We sat down with She Loves Me ensemble member Drake Leach to hear about his experience in DC theater as a newcomer and full-time student at George Mason University! Read on to meet Drake.
1. Where are you from originally and why did you choose to attend George Mason University?
I’m originally from Colleyville, Texas, right near Dallas. It was a picturesque place to grow up, but I wanted to go somewhere up north so I could invest more in theater. I came to GMU for a speech and debate tournament and out of all the places I considered going, George Mason University was always the one that felt like home.
2. What do you think of the DC theater scene so far?
What a wonderfully tight-knit and loving community. Everybody knows everybody. I can’t think of a single production where I haven’t been welcomed with open arms. The people I’ve worked with are consistently inspiring and wonderful, and the crews couldn’t be kinder.
I remember walking into She Loves Me my first day, and Maria Rizzo helped me find the rehearsal room. Halfway through chatting with her, I realized how many times I had seen her perform or written papers about the shows she had been a part of; and here she was cracking jokes with me and making conversation. I interviewed Julia Singer – part of the stage management team on this production – for a school assignment and couldn’t believe I was now working with her. It’s an incredibly humbling and wonderful group of people who want you to succeed.
3. How are you balancing being a full-time student and being an ensemble member of SHE LOVES ME?
Carefully! It’s a super insane schedule, but definitely doable and all thanks to Matthew Gardiner, Kerry Epstein, Jorge Acevedo, and my teachers at Mason. I originally scheduled classes back in December and moved them around so they would conflict as little as possible with the rehearsal process. I was in constant communication with Signature and George Mason so I could commit as fully to both as possible, zooming into class on breaks while at rehearsal and doing my best altogether to be at two places at once. I’ve just had to compartmentalize and plan out my work as far ahead as I can, making sure to communicate what’s going on with school and Signature every step of the way. It’s a very wild experience, but more rewarding than I can even explain.
4. Have you received advice from your fellow cast members about being an actor full-time?
Constantly. I’ve felt like a sponge throughout this whole experience, soaking up every bit of information I can. Watching Bobby Smith, Jake Loewenthal, Maria Rizzo, Matthew Gardiner, Kelly d’Amboise, Ali Ewoldt, Deven Kolluri, and every other person on this team work together has completely shifted how I approach the creative process.
On any given day I can see Deven ask questions about his character and learn from how he takes notes from Matthew [Gardiner]. I can watch Ali [Ewoldt] prepare backstage, learning what kind of acting work goes into preparing a song like “Vanilla Ice Cream” at a professional level. I can take note of how Daniel Powers takes and delivers notes as the dance captain. Pretty much anything Bobby Smith does is a mental note on how to be humble and talented.
This has been the most wonderful learning experience across the board.
5. What has been your favorite part of working on SHE LOVES ME?
I’ve had this conversation with Emmanuel Elliot Key (Arpad in She Loves Me) because we’re both in our early twenties. We can’t believe we get to be a part of something this high-budget, ridiculously fun, inspiring, and artistically-satisfying.
I’m used to pretending broken door handles work onstage, bringing in pieces from my own closet for my costume, and one weekend runs with audiences consisting mostly of the families of the cast members. I’ve loved every experience I’ve had onstage, but being a part of this show constantly pushes me to focus and perform to the best of my abilities so I can reach the bar set by those around me.
Also, did I cry onstage at the bows of the invited dress rehearsal? Yes… enough so that I had trouble singing the song for bows. My favorite part has been realizing what art can be and how much I still have to learn. And having my mentors, teachers, and closest friends see it has been the coolest full-circle feeling ever.