Elias Newman, who uses the pronoun they, got involved in theater at the age of 14.
“My sister saw a flyer for a community theater drama club for people in middle/high school. I went because I thought, ‘Hey, why not? If I don’t like it, I won’t go back.’
“That one meeting kickstarted everything for me. It was where I found out about the community theater in my area (Morristown, Tennessee). There were a surprisingly large variety of companies in my area. None of the high schools in my hometown had theater programs so this was the only outlet I had available to me,” Elias says.
They are studying at Emory & Henry College, Emory, Virginia, and are preparing for the school’s spring season auditions and working towards a certification for stage combat. Additionally, Elias has earned a spot at the United Professional Theatre Auditions in February.
“What I find most interesting in performing is the strong connection between myself and the characters. For me, once I truly understand what the character is about – at least by my interpretation – I tend to let go and see what the character does, especially during rehearsals. The cool thing about performing is when the character surprises you. Most of my performances have been in my hometown in various found spaces. I’ve performed in elementary school gyms, old banks, barns and college stages, and I was once filmed at Virginia Tech for a dialect study.
“Acting has always been my first love and that is something I really doubt will change. That being said, I found that I enjoy working on different types of backstage jobs. I have been a projections operator and costume designer at my school, and I spent the summer at Dollywood as a drone and lighting technician. These opportunities showed me that no matter what the world has in store for me I will most likely be in the theater in some capacity,” Elias says.
They find inspiration in people watching. Growing up, they would stand in front of the TV and re-enact the facial expressions of the on-screen actors. Elias says “Even now, I catch myself doing it. I think everyone has something to say with their art, and I have always been hungry to hear it.
“To me, theater is telling the character’s truth and forming a bond with the audience. At the end of the day, my job is to be an outlet for the character. This character could be a chance for an audience member’s truth to be acknowledged or a sense of relief and escapism. I want whoever comes to the theater to leave with what they were wanting or sometimes needing. Having a connection is what theater truly is about.
“I would say I normally do comedies; however, dramas have a special place in my heart. I love digging deep and having emotional connections. Comedies and dramas would be tied for first place honestly.
“Some of my favorite roles have been Henrietta in ‘Silent Sky’ by Lauren Gunderson, Lilith in ‘She Kills Monsters’ by Qui Nguyen, and Joan in ‘Fun Home’’ the book by Lisa Kron with music by Jeanie Tesori adapted by the graphic novel ‘Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic’ by Alison Bechdel” Elias says.
They graduate in the spring and plan to work toward their goal of becoming a full-time actor or theater maker. Elias is from Morristown, Tennessee, and is a senior at Emory & Henry. Their parents are Kenneth and Christian Newman.
“I am non-binary and want to bring representation to the non-binary/trans community and make people smile,” Elias says.