Audree Hedequist: Showing a Different Side

Audree Hedequist Interview by Jen Bush

Meet Audree Hedequist who is featured in an exciting brand-new production called Relapse. Most 4-year-olds are engaging in pretend play with puppets and Barbie Dolls.  Ms. Hedequist didn’t have time for that folly because she was already on the stage forging a career in the arts.  With a solid foundation, familial support, and a desire for continued knowledge, this artist takes on projects with significant subject matter and hopes to connect to audiences in a cerebral manner.“I have been performing since the age of four, and over my career thus far I have had many experiences and opportunities for growth which have further fueled my initial passion for the arts. I have met so many friends, and wonderful mentors, and have been taught by some of the most incredible teachers at Interlochen Arts Academy and at NYU Tisch where I studied/currently study musical theatre. I am also very grateful for my family who has been my support since day one and has inspired me to do my best work. As an artist, I always strive to educate myself and hopefully others with the work I do. I look for projects that incorporate relevant and meaningful stories, and love that each performance is an opportunity to leave a lasting impact on audience members by changing the way one will think about the topics presented or allowing them to experience deeper emotions than they otherwise would naturally. Theatre can provoke important societal change, and I wish to inspire others to be the change through my work.”

Ms. Hedequist was attracted to this project because she felt a personal connection to the characters.  She hopes this production shows audiences a different side of mental health issues that are not often depicted on stage and screen.  “When I first discovered this project, I was immediately drawn to it. While not as intense as those of the characters in Relapse, I’ve had my own struggles with mental health in the past. I was compelled by the work and the opportunity to spread awareness of all sides of mental health conditions. Mental health issues are often portrayed in a very stereotypical way, however, this project presents an opportunity to shed light on the complexity of mental health issues and the underrepresented challenges those with some of these conditions face. It’s incredible to be part of this opportunity to share this relevant and timely message with audiences and to potentially connect with others with mental illness so they may feel less alone in their struggle. On top of that, this piece reiterates the importance of reaching out for help without shame in doing so.”

Ms. Hedequist’s creative process is a combination of character work, research and adding a touch of her own personality to each role.  “My typical creative process usually starts by creating a strong and specific background story for my character based on the script, my personal experiences, background reading, and a bit of my creative power. I also try to find specific parts of the character’s personality and story that I can connect to as well. Sometimes I try to look for opportunities to insert pieces of my own personality into the character to make them more authentic.”

For many projects, especially ones such as Relapse, I do a lot of research on areas such as the time period, location, etc. to get a better sense of the character’s circumstances. For Relapse, in particular, I also made sure to research my character’s mental illness, Schizophrenia, by reading articles and listening to people who have had experience with this condition to make sure I was able to represent it in the most accurate way I could without having had this exact struggle myself.

After I complete the basics of my character development, I typically then practice and memorize extensively, for the more practice I have, the more play I can do on the stage and in rehearsals which makes for an exciting performance.

Ms. Hedequist recognizes that when presenting a piece that deals with a sensitive topic such as mental illness, the artists involved feel an added sense of responsibility.  “This production touches on so many of the complex topics surrounding mental health issues, so It’s critical to avoid playing stereotypical characteristics and at the same time try to balance the true and complex nature of certain mental health symptoms. While the majority of the characters in this production have a general diagnosis relating to their mental health struggles, their symptoms are all unique and can manifest in many different ways with different levels of intensity. 

For me, it’s important to develop the character separate from this diagnosis as well, as this is only one facet of their persona and they are not defined by their condition. While we have come a long way in the representation of those with mental struggles, we still have work to do in order to diminish the stigmas they face. I feel a responsibility to not only educate the audience but also myself on the issues presented in the project by listening to those who struggle with these conditions to learn more about their experiences and making sure to portray them in the most accurate light possible. Plus, the opportunity to spread such an important message that could inspire those with mental health issues to seek recovery holds weight in itself. I hope that through this piece, we will be able to let those struggling with mental illness know they are warriors in their battles and that choosing help is nothing to be ashamed of. It can save lives and hopefully change someone’s life for the better, possibly helping them to find peace with their condition and live alongside it.”

As Ms. Hedequist continues her studies with passion and drive, her artistic journey will surely lead her in front of eager audiences where her artistry will shine.  “I am a soon-to-be sophomore at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, where I study musical theatre at their New Studio on Broadway, so this coming year I will hopefully have some exciting productions in store with them!! Beyond that, my goal is to keep training, learning, auditioning, performing, and to wait and see what happens next!!!”

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