Shannan Leigh Reeve is no newbie when it comes to acting and the tellofilms family. Her acting career began at a young age and continues to expand with multiple projects and roles. One particular project, which Chicagoans get to see firsthand, is tellofilms’s I Hate Tommy Finch. The play follows Alyssa (Shannan) and Stephanie (Nicole Pacent) through 20 years of a friendship, coming out, and getting together.
You might recognize Shannan from both hit web series Cowgirl Up and Diary of a Black Widow. She is a very talented actress who continues to grow with each role she plays. If you still don’t know who Shannan Leigh Reeve is, then here’s your chance to get know her before you go see the play this weekend, October 14th through the 16th. Get your tickets while they’re still available.
TLS: How did you get into acting?
My mom asked if I wanted to go out for a school play when we were stationed in Frankfurt, Germany. They were doing Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I lived in a world of make believe and imagination so when I heard that I could be an oompa loompa and try out for Violet, I HAD to do it. That play started a fire inside of me–one my parents didn’t want me to pursue actually.
We were a military family and traveled all over the world. The opportunity to move to New York and California presented themselves more than once, but my dad kept me as far away from the acting scene as he could. What they didn’t plan for was the fact that the lifestyle that I was raised in groomed me for acting. One minute, I’m a kid playing red rover red rover, the next I’m at a military gala speaking with the Lt. Col. I enjoyed the roles I got to play, and the only thing better than voices and scenarios that I’d conquer was when I’d get up on stage.
I double majored in Psychology and Theatre in college, but with my sports background, I booked a stunt-gig in Osaka, Japan, taking me out of college and beginning my professional acting career. Since then, I’ve lived in NYC and now currently reside in Los Angeles. My parents are so supportive of my passion for my acting career because I persevered when everyone was telling me “no, it’s a hobby not a career,” and now I making my living acting.
TLS: Any particular roles you enjoying playing more than others? If so, why?
I love roles where the character that I’m portraying goes through some sort of monumental change, whether physical, emotional, or circumstantial–when your character starts a show, film, etc. on one course and has done a complete 180 by the end. I love getting to have the challenge of playing two polar opposites in one individual. I tend to lean towards dramatic or action roles, but I was nominated for an Irene Ryan theatre award in college for my work on the period comedy, The Rivals. I really enjoy a role that I can sink my teeth into because I enjoy the emotional process that I go through with that character.
I first met the tello-gals working on Cowgirl Up. I had met the show’s writer, Nancylee Myatt, while working on the second season of the web series We Have To Stop Now and Nancylee brought me on. It was a great experience from the get-go.
TLS: How is I Hate Tommy Finch different from other roles you’ve played?
Well, I’m SO grateful for the opportunity to originate the role of Alyssa–that is probably the biggest difference as far as roles go. I’ve never been an original cast member so working out the moments while having no basis to go off of, trusting the directors, and bringing my own personal experiences to the role has been an incredible experience.
Secondly, the entire concept, from rehearsal to production to web series, is a new experience for me. We Skyped rehearsals, and we’re filming the production for release on tellofilms.com. I’ve never had the opportunity to work in so many different mediums for a single role.
TLS: I read that you came up with the idea for IHTF after seeing Gruesome Playground Injuries. Did you have any part in script writing? Was it a given that you’d be one of the characters?
No, not really. I had the idea to blind gender cast the play Gruesome Playground Injuries after seeing it on Broadway and wanting desperately to be in a production of the show; I had thought–how different the story would be if it was two women. We could not get the rights to produce the show in L.A., so I reached out to Christin at tellofilms because she had mentioned having a non-profit theatre back in the day. The rights were available for Chicago, but we had to write a proposal for why we wanted to cast two women, and what we hoped to accomplish. That was the only writing I did in this whole process.
Before we had even heard that we would not be able to blind-gender cast the show, Christin had teamed up with Jessica and Julie, from King is a Fink, and started writing what would later be called I Hate Tommy Finch. Gruesome is to Tommy Finch as La Boheme is to Rent, art inspiring art.
TLS: With Skype rehearsals, minimal time in Chicago, and a 2-person play, which you age from childhood to your 30s, did you find any of it at all challenging?
It was all challenging, every bit in its own different sort of way, but that is why I act.
I love the struggle. I love experiencing the process, the character’s emotion, etc. Then doing it all over again, differently each time, going through and finding what works for your character, the other character, the moment, as well as the overall arch of the story–it’s a creative experience and I live for it.
Skype was fantastic. We got to have our directors be a part of our rehearsal from thousands of miles away. The biggest difference was the duration of the rehearsal process. Instead of an intensive two or three week rehearsal process, we stretched it out over Chicago visits and Skype rehearsals once a week for a few hours. Technology is making collaborations easier in the artistic community. It’s extremely exciting.
TLS: What’s your pitch on why everyone should see IHTF?
I Hate Tommy Finch is a story that came out of many different stories of different individual’s own experiences that they remembered from childhood throughout adulthood. There are highs and lows, like life, and I believe moments that everyone – male, female, gay, bi, straight – can relate to. It’s art imitating life, complete with it’s own original soundtrack! And it’s fun. I love it, I really do — and if I wasn’t in it I’d be there watching it!
TLS: Have you gotten to see much of Chicago while out here for IHTF, or prior to that? If so, what do you like about the city? What have you seen and done in Chicago?
I have family in Barrington so I have been fortunate to get to explore Chicago prior to the whole tello/Fink collaboration. The two working rehearsal trips were so jam packed that I didn’t get to see much other that our music producer – Kathy Kuras’ – neighborhood during our morning runs, and I got to visit Parlour for our first fundraising event and The Closet with our singer/songstress Sam Grisafe. But I did fly in a couple days early to get some family time and we went to Lynfred Winery for a tour and tasting–such a wonderful, and unexpected surprise here in Chicago. And the whole family went to see my Idol – Sara Bareilles at the Riveria last night. So I’m getting a little R&R before hitting the tech rehearsal grindstone hard Thursday morning. I love Chicago — if I wasn’t such a weather-wimp, I’d definitely think about moving here.
TLS: Any upcoming projects that we should be on the look out for?
I have two feature films that I’m working on, Crossroads, an action-drama in which I play a killer assassin who’s so good that no one knows my name, is in post-production and should be available early next year. And I’m shooting Into The Equinox, a horror/thriller based on Alaskan folklore where I play a country music singer. I have a few songs thanks to the musical talents of Omar Di Brancato, from the indie rock band Carbon9 who’s producing the songs.
Also, my business partner, Rydell Danzie, owner of Ynot/Sin Pelo Entertainment, is currently in talks to work on a comedy feature, music video, and another web series, so lots of new opportunities in the future. Not to mention, I Hate Tommy Finch the web series out early next year on tellofilms.com.
You May Also Like:
Growing up Erica knew she’d be one of two things: 1. A lesbian 2. A writer. Lucky for her, she turned out to be both! After graduating from the University of Central Florida with a degree in Creative Writing, she moved back to the Midwest. In Chicago she found a community, a home, and her wonderful wife. Besides writing for The L Stop, Erica spends her time script writing. She hopes to, one day, write and produce good quality films and plays. If you ever see Erica around, feel free to say hi. She loves meeting new faces.