Terrance J. Peters – Director and Theater Founder
So what made you want to do this show?
I had heard of the show through other Gracie Gardner pieces. Before being a theater nerd I did fencing for 12 years. I read it and it was too accurate. Perfect capture of teen coming of age but also the sport and forging what is important to you instead of being told it. It really resonated with me.
What are some challenges that came with directing this show?
This is definitely the first time doing it very independently. I guess completely independently. And, that means a lot of the safety rails that come with getting involved with other existing organizations you gotta watch for yourself. it’s all the little things that add up to a much bigger tsunami of theater needs. But I guess I got good friends who are supportive!
Athena is a very female-empowered show, and a lot of the cast and crew are females. How does it feel to work on it as decidedly not female?
That’s a good question. I think these stories are extremely interesting.
I think that has a lot of nuances of what it’s like – a modern day, coming of age in the kind of world we live in, and it’s hyper focused for these two women in their niche of this fencing club, but I think there’s a lot of themes that would resonate with anyone growing up in the past few years who might feel some of the similarities to starting to have this little bit of freedom.
It’s also nice because my whole process is, I like to see what all the people involved bring to the table, and I think that both from our actors and also those who have been joining us on this journey, a lot of them have been putting themselves into the story, and that’s my favorite part of it, is getting everyone to put a little piece of them in it.
And the fact that that gets to be told from this more feminist point of view, I think is really, really cool. That’s what makes Athena so unique.
How do you think your history in fencing has affected you putting this show on?
So for me, a lot of what I took from my experience fencing is the technicalities of the movement. Because this was not just duels and directing, but also fight choreography. And I think what’s going to be pretty evident, is there’s definitely a sincere difference between typical stage combat, where a lot of the emphasis is on flourishes and very unique moves, versus fencing.
The sport itself is ultimately a sport. The techniques that are used are the most efficient, and that means it’s rounded down to just quite a few. So I think the biggest challenge for actors was the fact that unlike a lot of other stage choreography or Shakespeare and the like is that choreography is often very unique and has very big flourishes, which makes it easier to remember because they’re so unique.
It really only breaks down to like maybe ten or so moves that are used in combination with efficiency and so that is kind of the more functional elements. What I like to bring to the table with this is really pointing out where the stage side of stage combat ends and where the combat side really kicks in since ultimately they are hitting each other.
This ultimately is a sport and the equipment keeps them safe but very rarely are they holding back. The other thing I think that is unique is – the credit I give Gracie Gardner more so- is that there’s lots of little details in the script that absolutely come from just having actually been in the fencing world.
There’s too many little things that I could recall myself being like, “I remember when that happened, it sucked”. Or, “I remember, that was the best part of the day”.
A lot of the sometimes weirder stuff of the play is just, in fact, what actually happens in that sports community. It’s kind of cool to actually see that portrayed so truthfully. You know, sometimes it’s a little bit odd.
Any examples that you’d like to share?
The biggest one I’d say is, you know, this was written by a foil -by someone who really did foil- because one of the first things they do when the other [types of fencing] are mentioned is make fun of the other weapons. Every fencer who fences one specific weapon thinks their weapon is the best and will happily take any moment to disparage all the other ones.
And ours, they’re foil fencers, pointing out how slow epees are and how sloppy sabers are, and I could not think of anything more realistic than trash talking the other weapons, even if they are your teammates in some of these situations.
So what is next for you?
What’s next is a great question. Myself, Andromeda, this is exciting to be the first production, but the nice thing is I’m really just coming back home- not that I ever left, since I am following up Athena with playing Hyde in Jekyll and Hyde, um, followed by playing George in the Neil Simon play, Chapter 2. Anyone who knows me knows I like to do 500 projects at once, but it’s a really nice feeling that my heart is in all of the upcoming projects and ones that are coming to pass.
It feels nice when all the work you’re doing doesn’t have to feel like work. Cause there’s such good gangs and such good shows.
And then after all of that, I get to direct the wonderful Mason Beiter’s piece, Pet Peeves. It will be debuting for the first time at Hole in the Wall as a mainstage show, and it’s also opening the 2024 season.
