Lewis Easter is a trained actor/dance from The Urdang Academy (First class BA Hons Degree) that is currently appearing in Wonderland The UK tour.
Lewis kindly agreed to let me interview him about what its like being a swing in a UK tour and the demands that go with the role.
You can follow lewis on twitter at : @LewisEasterUK
Lewis you are currently a Swing in the UK tour Wonderland, firstly how are you finding it so far?
I am having such a great time! It’s a brand new version of the show and as with any new musical it is constantly evolving. We’ve had lots of script changes, music changes, costumes, choreography and as a swing this doesn’t just impact me for one track, but everyone that I cover. It’s a massive challenge but a great one to have risen to and I am loving it! Not a lot of people realise the demands swings have in a production. What is it like being a swing in a big UK tour, possibly being put on stage at any moment? My first job was as a swing in the UK Tour of Barnum so at the moment I don’t know much different! With my previous job I joined the cast halfway through the tour so I learnt the show with the dance captain over six morning sessions and was put in to the show on the day after for the show in the evening. I was in my element, learning flips and juggling and even stilt walking! I am lucky my cast are so supportive and Collette Guitart, the female swing on Wonderland would help me with anything if I needed it. Compared to Barnum, I had the whole rehearsal process for Wonderland so it has been so much easier to learn and I was in the room when the original work was being created.
So apart from it being a hard job what is the most exciting thing about being a swing?
I enjoy having to think about what I’m doing all the time. It is easy to get very comfortable performing the same track every night and you can quickly forget the extremes you were pushing yourself to when you first learnt the show. For a swing this rarely happens and every time you get to go on stage, it is unique and a special one. I was recently Tweedle Dum for 3 weeks and then next day I was on for Tweedle Dee, so I effectively had to do a completely opposite show. It’s hard yes, but all I think is ‘I have to do it or what else would happen and this is what I have been employed to do’ and it keeps my mind buzzing and as some people would say it keeps me ‘in college mode’.
Do you think that training at one of the leading Drama and Dance Academies helped you to get to where you are now?
Absolutely. I had only been performing for a few years and didn’t even know these places existed until I was 16. Urdang pushed me so much and I look back at my training as one of the most invaluable experiences of my life. I arrived in my first year having never been surrounded by many people who wanted to do this as a career, and all of sudden you are with so many people who do, but are all also amazing at it. I wasn’t the best in my year, I didn’t get chosen for things straight away so I had to work hard. My degree year had 44 people in it when I started, and it ended up being around 35 by the end of the 3 years. It’s not all fun and games (well, it is quite fun!), but you have to be prepared to be up at 7am and home at 8pm to then spend what’s left of your evening writing essays at home and going over what you’ve done that day at college and I think this is when it becomes your life, not just something you enjoy doing in your spare time. The best thing to happen to me was to be thrown into the deep end when I graduated. You learn so many lessons and skills from performers around you who have been doing this for so many years. I think everyone would agree that that’s something that a drama school can’t teach you. Learning on the job is some of the best training you will ever get.
I think we are all dying to know what is auditioning for a musical in the professional industry like? Do you have any lucky routines you do before you go?
Well it’s quite scary! I always get very nervous. For others, they walk into an audition so relaxed as if they’re going to get a coffee from Starbucks. I quickly realised that it was a completely different world- you’re not in the college bubble anymore and you aren’t competing against your friends. You’re up against people who generally at a glance, look exactly like you.. and there’s 30 of them in the room all auditioning for the same part (and most likely have been auditioning for a few years already). I never know what to expect from an audition. For Barnum I had 1 day of auditioning and got the job, whereas with other shows I’ve been going back and forth for 3 months to then get a no in the final round. As long as you are prepared and give your best what more can you do. I’ve been distraught at getting a no, calling my mum and saying I don’t want to do it anymore, then the next day my agent rings me with another audition and I’m back on the phone to my mum pretending it never happened. As for lucky rituals, I don’t! I always always always get there half an hour early which never helps my nerves. I wear a necklace my sister bought me- I used to think it was lucky then it broke in a recent audition so I think that ended that theory!
What is it like being on a UK tour that travels to so many different venues? Can it be stressful?
I love it! I love being in a new city and new theatre every week! I get to explore so many places I’ve never been before and especially finding a good brunch spot! The only thing I don’t like is packing up my life every Saturday to move to the next place. I make a thing of unpacking my stuff as soon as I get to my digs so I’m not living out of a suitcase.
And finally we couldn’t go without asking this! What is your favourite musical/play that you have seen?
‘Sleep No More’ at the McKittrick Hotel NYC. It’s more of a theatrical experience than a play or a musical, but after seeing it, it’s now my dream job!
Thank you so much Lewis for taking the time to answer my questions and I wish you well on the rest on your tour the Wonderland.