Monday, March 31, 2014

Capitol Hill ensemble’s latest acting challenge: Stand on stage by yourself while channeling a 16-year-old

Samie Spring Detzer (photo courtesy of Washington Ensemble Theatre)
The next play up at Capitol Hill’s Washington Ensemble Theatre is The Edge of Our Bodies by Adam Rapp. It will perform from March 28 to April 14, a relatively short run, but as usual with WET, there are Monday evening performances you can attend.
This play is a one-character show and focuses on a 16-year-old girl, Bernadette, as she boards a train to New York City to see her boyfriend. Samie Spring Detzer is the performer and CHS spoke to her about her journey to becoming Bernadette.
“The narration of this incredibly smart and honest sixteen year old is very intriguing to me,” Detzer said. “We don’t often give young women the chance to tell their story with such clarity. There’s also something about the idea of one performer in a space telling a story that is very exciting to me.”
Detzer said that she was sent the Rapp script by a director friend as an idea for her to perform, and she brought it for consideration to WET’s retreat in December of 2012. Their egalitarian-styled ensemble votes on their seasons. “I read the script out loud to everyone,” she said. “It’s about 16 year old Bernadette who goes to New York to tell her boyfriend that she is pregnant. It’s about mixing the power of wanting to be seen with the desire to disappear.”

Detzer said there are differences in performing a multi-person show versus holding down a stage on her own. “The main difference is your relationship to the audience and what you need from them,” she said. “Your intentions are now wrapped up in the audience. The audience becomes your scene partner. Because I’m speaking to the audience the same way I speak to a scene partner, I want to get sympathy from the audience or the things I desire, or state the cases I want to make.”
Detzer was surprised that she isn’t feeling as nervous about that equation as she expected. “I have the great benefit of working with a director (Devin Bannon) who I respect a lot and who is also a member of the ensemble and we have a great relationship already.”
“I also feel a lot of confidence in our design team and a lot of excitement about the show,” she said. “Any nerves I get, I try to have that confidence in what everyone else is doing and continue that way.”
Detzer is tiny in stature and has been a bit type-cast in playing young girl roles, though she is almost 26. So how does she re-inhabit the mind of a 16 year old? “I allow myself to be imaginative and emotional constantly. I probably do it in a variety of ways,” she explained. “I’m a nanny for a 15 year old and that’s been helpful. It’s a great reminder of what it’s like to be in high school. The silencing you feel from people, the inability to explain what’s happening inside your head and heart. One thing I’ve noticed in this play, most women who hear me read it, they immediately understand the emotional pain that being a teenager can have, especially a teenage girl.”
WET is located at 608 19th Ave E. For tickets and more information, visit

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