Any plans for Andromeda next? Or gonna wait until this finishes and then figure out what’s happening next?
Not to get too ahead of myself, but what is next for Andromeda? Any plans, or just seeing what comes next?
We certainly are figuring out what definitively comes next, since the goal is of course to always put on new shows and let new stories be told.
Definitely the goal next is to see who wants to maybe take on the reins of leading the storytelling and seeing what other ideas come to the door. The mission, ultimately, of Andromeda is very much to help empower artists in the community to create the experiences for audiences they want to without necessarily the limitations of having to conform to some hard existing show or expectations. Instead it’s a nice blank state to see what kind of cool new ideas come forward.
Is there anything else that you want us to know? Any shoutouts you want to give?
Shoutouts to the Enfield Fencing Club, the Westmore Central Fencing Gang- for beating me with foil so hard I went and put on a play about it. And everyone who’s helped Andromeda come to life.
This is very much the community’s as much as mine, but man it feels nice having this little dream of mine come alive of getting this company together. So thanks y’all and I hope If you’re not involved yet, you start wanting to find your way to the door.
So is this show just trauma processing for you?
Oh yeah, it’s all trauma processing now. I just keep getting giddy.
*Scream from onstage distracted Terry for a second*
Oh, that was just a scream. That was the play. I’ll spoil, it opens with a giant scream. And if anyone’s ever been to a single fencing tournament, you’ll know that is like the most true thing. Fencers are really, really goddamn loud.
Honestly, it’s brought such joy back to this. I haven’t done fencing in so long but, man, did it make my heart happy starting to do it all. It’s honestly mostly joy, more than anything else reminiscent.
We went to the Enfield Fencing Club for, uh, to get our equipment and the coach was so wonderful, letting us actually try out on the strip and kind of coach our actors on how to actually do a basic bout and infighting and such.
There were also two fencers who were about the age I would have been around high school when I was starting to like peak at it. They were bouting, and I- in fencing, the ref is called the director, funny enough- and I got to direct them, and I was so nervous, because you have to make calls, you have to really be up on knowing the order of things, because there are rules about who actually gets the point, and we jumped right in, and I still had it, and I felt like an old man.
Sydney Yargeau – Athena
How did you get involved in Athena and Andromeda Theater Guild?
So, I have known Terry since the pandemic. It was probably 2020 when we did a show together called Scavenger. It was here at Hole in the Wall, it was this movie that George Sebastian Coleman was trying to make. I was one of the two people doing the monster, which was fun. I met Terry doing that, and then I auditioned for him and was in She Kills Monsters, which was the first time I worked with him, and he’s an amazing director.
He’s a great person, great director. So I’ve worked with him before and I remember at the end of our run of She Kills, he was telling me about Athena. And I happened to actually be doing a regional theater season where I was swinging the sister show down in Ridgefield and they were doing Athena.
I was like, I actually got to see Athena when they did it last year in Ridgefield. Which is pretty freaking cool. But he is like I would love to do this show with you in the show. And then you know like a year and a half down the line, he texts me and is like, Hey, I’m doing auditions for Athena.
And I was like, “Oh, you’re finally doing it. Cool. Finally getting Andromeda off the ground. Like fantastic, Terry”. And so I ended up auditioning because even though I’m so busy doing all these other things, I knew I had to take time out of all the other stuff. It’s an amazing show and I love the script. Like I remember reading the script the first time being like, this is actually really good.
So now, tell me a little bit about your character.
Oh my god. Athena. She is… I keep saying she’s like, ogres have layers like and I’m like she’s got so many layers. It’s not even funny there’s so many things in her past that allude to like how hard of a childhood she had, but then on top of that what a strong, powerful, feminine being she is.
She’s very much a feminist. You can see that in some of her monologues. And it’s one of those things that she doesn’t talk about a lot. Like, when she gets into it, she gets heated on the topic. So, that’s definitely something really important to her. Things like that. So, she gets really passionate about things. And there are a lot of things about her. She’s very awkward, especially when talking to people. She mentions it so much. And she’s aware of how awfully awkward she is when it comes to talking to people. And just her inability to socialize.
