Theatre Interview: Serena Steinhauer – The Undone, Or Revelling In Resilience

June 20, 2023




The Undone follows the stories of three brave women who dare to say what’s been left unsaid. In their stories, audiences discover what resilience looks like. Their stories are an ode to life; the humour, the tragedy, the loss and the success of it all. Written and performed by Serena Steinhauer and produced by Daphne Kuhn for the Theatre On The Square, The Undone is inspired by overcoming adversity. The piece is directed by Alan Swerdlow and features original music by Bryan Schimmel.


Live performance: the thrill versus the nerves – where are you on that curve as a new show starts?

Live performance truly wouldn’t be what it is without the nerves; they help propel you into the rehearsal process with focus and determination. Truthfully, it is daunting. Performing a solo work means a lot of responsibility because there is only you onstage. Before putting the show on its feet, the nerves are at their strongest because the work is still so fresh, like uncharted territory. But I am incredibly fortunate enough to be under the direction of Alan Swerdlow, who has created the safest environment possible. He has allowed me to explore, make mistakes here and there, probe new ideas and just laugh with him when we need to break out of the seriousness. Collaborating with him has taken every fear away. Now as we stitch each piece of the puzzle together, the nerves have completely transformed into adrenaline. I feel ready and raring to go!


How do you find a balance during rehearsals or other preparation?

The process involves wearing many hats. How one manages that boils down to one word? Coffee. Lots of it! Jokes, aside, I believe in the power of routine. I am a total creature of habit. Especially during a period of rehearsals, if one sticks to daily goals – as in completing the same tasks at the same time – pockets of time begin to emerge. That is where I fill in the gaps and tend to other preparatory items on the list. From responding to messages, focusing on marketing, acquiring audience members, PR, costume and set design and more! Preparation also comes in the form of looking after my mental health. So, in those pockets of time, I prioritise exercising, seeing a friend for a catch-up, or doing something fun. Balance truly roots itself in “work hard, play hard”.


In a best-case scenario, what are you looking for in a role? What is the main basis for that decision – the script, the people involved, the challenge to your skills, the impact (positive or negative) it might have on your life in general, or perhaps something else?

This is a juicy question! There is a time and a place for every character. In some, you find intensity, symbolism and challenge. In others, you find light-heartedness, humour and uncomplicated entertainment. I adore them all across the spectrum. Each one requires a certain tool from your toolkit and examines the human experience differently. Delving into each one independently is what makes each new role an exploration. The main basis for which characters I would love to portray depends on the piece itself; its genre, style and intention. I have always been drawn to characters with a deep social consciousness, specifically. Protest theatre single-handedly changed my life and showed me how profound the impact of theatre is when it comments on the world around us. Blending history and theatre is also the calling card of that decision. I think of characters like Evita Perón in Evita (my dream role) and Florence in Chess; powerful females portrayed onstage that are more than just glitz and glamour – they have gravitas. If you find that in a character, in a script and in a creative team, congratulations! That is the golden trifecta.


Acting is often a vocation, a thing you can’t not do. How true is that for you now? Has it changed over the years – for practical, perhaps banal reasons? And how do you, or would you like to, keep your calling front and centre in your life?

When the theatre bug bites, it stays with you forever. It becomes part of your daily life – your thoughts, your passion and your life’s work. That is truer for me now than ever. I have been blessed to have been completely immersed in all things theatrical from the age of five. Because of that, not only have I grown up as a person but my craft has evolved too. That is the key to this vocation; allowing it to evolve with you, not away from you. Whether it be with age, with location or with the scene at large, acting is chameleonic and is ever-changing. If an actor accepts this and opens themselves to new projects, different roles or perhaps something completely out of their comfort zone, the calling will always remain front and centre. However, when acting becomes your livelihood and not just a project of passion, there are far more practical aspects to consider. Finances and longevity are not the glamorous side of our industry and are often a taboo topic in entertainment, but both are necessary to consider as an actor and should be treated accordingly.


What are the toughest expectations to deliver on – all the way from the first audition to the end of the run?

The expectations are consistent throughout and run of a show. The ball should never drop! I always feel that there should be an equal distribution of delivery, however. The best actors work as hard on their audition preparation as they would in the audition room, in the rehearsal room and onstage. Consistency is key. Each stage of the process is a cog in the wheel and are all crucial to the success of the run – not just at the box office, but on the stage too. It sounds harder than it is. But truly, when you love the process so much, it is a joy to put your whole heart into it, from top to tail.


Tell us about your current production, and what makes your characters interesting to play?

The Undone really is a labour of love and story that is deeply personal. I must mention how grateful I am to have Alan Swerdlow, Bryan Schimmel and Daphne Kuhn behind me and believing in the work. Without them, the story and the play would not have come to life. In the show, I follow the lives of three unique female characters from time present and time past who dare to say what’s been left unsaid. On a personal level, I try to uncover my own identity by taking inspiration from their overcoming. The most interesting part of playing each of these characters is just how universal the strength of womanhood is. A line from the show reads, “to be like these women is how I would like my story to turn out. To be confident…to be resilient…to be special”. That is the crux; finding the strength of identity through the stories of our ancestors.