by Darren CallahanClay Sanderson makes his Polarity debut with Peer Gynt. Recent credits include Jeff in Brigadoon with Light Opera Works, Officer Lockstock in Urinetown at Circle Theatre, and Frederick in Noises Off at Theatre at the Center. He has also appeared in productions with Oak Park Festival Theatre, City Lit, Bailiwick Repertory, Festival 56, and Wagon Wheel. He can next be seen in The Light in the Piazza at Theo Ubique. He holds an MFA in Acting from The Theatre School at DePaul University.
But – this is the real question – has he ever played a frickin’ troll?
“Well, I’m always looking for my next show, and I saw the audition notice on the League of Chicago Theatres website. I had heard of the play and knew it was a classic, and Polarity is a good company so I signed up for a slot. I got called back for The Troll King and managed to not screw it up, and here I am!” he declares.
I had to ask if, when he was a small child, did he ever dream of playing a troll?
“Can’t say I did,” he replies. “However, I did play ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’ at a piano recital once.”
Ah, dreams, so easily fretted away. So how did he build a character based on mythology – did he focus on the troll or the human characteristics?
“I was originally under the impression that the trolls were going to be green creature-type things, but at the first read-through (director) Jeremy Wechsler told us we were to be ‘humanoid’ — not human, but like, perhaps mutant humans. An inbred mining community.”I asked if he had ever seen C.H.U.D. He had not.
“At first I wasn’t sure what to do, because for months I had been thinking I was going to be playing more of a monster — a kingly monster — and was going to use the same voice I had come up with for the callback. So I had to revamp my entire approach. But with the help of Jeremy’s direction and an idea brought up by Meg Elliott, who plays my daughter, to use Southern accents (since we’re making the setting America by way of Norway), I was able to come up with what I hope is a pretty interesting character.”So, now I’m super excited to see this troll costume – I picture fangs, maybe a crazy nose, something to make Rick Baker proud – you know, the works.
“Our special effects are our acting!”
Well, I’m sure it’ll still rock it. I don’t think there’s been a troll on stage in Chicago in at least, what, three seasons? I’m not counting critics. Wait, did I say that? So, Clay, any particular thoughts about the effect this wacky Ibsen will have on an audience?
“I think that anyone who is familiar with Peer Gynt will agree that it is a challenging play. It is epic in its scope and theatricality, and is like a big Thanksgiving feast with many different courses. Some sections of the feast might be hard to swallow, but I think we can guarantee that you will leave the theater feeling full and satisfied.”
Peer Gynt ran at the DCA Theater’s Storefront Theater, 66 E. Randolph St., in the heart of Chicago’s downtown theater district, from November 15 through December 18, 2011.