She tries her best, but she definitely struggles when it comes to making friends. There’s definitely a bunch of things that are semi eluded in the script that I’ve kind of taken and put it in my own perspective of who she is and how she got this way. But she’s very layered and there’s a lot to unpack there.
She’s so full of life, but also so full of issues. She’s got a lot of issues. Girl needs to go to therapy. However, who doesn’t?
Do you see yourself in your character?
Oh yeah. There’s definitely moments where I’m like, it’s not very Sydney.
I’ve actually talked to Emma [Mary Wallace] about it, and we’re just figuring out how to add Sydney and Emma into Mary Wallace and Athena.
I definitely say to myself, especially about certain things that she’s like, she gets so passionate about things, and she’s stubborn, like the scream, she’s like, why can’t I do that? Like you have to let me do this.
I feel like Athena definitely is a debate team girl, and she’s fantastic at it. She takes forensics. So she definitely has a morbid, morbid, morbid picture. She likes the human body and like, I think she likes horror movies, which is very similar to myself. I love horror movies. Athena definitely loves horror movies.
So have you done fencing before the show? Or is this like your Brand new.
I’m a dancer. ‘ve been a dancer since I was three. So like, that’s my background.
This is so different. I mean I’m a very athletic person. I’m just saying that. However, just the, oh my God, my body aches.
What has the learning curve been like between. Learning lines, blocking, character development, dancing.
Wow, I always struggle with learning lines.
It gives me so much anxiety. It’s so awful. Emma and I, we got this app that we can record our lines and switch off and on. And I’m always driving. It takes me a half an hour to get home, so I will literally just, put on our scenes and, do it back and forth and back and forth.
And that’s been the past, like, two weeks. It’s just me every time I’m in the car, not listening to music, but listening to my lines. Today I was on my way here and I was doing my lines in the car and I look over and this guy is looking over and I was like, saying my lines and I’m like God,
So that’s definitely been the learning curve, and of course, fencing. The choreography is so different from dance choreography. When it comes to dance choreography, I’m a pro. I mean, I literally teach it.
So, Athena is very clearly into fencing, and very serious about it. Besides acting, do you have anything like that? That is like, the whole and core of who you are?
When I say dance, I mean that is really who I am. Just like Athena, you know. I may not always be the best. I may lose a bout. I may win a bout, you know. I may not.I’m not the best but I love it and I always will love it. Even if I don’t do it as a career, it’s just part of who I am. I’d say dancing. That’s my favorite one.
So, Athena screams, clearly. How do you feel doing that? Does that feel good?
It feels so good. You can ask so many people. I’ve been in shows before where I get to scream and I’m living for it. That adrenaline rush after just letting it out. I totally get what Athena means by “if you could scream, if you could really just let it out, you’d totally fence better”, because it just feels so good to release that energy.
It’s like the grunting adds 15 percent of the fencing world.
Oh my god, it’s so much, and it’s even screaming, like, in general. In She Kill’s Monsters, I had a death scene. And we went all out, and it became this, like, huge, comedic thing, but I got to scream, and it just made me so happy to add the scream.
Do you only take roles where you can scream?
Yes. Yeah. Prerequisite. My next show I’m doing is Rocky Horse and I’m like, Columbia screams, I’ll find a place for her to. I love it. It’s the best.
Why should people come see the show?
I mean, it’s so active and entertaining in the fact that it’s two people on stage literally poking each other with swords. Like, how can you not enjoy watching someone get poked with a sword?
But on a serious note this is just an amazing story and this script, it’s got so much heart and love and layers. I think it’s just got so much in it that I feel like it’ll really make people feel things. And that is so important in our world. You know, to actually get out and see life and not get stuck on your phone. Live theater is so important, and even if Fencing is not your favorite thing in the world, just watching people interact on stage, and being a part of it, and I think that’s like, one thing that really draws me to theater.
This idea that you are a part of the world for this 90 minute show, it’s so important that live theater be here. The idea of, like, anything could happen, and not only the actors, but the audience has to go with the flow, and enjoy the story, and enjoy the movement, and this show is literally, like, the epitome of something that you want to tell the audience.
