Student turns in a whale of a performance

Rhea Becker
March 13, 2014

It’s not every day that an undergraduate takes on a leading role in a professional theatrical production alongside her regular workload at college.

But Josephine Elwood ’15, a BFA student in Acting, has managed this venture with aplomb.

Playing Ellie in The Whale, at the award-winning SpeakEasy Stage Company of Boston, Elwood delivers a powerful performance as the resentful daughter of a 600-pound man.

The Boston Globe (March 11) wrote of her performance: “Ellie is well played by Josephine Elwood, an Emerson College student, who channels a bit of Aubrey Plaza’s April from Parks and Recreation, then burrows beyond that toward a rage that is genuine and possibly bottomless. Ellie is armed with a teenager’s knack for languidly delivering a well-aimed barb as though it is a throwaway line.”

The Whale

Josephine Elwood '15 stars in The Whale at Boston's Speakeasy Stage Company with actor John Kuntz '90, who plays the title role.

Performing Arts Associate Professor Craig Mathers, who has taught Elwood in several courses, said she “shows a real sensitivity and maturity as an actor and this was evident even in her freshman voice work.”

Although she admits to some “nerves” in her first big role, Elwood “mostly feels really fortunate to be working with the people I do. I continue to learn from them all the time.” One of those fellow actors is Emersonian and longtime Boston actor John Kuntz ’90 in the title role.

Elwood was cast as the result of her participation last year in StageSource Auditions, an annual three-day group audition that 65-plus New England theater companies attend. “I think [SpeakEasy] had my information in their files, because I got an email a couple of months later asking me to audition,” she said.

Elwood describes her character as “a very cruel and manipulative young teenager. She is struggling with a sense of abandonment by her father and a rocky relationship with her mother. She is a young person who is struggling to find a connection.”

A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Elwood said her parents made sure she was exposed to “all kinds of arts, including theater. I loved seeing theater but never thought of it as something I could actually do.” In high school, she was encouraged by friends to try out for a show, and she has never looked back.

Relatives are traveling long distances to see Elwood perform, and Emerson friends and faculty are snapping up tickets, too. “I feel very supported,” said Elwood. The show will be presented at SpeakEasy Stage Company through April 5.

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