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Friday, 6 July 2018

My chat with Amanda Hoven Havelin...Actor, Playwright, and so much more!

One of my latest interviews is with Amanda Hoven Havelin of Dalton, Georgia. She's an actress, director, and her most recent talent to have graced the stage at Dalton Little Theatre earlier this year was her play "The End of the World As I Know It." We talked about the joys and challenges of directing. Find out what her favorite play that she has acted in so far, and what or who inspired her to write her play.

Soon, you'll be able to see her perform again on stage in "Steel Magnolias" playing M'Lynn written by Robert Harling and directed by Ron Houston. It'll be performed at Northwest Whitfield High School on August 17 and 18 at 7PM and as well as a Sunday matinee on August 19 at 2PM. All proceeds will go to the Carol Braden Houston Memorial Scholarship Fund. 

Introducing Amanda...

What do you love about your life right now?

I love that I’m learning that I do not have to accept things the way they are. I’m learning that it’s ok to do what is right for me.

You’ve been acting a few years now in Dalton at Artistic Civic Theatre and Dalton Little Theatre as well as in Chattanooga. Have you acted anywhere else before?

No, I have primarily acted at Dalton Little Theatre. I was in my first musical a couple of seasons ago at Artistic Civic Theatre. And I portrayed Big Mama in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” last season at Ensemble Theatre of Chattanooga.  When the timing and roles are right, I plan to audition for other theatre companies in our region. 

Was there anybody or a play or show that inspired you to act?

I had been around the theatre for a few years providing makeup services. I found it all very exciting. Each show I worked on or attended sparked more interest in being on stage, so I decided to audition. Jeff Adair cast me in my first show, “The Homecoming: A Christmas Story,” as one of the Papa’s Recipe-peddling Baldwin sisters. 

Do you think about the audience when you’re on stage?

Not usually. Only if something happens out of the ordinary, such as a prop failing.

Is it possible that you have a favorite play that you’ve acted in?

Yes, that would be “August: Osage County.”  It is an emotionally exhausting play.  I was cast as Barbara Fordham, which is the most challenging role I’ve undertaken. I would do it again and again.  

As well as acting and directing, you’ve written your first play, “The End of the World As I Know It.” What inspired you to write it?

I had started a few plays but had never finished one. So at the end of the  2016- 2017 season, I set a goal to write a play to submit for consideration in DLT’s night of one-acts that they produce each year. You could say that my inspiration was a fast-approaching deadline.

What are some of the challenges with directing?

Casting is the biggest challenge. Either you don’t get enough actors auditioning or you get a lot of actors auditioning and have to make the hard choices and cut people. Either way can be very difficult. 

And what are the joys of directing?

There are so many! Working with such a talented cast and seeing the characters develop is my favorite.  We should all be recording rehearsals so we can show our actors the growth and character development that we witness. It’s exhilarating!

How hard was it to also star in your play as well?

I didn’t originally intend to act in it. The actress in the role of Carol had been balancing the play and a difficult personal matter. At the start of tech week, it was taking too great a toll on her, so I stepped into the role. The fortunate thing is that I wrote the lines and created the character, so it was easier than I expected it to be. 

Do you enjoy acting or directing more?

Acting. It’s a thrilling experience. You get to be someone else for a while. You get to observe situations from a new perspective; you learn how your own life experiences relate to the roles you play - sometimes in completely shocking ways. You can be in the middle of a scene and suddenly you’re angry or you’re crying or you’re elated.  And it just happens organically - your character’s experiences tap subconsciously into your real life experiences. You make connections you were not aware existed until the moment the emotion surfaces. It’s very cathartic. 

In the past, you’ve done makeup for plays. Where did you learn the skills and do you still do makeup on occasion?

I’m mostly self-taught. When I was doing makeup full-time, I took a few classes and watched lots of tutorials. The last major project I undertook was as the Lead Stylist for Makeup and Hair for “Shrek the Musical” with Closed Door Entertainment. The show was performed at The Tivoli in Chattanooga. It was an amazing experience. Now I typically only help out with makeup or wigs for a show I’m in if the director or actors need assistance. 