We want to take the audience along for the ride.
Do you have a favorite line from the show? Or from your character, or otherwise? I know there are so many good ones. But any that really stand out to you?
Well I do love Mary Wallaces: “Are you on meth?” That one’s funny.
Oh my god, there are so many good ones. I want to tell you all of them, like. “It’s for sex. My doctor said it. We can tell my dad it’s for acne because it also is.” “I had sex ones on a train. It rocked.” I love that line.
“I had sex with a guy on the train. It rocked.” Yeah. Definitely wasn’t traumatized. It’s a possibility that she just never had sex on a train, I guess. I don’t know. I’ve been going back and forth for three months on her sex life. As a sex positive human being, I really want to believe that she’s had good experiences, and she did have sex on the train, and it was really freaking weird, but, you know, She kind of enjoyed it in its own, strange way.
And she never wanted to see that guy again, but, like, she was like, Yeah, this is fun. You know? But yeah, I do like that line.
Also, “It’s not crazy. It’s not, it’s not anything crazy. It’s like a wrestler or a racehorse” while talking about her name. It’s like a wrestler or a racehorse. Like, you’re just comparing yourself to a wrestler and a racehorse. What is your issue? Two things every girl aspires to be. A wrestler and a racehorse. There’s so many good ones.
So, what else are you working on?
I’m doing Rocky Horror. I’m playing Columbia down in Clinton, Connecticut. I also teach dance in New York City. And I work for a brother-sister duet called Muo Duo. I am one of their background dancers. So, we have a lot of gigs coming up, just like, dancing in different clubs and stuff while they perform in New York. We just did a TV show where they sang and I danced on a TV show in Times Square. Then I am also working on the Essex Steam Train for the North Pole Express show. This will be my third year doing it, which is kind of crazy. I love it. Honestly, I love it. It literally gives me so much life.
Emma Rucci – Mary Wallace
So how did you get involved in Athena and Andromeda in general?
I met Terry when my parents were in First Date at Suffield Players. They were incredible. And Terry was also in that. And I ended up getting involved in the production. Just doing some odds and ends, basically doing whatever people needed. And Terry and I were talking, and he’s like, “Oh, I heard you went to Drew. I’m from New Jersey, I actually did Fencing camp at Drew”, and I was like, “Oh yeah, it’s a big fencing school”, And he said, “I would love to do this play called Athena.”
And I actually had bought a copy of the play, cause I wanted to see if I could find a monologue from it. So I was like, “Oh, I’ve read the play, it’s really good. It’s kind of gay, which I like”. And he was like, “Oh, I really want to do it. Like, I want to start my own theater company. And I want to do it.”
And then over the course of the run, he would keep coming up to me, like, with progress on the production. He’s like, Hey, I have a producer. Hey, we have a tentative location. This is gonna, gotta become a thing. And then after First Date closed, he’s like, “Hey, I want to invite you to audition. Because, I’ve seen you cover for roles in First Date”, [With First Date] I ended up doing that if people were absent, because I knew the music. It was a for fun thing. He’s like, “but I was really impressed with what you could do, so I’d love for you to audition.” And so I did. And the rest is history.
So tell me a little bit about your character.
Mary Wallace is a 17 year old overachiever. She’s a good kid, sometimes to her detriment, I feel like. She’s not very adventurous. She’s a very hard worker, and I think that’s something that she’s very proud of herself for being, but at the same time she’s also not very socially apt.
She says in the play that she trains at home- she trains with a wall, the wall can’t hit back, that’s true. And so she starts training with Athena and it’s a socially stressful situation for her to be in. I don’t really think she has friends.
And I think she’s cool with that. But then when she starts hanging out with Athena, she’s like, Oh, hey, like, maybe I’ve been hindering myself. Maybe friends aren’t so bad.
Do you see yourself in your character?
A little bit. Sometimes a lot of it. I think I see myself in both Athena and in Mary Wallace.
I feel like I’m a Mary Wallace sun with an Athena moon. You know what I mean? Just like this undercurrent of both of them. Which I think is something that’s so great about the play is that audiences, I hope, can see themselves in both of these characters.
