Hillary Zondlak:  From Power Tools to Tap Dancing

Hillary Zondlak is rocking on The Warehouse Theatre Main Stage for the first time as Columbia in The Rocky Horror Show. Being new to us, but not to Greenville, we were lucky to catch up with her for a few moments and find out what makes her tick in Rocky Horror. Here’s her story.

WHT: We always like to start with this one. Where did you go to school and what degree did you come home with?
Hillary: I majored in International Business and Marketing at the University of South Carolina, and I am very close to completing my MBA from the University of North Carolina. One credit hour left!

WHT: What’s your hometown?
Hillary: I grew up in Atlanta, but I’ve been in Greenville since graduating college, so about 4 years.

WHT: And this is your first show at The Warehouse?
Hillary: Yes. This is my first show at WHT and I couldn’t be more excited about it!

WHT: How does performing such an in-your-face show in an intimate setting like The Warehouse affect your work?
Hillary: Mostly I will try not to terrify anyone with my outrageous facial expressions, which are a holdover from my dance team days.

WHT: How are you preparing yourself for the audience interaction that is guaranteed to come with this show?
Hillary: I’m awful at laughing at anything even slightly funny, so it’s definitely been a challenge to keep a straight face and not break character on stage. Rehearsing with the callbacks has helped, but it can still be really difficult for a giggler like me. Mostly, I’m just planning on incorporating my laughter into the character, as Columbia is pretty giggly as well. Also, a huge part of being a collegiate dance team member is interacting with fans in an authentic yet “in-character” way, so that experience should help me when I’m interacting with specific audience members during the show itself.

WHT: How many times have you caught yourself singing Time Warp in the shower since mid-August?
Hillary: I’m not a shower singer – I sing in the car! But, to answer the question, a lot!

WHT: How many times have you actually seen the movie version?
Hillary: Only twice, actually. My college roommate took me to a showing at USC my freshman year, and then I watched it the day before callbacks.

WHT: Favorite thing about working on a script for the first time?
Hillary: I love how a show can completely change from the first reading to what finally ends up happening on opening night. My ideas for Columbia during our first read are so completely different than what I’m doing now, and it’s the process that makes acting so wonderful.

WHT: What moment in the show has changed the most for you from the beginning of rehearsal until now?
Hillary: Columbia gets a pretty sweet monologue that can be done quite a few different ways. I was originally playing it very serious – it was emotionally draining for me (and I hope the audience). Now, it’s much more comedic and meant to be taken less seriously by the audience, though the feelings are still real for Columbia.

WHT: Greenville’s shows usually run from three to four weeks with appx. 12 performances. What have you done differently this time in order to be physically ready to perform a musical that runs for six weeks and over 30 shows?
Hillary: I’ve found myself saying no to social engagements so I can rest. “Who are you and what did you do with Hillary???”

WHT: Favorite part about this rehearsal process or show’s progress?
Hillary: It has been absolutely fantastic to work with this cast. Everyone is wonderful and genuinely kind. I’ve loved getting to know each and every person and I hope to work with everyone again!

WHT: What is one thing you learned during this process or something you rediscovered?
Hillary: Always expect the unexpected!

WHT: Piece of advice for a virgin audience member coming to see The Rocky Horror Show?
Hillary: HOLD ON TIGHT. Come with an open mind, and bring your best fishnets.

WHT: Piece of advice for someone who has seen it a number of times?
Hillary: Please don’t hit me with anything you throw on stage!

WHT: This show is good ole rock and roll. What’s your favorite song in the show and why?
Hillary: I love Hot Patootie. It’s fun to jam and rock out to, plus I get to yell a lot at the end.

WHT: If Matt Reece suddenly couldn’t break away from his auction-addiction and refused to perform in the show this Saturday, who would you want for the Narrator?
Hillary: Kanye. Just…Kanye.

WHT: Favorite production ever with which you physically worked?
Hillary: I think my favorite thus far was Legally Blonde: The Musical at GLT, specifically the number “Whipped Into Shape.” For those not familiar with the show, it’s one with jump ropes and jump rope tricks. I’ve danced my whole life, but this was by far the most difficult dance I’ve done. After our first rehearsal we had all been accidentally hit so many times it looked like we had been beaten, but the final show was well worth it.

WHT: What’s your favorite experience in a theatre?
Hillary: There’s only one show I’ve ever paid to see twice, and that was The Big Bang with the Horizon Theatre Company in Atlanta. My family saw it while I was in high school, and we will still bring it up to this day because we were literally falling on the floor laughing. “Free fruit and frontal nudity, it must be paradise!”

WHT: What is your favorite part of being an actor?
Hillary: I love how performing makes me feel alive.

WHT: Is there someone’s work that you greatly enjoy? Or sort of admire?
Hillary: I really admire Sheryl Sandberg and her work on women’s equality in the business world.

WHT: Do you have a routine that you go through before a performance or a show superstition?
Hillary: I’m not very superstitious, but I’m paranoid, so I’ll check my props at least 3 times before “places” and I am constantly refreshing my lipstick whenever I am off stage.

WHT: Favorite part about being in the arts in Greenville?
Hillary: I’ve found my second family in the theatre community. Everyone is so welcoming, and it’s a true community – we help each other, support each other, and are always there for one another.

WHT: Do you have other jobs outside of acting?
Hillary: I’m a Product Manager for Ryobi power tools, which basically means I get paid to play with power tools all day long and travel the country/world teaching people about them. Not too shabby!

WHT: Any question you haven’t been asked that you want to be asked? If so, what?
Hillary: This is the second time ever I’ve tapped in a performance, so, be nice! (Hillary draws a smiley face here.)

See Hillary Zondlak as Columbia in The Rocky Horror Show playing through Halloween midnight!