Sims Hall: From Falls Park to the Main Stage

You would have to work hard not to love Sims Hall. And even then, we don’t think you could do it. Having rocked the boards in Falls Park in our Upstate Shakespeare Festival productions, Sims takes to the Main Stage for her debut in The Rocky Horror Show. Another one of our Clemson brood, she enjoys taking audiences on a “phantomtastic” journey in Rocky. Here’s your chance to get to know her offstage.

WHT: You are still in school, correct?
Sims: Yes. Junior at Clemson University, pursuing BA in Production Studies in Performing Arts with an emphasis in Theatre!

WHT: Where are you from originally?
Sims: Greenville! Moved here when I was 4. I live in Clemson now, but Greenville will always be home.

WHT: What’s your favorite production you’ve ever worked?
Sims: Annie at the South Carolina Children’s Theatre in 2008. I was one of the orphans, and it was the most demanding and rewarding show I’ve been a part of until now. Rocky has trumped it, in the best way! But Annie is what really sparked my love for musical theatre.

WHT: Favorite experience in a theatre as an actor, tech, audience member, director, or anything?
Sims: Upstate Shakespeare Festival will always be a theatrical experience I hold close to my heart. Being a part of such a strong tradition for this city has been so special the past two summers. John Fagan is the most fearless director I’ve ever worked with in terms of taking chances, and I will forever admire him and thank him for that.

WHT: What’s your favorite part of being an actor?
Sims: My favorite part of being an actor is the days off in between performances during a run when I’m missing being on stage. It’s my favorite reminder of how much I love doing this.

WHT: Is there someone’s work that you greatly enjoy or admire?
Sims: My acting professor, Kerrie Seymour, hands down. Anytime I get to see Kerrie physically do what she teaches us in the classroom is so special. She is one of the most honest artists I’ve ever encountered.

WHT: Person you haven’t worked with yet in any capacity that’s still on your wish list?
Sims: I’m dying to be directed by Kerrie or Shannon Robert. Again, seeing the both of them put to work what they teach us every day is always incredible. It takes a special person to teach and stay 100% true to what they teach. Kerrie and Shannon both do that on a daily basis.

WHT: Person that has influenced your acting, stage management, or process the most?
Sims: I did my first show ever at the SC Children’s Theatre in 2003. I was one of the Oompa Loompas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Will Ragland played Willy Wonka. It’s been over 10 years since I met and worked with Will for the first time and he is still my greatest inspiration. Not only is he one of the most talented human beings I know, but also all that he has accomplished has never benefited just him. He always works for the good of others. He has changed so much for so many people in such a short amount of time and constantly reminds so many of us in the Upstate why we do what we do.

WHT: Routine that you go through before a performance?
Sims: I laugh at this question because I ran cross-country in high school, and my stretching routine I used before races has followed me all the way to using it before shows today. I’m also really paranoid about drinking water or coffee before a show. I have to have just enough in my system, but there’s nothing I hate more than having to go to the bathroom in the middle of a performance!

WHT: What is it with you Clemson students having to go to the bathroom during a show??? Chris Berry just told me he works it into his routine, too! You are a strange bunch. Anyway…what is you favorite part about being in the arts in Greenville?
Sims: The amount of growth that this city has experienced over time makes me so happy! I’m thankful to not only have witnessed so much of it growing up in Greenville but to have been even some small part of it here and there along the way. I’m also thankful that because I’m only 45 minutes up the road at Clemson now, I still get to be a part of it. It is truly something special.

WHT: How does performing such an in-your-face show in an intimate setting like The Warehouse affect your work?
Sims: It’s so different and I love it. Ever since I got to Clemson, the majority of the work I’ve gotten to do has happened in a black-box setting. For me, the closer I am to the audience, the further I am out of my comfort zone. Rocky has pushed me even further in that direction because we’re singing and dancing, too.

WHT: How are you preparing yourself for the audience interaction that is guaranteed to come with this show?
Sims: While we’ve been given choreography, the good bit of interacting that the phantoms are doing with the audience involves a degree of improv. In terms of preparation for this, I’ve found that it’s a matter of planning what you’re going to do but also letting whatever happens, happen once you’re out there. Audience interaction is a two-way street, so you need to be able to give the audience something and also take what they give you.