I think I bring myself to Mary Wallace a little bit. And even more because she’s part me, because basically what you do when you’re an actor is you try to bring a little bit of yourself to the role and that makes it makes it authentic and it also makes it unique, I think. I haven’t actually seen this play performed live, but I bet that my Mary Wallace might be different from a different actress’s Mary Wallace.
Have you done fencing before the show?
No. I did stage combat. I was an acting apprentice with the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in the summer of 2019, and part of the course is you do stage combat and you learn rapier. You never touch your opponent with the blade. Ever. It’s only blade on blade contact. It’s not actually with the other actor. You’re meant to keep your fellow actor safe. And while we are [keeping actors safe] in this, the whole point of fencing is getting the touch. So this is very different in terms of quote unquote “stage combat”. This is a choreographed sport, not necessarily fight.
Is there a certain level of unlearning what you learned with rapier?
Well, I hadn’t done it in a while, so it’s not like I was really rigid. But I mean, I guess you have to be unafraid to hit your opponent. Like when Emma Holden first started with us, she was a little hesitant to touch me, and I was like, I just stood there with my, with my chest protector on.
I was like, hit me. I was like, stab me. I’m not gonna feel it. I mean, Sydney and I have actually poked each other really hard, but we’re okay. It’s part of the game.
What’s the learning curve been like then? Learning your characters, your lines, blocking, and fencing. Like, that’s a lot.
It’s a lot. This is maybe some of the most lines I’ve had to learn. The choreography I think has been the hardest part. Cause it’s not like it’s to music, it’s totally by feel. It’s not like, step, step, parry, or, beat, lunge. We sort of feel it out with each other, and then we get into it.
There’s no set moment, when I do this, this is when we go. We feel it out with each other. We have to, like, make cheat sheets for ourselves. But there’s a lot.
What does preparing for this character look like for you? I know you said you put a little bit of yourself into it, but was there anything that you’ve done, like getting into the headspace of an awkward teenage girl?
I’ve been listening to music that I think Mary Wallace would listen to. So I’ve been listening to classical music and hard rock and like, that feels like very angsty, rock music. I picked something from Romeo and Juliet, the ballet, and then Vivaldi Summer. Which is the really intense cello and then I know the end by Phoebe Bridgers, which has, a bunch of screaming at the end. It’s like music that I already listened to that I like. I was like, okay, I can find her in this. I also like to make Pinterest boards.
And then, I watched a lot of videos of people fencing to see what they did. And we actually got a chance to watch people fence, live at the Enfield Fencing Club, and that was really cool.
Clearly, Mary Wallace is very serious about fencing. Besides acting, is there anything that you feel like that with, where it’s kind of just at the core of your being?
Oh, gosh. That’s hard. This is more of a recent love, um, but I’ve gotten really into Dungeons and Dragons. I haven’t had the chance to play that often, but I really like watching people play and there’s something about the community of sitting with your friends and playing a game together and creating a story. That’s something that you get to do in theater, but then this time it’s like, low stakes, super fun, or it can be super high stakes, but it’s something you build together. And it’s collaborative and it’s nerdy. Super. It’s super nerdy and I love it.
So why should people come and see the show?
I think a big question in this play is, can you be friends with someone who is also your competitor? And can you find camaraderie and competition? I think there’s always an underlying sense of competition. Between humans, no matter what, like everyone feels like they have to be the best at what they do, it’s called hustle culture. It’s very toxic.
And I think this kind of this criticizes it. Like, there’s a big question in the play of, like, can Mary Wallace and Athena be friends? Can they make friends in the fencing community?
And I say yes. But I think it’s something that hopefully audiences can look at and say, “is it worth it having someone be my competition or can they just be my friend? Or can they be both? Can I see someone and want to be better because of them?”
What else are you working on? Anything on the horizon, anything you’re currently in, anything you want to plug, or just anything that you want to say in general?
I have a bit of a break after this, but next year I’m doing Ride of the Cyclone in Northampton and I’m really excited. We start rehearsals in December, so I don’t have anything between this show closing and that show starting.