Checking In With… Come From Away Star Sharon Wheatley

As the temporary shutdown of Broadway and theatres around the world continues, Playbill is reaching out to artists to see how they are physically and creatively responding to a changed world.

The series continues with Sharon Wheatley, who created the role of Diane in the Tony-nominated musical Come From Away, currently on hiatus due to the ongoing pandemic. The actor has also been seen on Broadway in Avenue Q, The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, and Cats. Wheatley was part of the Actors Fund benefit performance of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and her screen credits include Gods Behaving Badly and My Life Is a Lifetime Movie.

Checking In With… 2020 Slave Play Tony Nominee Chalia La Tour

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Come From Away at La Jolla Playhouse Kevin Berne

What is your typical day like now?
My days are remarkably full helping my 7th grader weather Zoom school. We’re really nailing the home lunch and current affairs side of things. A fair amount of time is spent reading and returning texts with my Come From Away cast or on a Zoom call with them. We continue to share most things we do with each other, and there always seems to be a birthday to celebrate or a joke to make. We’re hilarious (we think we are hilarious). Astrid [Van Wierin] wins puniest. Joel [Hatch] wins driest. Jenn [Colella] and Tony [LePage] win quickest. Caesar [Samayoa] and I are the best laughers. De’Lon [Grant] wins best GIFS. Pearl [Sun] remembers everyone’s birthdays. Petrina [Bromley] wins best animal videos. Geno [Carr] wins best poop jokes. Josh [Breckenridge] wins best selfies. I could go on and on, but you get the point.

What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
Podcast: Dolly Parton’s America is an oldie but goodie. I always listen to The Daily from the New York Times. Book: I just finished Untamed by Glennon Doyle, and I loved it. If you are looking for a classical read, try The Grapes of Wrath or Sister Carrie. Both are depressing and awesome. TV show: Doc Martin is a fun world to inhabit. Film: We’re working our way through the cannon of RomCom’s with our 13-year-old, so hit me up with any suggestions.

During this time of reflection and re-education regarding BIPOC artists and artistry, particularly in the theatre, what do you want people (those in power, fellow actors, audiences) to be aware of?
We are talking about actual people, not a political party. It’s about human kindness.

What do you want them to consider further?
I can only speak for myself, but I obviously come from a place of white privilege, so I basically am an infant in my understanding. I guess I think of it as having to recognize it first, and then relearn it. To that end I suppose I would ask people to understand there is a recognizing and a relearning curve. And, what I’ve found the more I look, the more I see white. For example, last night I was playing Mario Kart with my child and they said, “Mom, look. There is not one Black character.” Then we talked about that and did a dive on the Internet. One of the things people say online is there are no black characters because the company is Japanese. But the characters are Italian, so….that’s a ridiculous excuse. There is no excuse for it. It’s terribly disappointing and needs to be changed.

Sharon Wheatley and David Benoit in the Las Vegas production of <i data-recalc-dims=Avenue Q.”>
Sharon Wheatley and David Benoit in the Las Vegas production of Avenue Q. Photo by Carol Rosegg

What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation and/or the current unrest?
I have a friend who is in AA, and he has a great saying he said to me once when I was upset: “Move a muscle, change a thought.” When you feel the upset/anger/spiraling start, don’t sit there. Get up and do something else. Go for a walk, take a bath, make something hard from scratch. Today I am going to make bagels. Just because it gives me something to do, I’ve never done it, and it will keep me engaged in something.

How, if at all, are you keeping your creative juices flowing? Has that been helpful to you?
I take tap class on Zoom with Petrina and Astrid (we are earnest but bad). I take a writing class. I have a writing project I am working on.

Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
What is this word you say, theatrical? No. Nothing. Zippo. Sometimes I dance in front of the TV and make my family clap for me. Does that count? (They say no.)

What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
The Actors Fund and or BC/EFA. They get the money out to where it needs to go.

Checking In With… Hadestown Tony Nominee Patrick Page