By Todd Travis
Debut of “Coping with Autumn”
Theatre Unchained will be making its debut on May 13 with its inaugural performance of “Coping with Autumn.” Center Grove resident, Rachel Snyder will play the part of Autumn’s mother, who helps bring to light some of the issues Autumn is facing. Snyder has lived on the Southside of Indianapolis for 17 years and has been doing theatre here for the last five. She had done some theatre in Ohio before moving to Indianapolis but didn’t meet anyone in the Indianapolis theatre circle until she began working with the Indiana Historical Society downtown. Since then, she’s done performances such as “Merchant of Venice,” “Hamlet” and “The Pillowman.” “It’s been nice to get back into theatre. I’ve made a lot of friends and connections because of it.” Snyder noted. “It’s also been nice to get back to in-person performances after doing online performances for a while due to the pandemic.”
A Cleveland native’s life in Center Grove
Both of Snyder’s kids are in the Center Grove school system. Her son participates in band, and her daughter has followed in her footsteps doing some acting herself. So far, her daughter has starred in “E-I-E-I-Oops” as Duck #2 and in “Pillowman.” She is building her resumé even though she’s only in fourth grade. Growing up in near the Cleveland area, Snyder considers herself more of a city mouse and has had to adjust to the quietness that comes with living in the Center Grove area. “When I let my dog out at night it’s deathly quiet and while most people find that to be peaceful, I find it a little unsettling,” Snyder joked. She has come to enjoy living in the Southside area despite her reservations about the quieter nights.
Snyder’s key role as Autumn’s mother
Snyder has found “Coping with Autumn” to be a highly moving performance. “It has a lot of deep topics in it but also moments of levity which cut through the heaviness,” she explained. “My character tends to cope with things by using humor – she makes everything light and funny even when it’s not supposed to be,” she laughed. “I think it’s a performance that most people will be able to take something away from. Many of us have dealt with the issues covered in the performance or at least know someone close to us who have.” Snyder had done a reading for the play back in 2020 and didn’t realize that she would eventually play the part on stage. One particular scene really resonates with Snyder as she thinks about her own kids as she is performing. “I end up just balling through the scene. I would love to say that I’m a phenomenal actor and that it’s just acting but as a parent, sometime some of those things just hit me hard,” she shared.
Navigating the pandemic
The inaugural has been a long time coming as it was originally delayed by the pandemic. Megan Ann Jacobs, founder and creative director of Theatre Unchained, has shared how difficult the journey has been as she navigated the unprecedented circumstances of the pandemic. The timing, however, has seemed to line up as the debut approaches. “Dealing with the pandemic has hurt the arts in a way that no one could have predicted. But while there’s been cancellations, there’s been closings, there’s been theaters going under, there’s also been a renaissance happening behind the scenes. No one wants to go down without a fight and we’re all excited to have these tough conversations with other theaters doing great things and working together, because together we all rise,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs can now see the silver lining that came with having to delay the performance, as hard as that was for her. “The postponement has actually been a blessing in disguise. This show really focuses on three major themes – mental health, domestic violence and sexual assault which are all very tough topics but they’re important. The pandemic really added another level to the awareness of these topics as everyone was forced to go home and shelters were closing, and resources are drying up. Options that are already limited for people in those circumstances got a lot more complicated really quickly,” she explained. In addition, because of the delay the show now will debut during Sexual Assault Awareness Month and just before National Mental Health Awareness Month. “We’re really blessed that we’re able to bring some of these issues to light. You’re going to get a really authentic look at Autumn and how easy it is to get wrapped up and how complicated things can become when you’re in that situation,” Jacobs said.
The show will have six performances including its debut on May 13 and the final show on May 21. For those with friends or family in the Deaf and hearing-impaired community, an ASL interpreter will be provided during the performance on May 15. All performances will be at the Arts for Lawrence Theatre at the Fort stage. For more info and to buy tickets you can visit: theatreunchained.org/inagural-season