When We Were Young and Unafraid is an incredible production, and it is made infinitely more intimate thanks to the skilled touch of the young actor who plays Penny! Roxy Wolff is a senior at San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts. She has been a part of theatre since she was 12, doing both musicals and plays. Her favorite roles have been Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island and Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family and is excited to begin A Midsummer Nights Dream as Hermia.
Roxy sat down to share her experiences and thoughts with us about this show – and we loved seeing it through her eyes! Take a peek:
Tell us a little bit about your character. Who is she and how will audiences relate to her?
Penny is a 16 year old girl who lives with Agnes at her bed-and-breakfast. She is a studious person who finds power in her knowledge. Over the course of the show, she finds herself caught up in discovering freedom, causing her to lose sight of that studious, powerful person she’s always been. Everyone has those periods of turmoil where they go through a big external or internal change and it transforms them, especially during the teenage years. I think people will see her and remember what they were like at that age.
How is the character like you? How is she different?
Penny and I are very alike. I’ve always been focused on academics and have sidelined other things to keep up good grades. Recently I’ve found more joy in other things while keeping up those grades, like Penny does during the show. Penny becomes very passionate about rebelling from Agnes and the life she’s always known but that extremity is not something I’ve ever felt the urge to do. Even through my more rebellious moments I never go too crazy like Penny does towards the end of the play.
In what ways does your character grow over the course of the show?
She grows so much over the course of the show. She begins as a very academically determined person that finds power in being snarky towards Agnes. I’ve always thought she is quiet and reserved at school so the slights toward Agnes are unique to home. She meets Mary Anne, someone that represents the freedom that she’s always wanted but never knew how to find. When Mary Anne tells Penny how to get Tommy (her crush) to take an interest in her, Penny’s whole world opens up and she falls right in. This makes her lose sight of who she’s always been—she likes it. Tommy feeds her desire to try on a new personality, something that changes the way she views the world and herself. She becomes wrapped up in this situation, leading to her big moment in Act 2 which I won’t spoil!
What about this show makes it most relevant to today’s audiences?
So much of this show is relevant to today’s audiences. Set in 1972, a new feminist wave was emerging just like how today feminism is constantly changing. The discussions surrounding domestic violence and abuse are also relevant; this issue seems to present itself in different ways all the time. It has been fascinating to see the reactions of patrons because even though everyone is so different, the timeless themes of the show impact everybody—even though it’s set over 50 years ago. I think that says a lot about today’s world and how much the world changes or doesn’t change over time.
What has been the biggest challenge in taking on this role?
The biggest challenge in this role has been accepting that the show relies on the audience judging Penny. Since we are so similar, I felt a need to protect her from the judgments of the audience. I needed to accept that judgment is inevitable and necessary, something that was tough but hopefully rewarding.
Want to hear more from Roxy? Come on out to our post-show talkback after this Sunday (Oct. 24) matinee and you can ask your own open questions for the 30-minute event, which will be attended by all cast members and select members of the production team. Tickets available now! We look forward to seeing you in the audience of When We Were Young and Unafraid, running through October 31!