WHT: How many times have you caught yourself singing Time Warp in the shower since mid-August?
Sims: Countless. And not just in the shower. In fact, upon answering this question it is now stuck in my head. Thanks!

WHT: How did your research for the show affect your performance?
Sims: The biggest way research impacted my performance is on my movement choices. When Rick came to us with his plan to stick to a more classic interpretation of Rocky, I translated that through our choreography and physicality on stage. The phantoms kind of linger around most everything that happens on stage, so our physical presence is extremely important.

WHT: How many times have you actually seen the movie version?
Sims: I’ve only seen the movie once: I watched it when I decided I was going to audition.

WHT: How much did the iconic movie portrayals of the characters mean to / affect your choices on stage?
Sims: While the movie portrayals of the phantoms may not be considered “iconic”…drawing from them definitely set the mood for many of our interactions with each other. The way I see it, the phantoms are just creepy party animals who don’t want to miss out on anything. They go with the flow. Once we were all able to kind of meet on that wavelength, it actually became a party. It’s been so much fun.

WHT: Favorite thing about working on a script for the first time?
Sims: I love that the script is written to accommodate the audience interaction that comes with the show. Along with that, it gives us more room to make bigger choices with our characters.

WHT: Moment in the show that has changed the most for you from the beginning of rehearsal until now?
Sims: For me, all of the more rigorous dance numbers, like Time Warp, Hot Patootie, and Floor Show, started off as more tasking and challenging because the goal was to remember the moves and make it all look clean and sharp. Now that the choreography is more engrained in my body, I’m able to have more fun with it. And in turn, so is the audience.

WHT: Greenville’s shows usually run from three to four weeks with approximately 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?
Sims: I’ve learned to make sleep my biggest priority when it comes to my physical health. Naps have become a much greater part of my life. I’ve been drinking a lot of hot water with lemon and honey. Thank you, Chris Berry (Brad) for introducing me to this to take care of my voice. I also got my tonsils out the week before we began rehearsals, and my new throat has been a champ.

WHT: Favorite part about this rehearsal process or show’s progress?
Sims: My favorite part of this show has been the people. The past few years I have seen Miranda (Magenta), Matthew (Riff Raff), and Matt (Narrator) do some pretty amazing things on The Warehouse stage. I have remained so excited to be working with them and am continuing to learn so much from them. Being with my classmates from Clemson has been wonderful, too. Chris (Brad), James (Rocky), Claire (Phantom) and Alessandro (Assistant Director) have been my rocks and the best carpool ever for the past month. I couldn’t have done this without them.

WHT: One thing you learned during this process or something you rediscovered?
Sims: The biggest lesson I’ve learned during this process is that if you’re given the chance, you can make any role your own. I am a good foot shorter than the other four phantoms in the show. At the beginning of the rehearsal process, I saw that I had a choice: I could either fall into the shadows of my taller cast mates, or I could let myself stick out. Silly as this all sounds, I chose the latter. Now I spend a lot of time crawling around on stage.

WHT: Thank you for representing us short folks up there on that stage. We all thank you. Any piece of advice for a virgin audience member coming to see The Rocky Horror Show?
Sims: Keep an open mind…and if you come up with a callback, YELL IT as loud as you can!

WHT: This show is good ole rock and roll. What’s your favorite song in the show and why?
Sims: Definitely Hot Patootie. It epitomizes the good ole rock and roll feeling of the show as a whole. It’s such a feel-good, high-energy song and the choreography is So. Much. Fun. The cast and the audience both have a blast with it.

WHT: If Matt Reece suddenly couldn’t break away from his auction-addiction and refused to perform in the show this Saturday, who…and you can pick anyone in this world…would you want for the Narrator?
Sims: Ellen DeGeneres. Her responses to the call-outs from the audience would trump every single one of them.

See Sims Hall on our stage as one of the mighty Phantoms in The Rocky Horror Show playing through Halloween midnight!