Orlando Shakes Interview With A Princess: Aja Grooms

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Aja Grooms as Snow White sitting on the ground as the Hunstman, Eric Fagan, winces while holding his ax. The narrarator, Walt Kmiec, holds the fairytale book.
Photo features Eric Fagan, Aja Grooms, & Walt Kmiec
The Orlando Shakes has put on yet another incredible production in their Children's Series, that will have you rolling in the aisles! Adapted by playwright Brandon Roberts, this Brothers Grimm fairytale has been brought to our modern world in this comical, witty rendition of Snow White!

I had the chance to see the production with my family and the opportunity to interview the lovely Aja Grooms, who plays Snow White! And what an interview it was... Aja is quite the spirited Princess, herself, and fits into this role perfectly! Her love of theater, make-believe, joy, and especially Snow White, made this a role fit for her career.

Check out the interview below!

Eric Fagan, the magic mirror, is standing next to the evil Queen, Kristin Shirilla.
Photo features Eric Fagan & Kristin Shirilla
What is your favorite thing about doing children's theater?

"Um, I think it has to be the way the children are so immersed in it, and genuinely believe it so much. Especially because we--in some of the children's productions I've gotten to do, we have meet and greets, and those are so special. They always think that you're the character and they want to ask you questions about the character, and they just have such a--they're able to suspend their disbelief so much in a beautiful way, that you just don't get with the older audience, of course. So I think that's my favorite part!"

So then, what's your favorite with this production?

"Along the same lines, it would have to be that first day that we had children in the audience.. Just hearing them react and laugh so much to everything. Because you never know what to expect, ya know, once you have live people. Being an actor can be really challenging sometimes, and then you just hear them cracking up and you remember, oh yeah, that's what it's about."

Why did you want to be involved in this production?

I am a very big fairytale fan, I mean I have an emotional connection to these stories, like a lot of people do because of Disney, especially. I mean, I feel like they've brought these stories to the mainstream in such a beautiful way and people newly feel connected to that. They're iconic. Everyone knows these stories! So, growing up, I watched all of those movies and as I got older, I was interested in finding out where these stories come from and find out how they're different, and boy are they different! I'm just very passionate about these stories and bringing them to children in a new way, which this play does so well! It definitely brings humor into this rendition very well!

What is your favorite moment in this production?

Definitely the scarf! When they have to take the scarf off my head, and put it back on, and so forth, that one is so much fun! The kids get such a big kick out of it, because the scarf lands on my face and I have to immediately pass out when it touches me. Then seeing the Narrator and the Dwarf fight over the scene like "Come on, we know how the story goes, let's just fix it!", because that's what the audience is thinking the whole time.. They know how to solve it, so they just want to fix it, which they can't do.. The story has to play out. So I'm always amused sitting there with this scarf on my face, trying to hold in the laughter!

So, what did you go to UCF for?

I was a music major at UCF, so I studied classical music there and I was in the opera class and performed opera's mostly! That degree goes one of two ways; You can study music education (which is how I began) and that certifies you to be a school teacher/music education, or you can do a music performance degree. So I started as music education and switched to music performance, because I really was digging the opera. So I have a very musical background! I love to sing and a lot, so this production is actually a bit different for me, since there's no singing and dancing. It's kind of new territory for me!

What made you want to get into Theater?

I've always had that bug, since I was little. I'd put on plays when I was little at home, and my parents were very encouraging of that love! My parents would buy costumes and I had a little puppet theater, and I'd even dress up my little brother and get him involved, too. Anything I saw, I was re-enacting in my living room! If I saw it, I had to put it on. I think the media I consumed really encouraged that and then I also participated in school productions as much as I could! I had wonderful teachers that gave us the opportunity to create and I just always loved it.

Snow White, Aja Grooms, holding a bear next to terrified Eric Fagan, the Hunstman.
Photo features Aja Grooms & Eric Fagan
What do you love about your costume?

Oh, my costume, what do I not love?! It's beautiful! I'm a big fan of puffy sleeves! I've always wanted to wear a dress that has those big princess puffy sleeves, and now I've had the opportunity! It's got these beautiful bows and the way that it moves and sits on me, it allows me to easily get into that character. The dress bounces while I walk and is just very flouncy.

What do you think would surprise potential audience the most about this production?

Oh, gosh... A lot of it, to be honest! Brandon Roberts, the playwright, has done a beautiful job at modernizing this, while also staying true to the content. But, I mean, there's acme dynamite involved right at the beginning of the show. You have to come see it. There are so many unique elements with the humor and the fact that the character's get to question what is going on. They have a say in what they're doing, especially in these strange circumstances in a fairytale world. I think what audiences will enjoy, and what may pull them in, is that it kind of turns the story on it's head and it doesn't take itself seriously at all. It's very funny!

What I really love, too, is that princesses have been criticized in the public eye for a while now because they're seen, despite being graceful and kind and beautiful, also seen as frail and kind of weak. Snow White gets some agency in this play! She gets to tell the Huntsman "No, we're not going to do this, let's try this other thing.. You don't have to do what the Queen says!". She's also kind of scrappy and takes care of herself. She takes a stand and doesn't let the Queen take control of her life! And above all, she remains kind no matter her terrifying circumstances, and I think that is such an important thing to remember.

Eric Fagan, the Huntsman, is grabbing his nose in pain because Aja Grooms, Snow White, has just karate chopped him in the face.
Photo features Eric Fagan & Aja Grooms
Is there anything that is challenging about this production for you?

I'd say the most challenging part for me is kind of two-fold. One, has been doing comedy. I don't do that often. It's hard to be funny! You can't try to be funny. You have to believe in the circumstances.. The wackiness of it and your belief is what truly gets people. That's been challenging for me.. I've been learning a lot from the amazing actors that I'm working with, though, that are really funny! And then playing the princess! There's a lot of expectations of what a princess should be-- what she should look like and behave. Trying to make her my own and still staying true to the story, which has been challenging, but fun! Two very fun challenges to this character.

There ya have it!! An interview with a proper Princess! Aja Grooms was beautifully casted for this role as the princess, Snow White. Her kindness, demeanor, and pursuit of joy are all perfect qualities to possess if you are to be a proper princess. Not only that, but she has the comedy behind her to play this role.

Don't miss your chance to see Snow White, playing at the Orlando Shakes thru July 28th, 2019! You will not regret this experience!

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