Samantha Pearlman ’11 is a vivacious triple-threat in the theater world. This actress/singer/dancer sat down with The Argus to discuss her Puerto Rican accent, the pranks she puts up with, and her future move to the city that never sleeps.
The Argus: I’ve seen and read that you have been very involved with Second Stage Theater during your time at Wesleyan. Can you tell me more about that?
Samantha Pearlman: During my first semester at Wesleyan, I was in three Second Stage plays. I’ve really gotten involved in the student theater scene. I think Second Stage is one of the coolest things about Wesleyan because it’s a gorgeous space completely dedicated to students. As for some highlights, I played the title role in Jose Rivera ‘s Marisol my freshman year. My sophomore year I was in a musical called Black Friday that a senior wrote for his thesis. And then last year I was in Sweeney Todd and I played Mrs. Lovett. This semester, I’m directing something for Second Stage for the first time, along with Ross Shenker ’11. We are directing a cabaret evening that goes up this Friday and Saturday evening in the ’92. It’s comprised of six singers and each will sing two songs. We’ve only been rehearsing a week, so it will be interesting to see what happens.
A: Will there be any can-can?
SP: [Laughs] No, it’s not like the musical Cabaret. Imagine a piano bar in New York City, something like the Metropolitan Room. We’ll be performing some musical theater, some pop music repertoire, and a few classic jazz standards. I’m not going to be one of those Kit Kat Girls.
A: Rumor has it that you were in a production this summer at Connecticut’s Ivoryton Playhouse. Word on the street says you played Buddy Holly?
SP: No [Laughs]. Well, that is kind of the rumor. I was not cast as Buddy Holly although that would be really funny. I was cast as Buddy Holly’s wife, and it is actually kind of funny because she is a Puerto Rican girl from New York City, which I am not. It was my first professional acting job at the Ivoryton. It was really amazing. I went through a lot of auditions last year and was really hoping to book something. At the beginning of summer I didn’t think I would have anything so I secured an internship in the city. But on the first day, I got a phone call from the Playhouse and they were like ‘Do you want to play Maria Elena in The Buddy Holly Story?’ The show was a lot of fun– very all-American entertainment.
A: Did you have to do a Puerto Rican accent?
SP: I did, I did.
A: How did that go?
SP: Oh God, don’t tell me you want me to do it again? [Laughs] It was fine. I didn’t have a dialect coach, so I would watch YouTube videos of people with Puerto Rican and Spanish accents. I wanted to emulate people like Penelope Cruz, who is not Puerto Rican, but is really, really sexy. A guy in the cast was actually Puerto Rican so I would speak to him, and he would correct me on certain vowels.
A: What is your senior thesis going to be about?
SP: I am researching USO (United Service Organizations) performances during World War II — it was entertainment for the troops. Specifically, I am writing about how women were utilized in performance and how they became tools of wartime propaganda. It’s really fascinating and hasn’t been studied in much depth — it’s ingrained in the collective conscious of American popular culture that these MGM movie stars like Bob Hope or Marilyn Monroe would sing for the troops. In the spring there will be a performance component in the USO style, using letters, diary entries, newspaper, articles, found material, and songs from the time period. Anthony Smith ’11 is helping me write while Ian Coss ’11 is helping as my music director. The script is still in the development process, but I am also looking to start getting musicians to audition.
A: If you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring one piece of theater with you, what would it be?
SP: [Laughs] I mean if I’m stuck on a desert island, oh man. In the Heights, probably.That show means so much to me. It has Wesleyan ties to it, unbelievable music and dance, and a story that I absolutely love. Anyone who knows me knows I am kind of addicted to it—I dream about it. Yeah, definitely In the Heights. I would never get bored with it.
A: So in the ideal world, when you make it big, and you can play any one character, who would that be?
SP: Well, I’ve mentioned In the Heights, so probably Nina. In a dream world, I want to play strong, young, ingénue roles. At that time I’ll be in my prime, Meryl Streep age, I would get roles like Mama Rose in Gypsy that I am way too young to play right now. My dream role is something written for me specifically—something crafted for and by me would be really cool.
A: Speaking of the future, are you going to take the plunge and move to New York City to try and make it?
SP: Yeah, that’s the plan right now. It’s really scary, but it’s worth a shot. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.
A: I’ve heard you’re a tour guide. What’s the craziest situation you’ve been in on a tour?
SP: I love giving tours. One time I was giving a tour and two friends from my a cappella group [Waiting in Line] came up to me and started screaming, ‘Oh my God Sammy, Happy Birthday.’ And they started singing Happy Birthday. It wasn’t my birthday and the whole tour started singing. It was really embarrassing.
A: Now for the famous last question. If you could be any kind of fruit, what kind of fruit would you be and why?
SP: I don’t know. This is the James Lipton part of the interview-. I should have prepared. I think I would be…[long pause]… a raspberry — they are totally underrated. They’re a little tart but are elegant and can get mushy and crazy really easily.