Playing the Eternal Optimist: An interview with cast member Corey Whelihan

Corey Whelihan Headshot

With rehearsals underway for The Tempest, our marketing director sat down with each of our cast members and asked them to share a little about themselves, their history, and what they love about performing Shakespeare. We are thrilled to bring their stories to you.

Our next interview is with Corey Whelihan, who has recently appeared in Smith Street Stage’s Much Ado About Nothing and Christmas Carol: A Radio Play. This summer, he is playing the role of Gonzalo.


How did you get into theatre, and acting in particular?
Both my parents were actors, so I kind of grew up in the theater. I would often come to rehearsals with one or both parents when they couldn’t get a babysitter. My first show was with my dad when I was four years old. I guess my going in to theater was sort of inevitable.
You’ve done a lot of Shakespeare. What is it about classical theatre, and Shakespeare in particular, that attracts you as an artist?
I love the language of Shakespeare as well as its adaptability. For being over 400 years old, his works continue to be so relevant and applicable to our modern world. There is always new ground to break with it and there are few other other works that have stood the test of time as well. While everyone is familiar with Shakespeare, you can still see new productions of his plays and be surprised.

Your last production with Smith Street Stage was Much Ado About Nothing in 2014. What brings you back to the group this year?  What did you learn last time about performing outside, and are you excited (or nervous) to do it again?
I am so happy to be back working with Smith Street this year. Every time I get the opportunity to work with them, I know I am also getting an opportunity to collaborate with a dynamic and talented group of artists on one of the greatest plays ever written. Performing outdoors is a real treat as well as a challenge. Vocally it can be difficult, but there is something very organic and special about performing outdoors. The fourth wall is broken in a way that being on a proscenium stage with all the lights out just can’t quite replicate. The audience really becomes a part of the world of the play.

How are you approaching the role of Gonzalo in this production of The Tempest?
I see Gonzalo as the eternal optimist. He is the first of those shipwrecked to recognize that something miraculous is happening and he looks to make the best out of even the most dire situation. He is also I think the moral center of the play. While every other character behaves somewhat questionably at times, Gonzalo’s sense of Right seems constant throughout and is held as the standard by which the other members of the court (and thereby society at large) are held to.
Smith Street Stage does a lot of non-traditional casting.  What non-traditional role, Shakespearean or otherwise, would you like to play?
I would love to play the Witch in Into the Woods.
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