Artist of the Week: Elena White
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Senior theatre arts major Elena White, recently seen on the Westmont stage as the titular character in The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, has always known that she wanted to create theatre. White was born in Ohio, but grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, and says that her desire to act probably came from watching movies as a kid, and wanting to act in them.
White began her theatrical career in small church plays. Her first role was an angel in a nativity play when she was six years old, and she was involved in small productions growing up, but her first major role was in Westmont’s The Insect Comedy her freshman year, where she played a butterfly, a messenger ant, and a moth.
“My favorite role I’ve played was Ui, because it was so challenging. Ui’s a crazy person!” White says, “It was also super physical, and I really liked that.” White enjoys roles that challenge her to go out of her comfort zone, because she’s always striving to learn and grow as an actor.
White isn’t just an actor; she’s also a director, and is currently beginning to plan for her senior project, which will premiere in April of 2018. White will be directing The Chairs by Eugène Ionesco. “It’s going to be very funny, I hope. It’s about an old, old couple, and you’re unsure if it’s post-apocalyptic, or if they’re just insane,” White says, her eyes lighting up as she discusses the project, “It’s gonna be really cool.”
White selected The Chairs after reading through many other plays in search of something with heightened language. “I wanted something I could make something out of,” she says, “I prefer to have a blank canvas with just the text and then be able to imagine my own things.”
As a director, White finds highly visual and image-based theatre inspiring, and also loves tragicomedy. “I always try to find the comedy in tragedy, and the tragedy in comedy,” she says, “What I want to see when I go to the theatre is to laugh really hard and then be poked in the heart, so that’s the kind of art I want to make.”
As an actor, White looks up to Tilda Swinton, and her favorite film of Swinton’s is Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. “I tried to make a t-shirt of her in that movie one time, but the company didn’t let me because the image was copyrighted,” she laughs.
What White loves most about theatre is the artistic element. “This is just the way I want to make art,” she says, “I think it’s a really powerful way to make art. I think there’s something totally different in the theatre, to see live people in front of you, and that’s also the reason that theatre can be so controversial. It’s so different to see something written down as opposed to seeing something in someone’s body and in someone’s voice.”
White is currently enrolled in the Westmont Downtown program, and works as an intern at the Santa Barbara Independent doing proofreading and arts writing. After she graduates, she plans to move back to Scotland and continue to make theatre.