For some, Drama starts as an elective and stays an elective. While for others, it becomes a possibility, a future, a dream. This is what happened with 4B Theatre and Performance student Trevor Sinke, who performs his swan song as Mustard in Mustard this week before bidding adieu to the university stage and setting out into the world to spread his wings theatrically.
The beginning of Sinke’s tryst with theatre can be traced back to when his high school drama teacher asked him to stand in for another actor who’d dropped out of an upcoming production. He was only part of the ensemble and had no lines, but the brief time he spent on stage was enough to get him hooked.
Sinke became a regular enrollee in the drama club after that and as the years progressed, his involvement and responsibilities with production did too. By his fourth year, he’d struck a double-whammy — playing the lead in an original co-written story, Annabel Lee.
“The lights beaming down on you [feels] like the sun is two feet away shining down on your face. I love being able to tell a story to an audience — I get a lot of joy from that. And being on stage and acting with other people [is] such a fascinating dynamic because we’ve done so much work to get to this point and to finally see it come to fruition and be a full production is satisfying. It’s fulfilling to be in that moment and create memories, not only for myself but for everybody who’s watching,” he said.
Finales are always defining, and for Sinke, his final high school performance cemented his interest in acting. “I knew that I wanted to do it when I was part of the ensemble, but getting an actual full speaking role with a lot of time on stage, I felt an energy I wanted to keep pursuing. That’s sort of why I knew I wanted to become a performer,” he said.
Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. It’s a similar process in acting — time and experience teach you things no textbook can. Sinke’s first performance at UW, in Fall 2018, was Tomorrow Love. It was his first taste of an actual full-scale production with large budgets and dedicated departments for every aspect of the show. Sinke’s last performance at UW is Mustard where he embodies an imaginary friend who has overstayed his welcome. From Tomorrow Love to Mustard, Sinke has chipped away at role after role to maximize his potential.
It’s easy to imagine actors just launching into character on stage. But there are several processes involved in portraying a character on stage, telling a story, and doing it justice. One of these is scaffolding — treating the character like a person you’re getting to know. Finding out the details about them, from their age to the features of their childhood.
“You have to invest research into the background of a character, investigate the experiences that have made them into the person they are. For instance, for Mustard, you have to explore what experiences he’s had as an imaginary person. Did he first exist when he was given to Thai? What is his relationship with Thai? What has he learned? …It flushes out the character and deepens the connection from them to me and my ability to portray them, to have those experiences at the back of my mind, to be true to whom they are based on [and] what I know about them,” Sinke said.
The next is the invisible line that distinguishes the actor from the character, the person from the actor. The line beyond which the actor’s problems aren’t those of his personal life, but those of the character he’s embodying.
“Imagine there’s an invisible line at the entrance. Before that line is you and all of your problems and all of your worries, and all of the things that are stressing you out. Inhale and visualize [them]. As you exhale, step over the line and forget about them. You enter into the space as who you are in the world of the play,” he explains.
Every role comes with its challenges, and Mustard’s wasn’t any different. Sinke had to return to being a child after being an adult, being immature after being mature, being uninhibited, having one face.
“When we go do things in the real world, we often think about what other people think of [us], and that affects how [we] approach things. Whereas with children and with Mustard, he doesn’t care — it’s not even something he thinks about. He just is Mustard. There’s no second face he puts on for different people. Removing [those faces] and staying as one true face was a difficult and really informative process,” he said.
“I’m grateful to be playing Mustard because I understand him and I think my emotional parallels with [him] will offer the ability for the audience to find the emotions of not connecting with others, having too much fun when you’re not supposed to or being scared [of] something that’s not scary,” he added.
What does he hope the audience will feel watching him play Mustard? Joy. Love. That they will recognize a friendly little imaginary dude who loves everything, and can’t keep that love to himself. Recognize his struggle to find connection, to leave, and to let go. Recognize that everyone in the world just wants to feel loved, connected and like they belong.
To watch Sinke’s swan song, you can buy tickets to Mustard, running from March 23-26 at the Theatre of the Arts. Tickets are priced at $15 for General Public, $10 for Students and Seniors and $5 via eyeGO. You can get your tickets at the box office by calling 519-888-4908 or visiting the box office website.