have.
Are most people you meet surprised to find out how rich the area’s theater scene is?
I have friends who’ve lived here forever and I’ll mention theaters to them and they’ll be like, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve passed that giant building.’ Everyone’s seen these buildings and you know it must be a big deal because they’re incredible. Partially it’s because young people just don’t go to the theater very often. But I also think this town is associated with so many other things so strongly that people forget there’s a life outside of politics and that there are other career paths one could take in this city. But even I had no idea before I moved here that all of this was going on.
When you’re in a show, what’s the day-to-day like?
We get one day off a week, and we don’t call it a day off. People call it a day away because usually people are doing other work of some variety. So it’s a lot, but we’re having a really good time with this one. So it definitely hasn’t felt oppressive or anything.
Why do you enjoy acting? What keeps it fun for you?
I think it’s the community and being inspired by a new group of co-workers every time I start a new show. It’s getting to tell stories that I think really should be told. We’re having some issues in this world recently with listening, and they always tell you that acting is reacting. So to just get to listen to other people on stage and have the audience listen to you, and then hopefully have some kind of dialogue afterward, I think it’s really important.
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