Is there anyone you look up to in the entertainment industry?

Of course, yes, there are so many. Everyone, myself included, loves Meryl Streep, but my favorite actress is Frances McDormand. From the moment I saw her in “Fargo,” I knew she was an actress for the ages. And now, 30 years later, she’s still challenging Hollywood stereotypes with “3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” When she accepted the Academy Award for best actress in “Fargo,” she said she is a proponent of “allowing directors to make autonomous casting decisions based on qualifications and not just market value.” She is determined to not be changed by the industry, but rather the industry accepts there is a wide variety of actresses and compelling roles out there for them.

Meryl Streep said, “I think the best role models for women and girls are people who are fruitfully and confidently themselves, who bring light into the world.” Do you agree and what would you add to that?

I absolutely agree. This perfectly illustrates what was discussed in the prior question and answer.  We have an obligation to ourselves, to our loved ones, and to society as a whole, to be our authentic selves. We cannot sit idly by and allow our friends and our children to be taught that to be “enough” they must fit into some predetermined mold.  When they see us living and loving ourselves as we are, then they have the courage to do the same.   

Do you believe that films and plays can impact the world to do better and make a positive impact? If so, what film did that for you?

Yes, I believe that all forms of art can have a positive impact.  “Schindler’s List” is a beautiful example of positively impacting the world.  It illustrates that one person can make a lasting difference.

Tell me three fun facts about you.

Umm. Hmm. Fun facts?  Okay.
1.      I love sheep. I fell absolutely in love with them when I spent some time in Wales in 1988. They were everywhere. 
2.      I love to sing karaoke. I’m not the best singer, but that doesn’t stop me.
3.      I used to body paint models for events. 

I share motivational quotes with my readers.  Do you have one you can share?

Anytime I’m asked this, the first thing that comes to mind is a Tyler Perry/Madea quote. I usually paraphrase it to “It ain’t about what they call you, it’s what you answer to that matters.”  But the full quote is “Honey, folks are gonna talk about you ’til the day you die, and ain’t nothing you can do. Let folks talk! It ain’t about what they call you … it’s what you answer to.”  Truly words to live by. 

Where do you see yourself in a year?

Acting and writing...I don’t yet know where or what. But that’s the plan.  

What makes a woman beautiful?

Her heart and her wit

If there is one thing in the world you could change, what would that be?

I would remove greed from the world. That would change a lot of things. 

In one word, describe yourself.

HAH! Reminds me of Celia in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.” Rosalind tells her to answer her in one word. Celia responds “You must borrow me Gargantua’s mouth first. ‘Tis a word too great for any mouth of this age’s size.” A person can’t be accurately described in a single word.

 A wonderful interview with a very talented and beautiful lady! Soon, you'll be able to see her perform on stage in "Steel Magnolias" as M'Lynn with five other women from the surrounding area including yours truly as Clairee.  The full cast is  Sierra Holcomb as Shelby, Jennifer Bryant as Truvy, Sabrina Akers as Annelle, Vicky Quinn as Ouiser,  Amanda as M'Lynn, and myself as Clairee. The play is directed by Ron Houston and Jim Lansing. It'll be performed at Northwest Whitfield High School in on August 17 and 18 at 7PM and as well as a Sunday matinee on August 19 at 2PM. All proceeds will go to the Carol Braden Houston Memorial Scholarship Fund. 
If you would like to attend the performance, please click here for more information on ticket prices and where to buy them. 
Thank you!

Big Mama in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”

Emma Staples (better known as Mamie Baldwin on the tv series “The Waltons”) in “The Homecoming: A Christmas Story”

About Maria Rochelle

Maria is a writer of multiple genres, and author of the popular children's picture story book series Jasmine Dreams.
Find out more about Maria here →


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