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Talking with the Actor: Denise Whelan

July 17, 2008

Denise Whelan: Mainstage or Studio 3, she's everywhere.

Denise Whelan has tackled roles on the Walnut Mainstage and in the Independence Studio on 3. We spoke with Denise about working all over the Walnut:

WST: Are there particular challenges to being a part of the ensemble vs. a principal character?

You have to approach the ensemble as being just as important and fleshed out as any principal role. If you don't, you stick out as not being a part of what is going on onstage. Approaching ensemble work that way has actually gotten me some extra work! Directors have taken notice of my commitment to the work.

WST: What is so special about being a part of this Les Mis Ensemble?

I am actually a newbie to the show. I've never seen it! I just never got around to going. All theatres have the same day off. If I'm working, I can't go. If I'm not working, I can't afford to go! However, I really love pieces that are driven by the ensemble; there are really no small parts. Any show is only as good as each and every person on the stage. Mark has put together some incredible talent and I am really looking forward to seeing where we all fit into his vision.

WST: Is there anyone in the cast that you are particularly excited to work with?

Hugh Panaro! I just finished working on a Cabaret and my musical director just raved about him. I went home and Googled him and now I am super excited! He has had a wonderful career and I can't wait to see what things he will bring to the show.

WST: You are one of the few performers to have performed on both our mainstage and in our Independence Studio on 3 stage. Are there differences? Do you prefer one to the other?

The artistic teams feel no different. The Walnut makes you feel like you are always a superstar. In the Studio, you have to be on top of things all the time. You have to make the audience feel comfortable because they are so close to you. You can't zone out because someone will notice! In the Studio, I can feel the audience going through everything with me. On the mainstage, I feel the actors, not the audience. I had to rely on the energy onstage. The applause in the studio is just as genuine and just as powerful as on the mainstage. I would gladly work in either space!

WST: What do you enjoy most about working at the Walnut?

I always feel like they treat me like I'm family. Everytime I come in to audition, Bernard makes me feel like I am the most talented wonderful person in the world. I always feel valued and like he was grateful to have me wanting to work for him. My first show was Joseph"