The Artist Formerly Known As: Emily Simons

How did you first become interested in theater?

I was a really wild child and my mother encouraged me to use the theater as an outlet for my insanity. It was also a family thing. Several relatives were involved in theater. I had my first big shows when I was eight or nine years old and went on to act in musicals and plays in high school, doing competition theater as well.

What was the first show that you performed in at Williams?

As a freshman last year, I acted in “Occupational Hazard,” directed by the theater department chair, David Eppel. It was a tough script to work with, but I appreciated the fact that Williams allows people who would like to be involved in the theater an opportunity to do so. You only get better by being given opportunities to hone your craft. I was introduced to [“Romeo and Juliet” director] Jess McLeod [’02] last year by acting in her production of “The Marriage of Bette and Boo.” It was an intense rehearsal process. I was playing this cello-playing, clinically depressed nun. We only had like 21 days to put the show up but it was incredibly rewarding.

Are there things about Williams’ theater department that you don’t like?

I think it’s neat that Williams’ small size allows people opportunities to explore their interests in theater. Most people don’t usually come here to do theater though. They usually do something else on the side. One of the things that I really love about Jess McLeod is her commitment, drive and passion about the theater. I can’t really imagine theater at Williams without her.

So how did you feel about your most recent part, Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet”? Have you played that role before?

I had never played Juliet before, aside from acting in a scene at the age of 13 in summer camp. I’m actually Juliet’s biggest fan and admire the strength that she summons. Romeo kind of loses it towards the end of the play. Juliet really keeps it together until the last minute. I mean, drinking the sleeping potion at the end. Who does that? She has this idea about getting things done, being action-oriented that I can really appreciate.

So what are you thinking about doing after you leave Williams? Not theater?

Not at all. I’m just not into the scene of moving to New York and doing auditions and all that. That just doesn’t fit me. This past fall, after working on five shows last year, I decided that I had overdosed on theater and needed a break. I took the semester off and I found that I really missed it. I work in the box office and the scene shop at the theater. The theater is like a family on campus that I can’t find anywhere else. So when I got the chance to play Juliet this semester, I just couldn’t resist taking the part. But yes, studio art is my main focus. I’m an art major.

Really! What kind of mediums do you work in?

I’ve been doing works on paper and fabric and I’m taking this book-making tutorial that I’m really into.

So do you plan on pursuing your artwork after you leave Williams?

Hopefully. I’m not sure exactly how yet, but yes. I just really appreciate theater because it’s the ultimate art form. It’s experiential, interactive, literary, musical, emotional. I hope to find some ways to incorporate theater into my art and my life.

So what are your plans for the summer and next year?

I’m planning to study abroad for the entire year next year, doing the International Honors Program going to India, the Philippines, New Zealand, Mexico. This summer, I’m back at summer camp in Maine as a drama counselor. The thing that I have to say that I really appreciate about theater and camp is the insular community, the forced present-tenseness that those worlds encourage. There’s an authentic intensity there.

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