“Sweeney Todd”: Interviews with Rashad Roman & Ashlee Grace Chitwood

By: Madeline Schindler

Rashad Roman (left) and Ashlee Grace Chitwood (right) holding their signature items in hand during NHS Drama’s production of “Sweeney Todd.”

The NHS Drama production of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street School Edition” was a complete success.  Audience members lined up an hour in advance to attend the ballad of Sweeney Todd. The show ran from March 19 to March 22 and included a matinee show on March 20.  

The cast and crew of “Sweeney Todd” spent months rehearsing to prepare for the play’s opening. Admittedly, it was no piece of cake, or pie. Ashlee Grace Chitwood and Rashad Roman were two of the lead actors in the play and gave exceptional performances to close out their high school drama careers.

Ashlee Grace Chitwood

Ashlee Grace Chitwood, NHS senior, has been acting for almost a decade now. In the second grade, Ashlee Grace debuted in the Easter Pageant at her church.  

“What appealed to me the most about the performing arts was the ability to tell the audience a story,” Ashlee Grace explained.  

Furthermore, acting presents a variety of experiences to the actor as well as the ability to be someone else, temporarily.

“It’s a rare time when you’re not yourself, you’re someone else,” Ashlee Grace stated. “You get to step outside yourself-body and tell someone else’s story. I think acting is important, because it gives the opportunity to see life from different points of view. You’re not just reading about someone’s life, you’re stepping into their experiences and portraying how they felt through life.”

Ashlee Grace made her stage debut at NHS as part of the company in the 2014 spring musical “Les Miserables.” Ashlee Grace played several different roles within the musical, but her favorite was the factory woman. The role allowed her to take artistic liberty in order to create a convincing character.

Since “Les Miserables,” Ashlee Grace has been highly involved in the Drama department. This past fall, she starred as Mrs. Vaan Dan in “The Diary of Anne Frank.”  Ashlee commented that the role of Mrs. Vaan Dan would most likely have to tie with Mrs. Lovett for difficulty.  

Immediately following the production of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” Ashlee Grace auditioned for the spring musical, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street School Edition.” Shortly after the auditions, the cast list was posted and Ashlee Grace learned that she would be playing Mrs. Lovett.  

“Sweeney Todd” is probably the most notable of Ashlee Grace’s repertoire.  The role of Mrs. Lovett was both vocally and physically demanding to perform.  However, Ashlee Grace perfectly captured her intriguing essence and brought the character to life.  

“By being in more productions I’m able to play different characters and take on different challenges. By continuing to challenge myself in different roles my acting has been able to mature,” Ashlee Grace explained.

“Theatre has been a major highlight of my high school career. Getting involved in theatre has allowed me to meet new people and friends.  Also, theatre is now something I love and wish to continue in the future.”

Ashlee Grace strongly encourages students to become involved in the NHS Drama Department. She explained her process for auditioning and hopes that students may benefit from her suggestions.  

“To prepare for auditions I first make sure I have all the required audition materials memorized. Once I know my song and monologue I begin to add the actual acting part. Making sure I understand who my character is and how they would say the monologue or sing the song is a key part. The most effective way I prepare for an audition is to perform it in front of someone before the audition.”

After high school graduation, Ashlee Grace plans to remain involved in theatre productions.

“I do believe that theatre will continue to be a part of my life,” Ashlee Grace commented.  “Whether I’m in a production or I am leading other students in a production, I plan on still being involved in theatre.”

Rashad Roman

Rashad Roman, NHS senior, became involved in theatre during his sophomore year. Rashad made his stage debut as Judge Wilson in NHS’s production of “1776” in the fall of 2013. The cast was comprised of members of the NHS Men’s Chorus.  

While attending NHS, Rashad has been featured in several chorus performances-concerts.  As a member of Men’s Chorus, Rashad was introduced to theatre.

“Thanks to chorus I became a part of the dramatic arts,” Rashad explained. “I have been doing theatre for three years now and Sweeney Todd is my sixth play.”

This year, Rashad landed the lead role of Sweeney Todd in the NHS Drama Department’s production of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street School Edition.”  Despite the difficulty of the role, Rashad said that Sweeney Todd is his favorite character he’s played as of yet.

Rashad explained that theatre is much more meaningful to him because of the opportunities and friendships it has lead to both on and off the stage.

“Making new friends, who will very soon become family, and just being on the stage and getting the applause at the end is amazing,” he expressed.

Rashad believes that more students should be involved in the dramatic arts during high school.  Speaking from his own personal experience, Rashad says that Drama provides valuable lessons that anyone can benefit from.

“Go to every meeting of the Drama Club, because you will gain a lot from it and have lots of fun. As for the drama classes, you learn so much from a wonderful teacher, and it is too fun. I advise you to take it.   We [focus] on very important plays and writers, and also on how to be a better speaker in front of an audience. Most importantly, to use our creativity.”

Because of his experience with “Sweeney Todd,” Rashad intends to incorporate theatre into his post high school plans.

“Theatre has caused me to make the decision that I want the dramatic arts in my life forever,” Rashad stated. “I have completely fallen in love.”