Updated: Jan 27, 2020
Riley Leonard is an actor, playwright, director, and designer who also serves as the Director of Development for Monument. Like the rest of Monument’s company, Riley received his training at Indiana State University and was there for the birth of the company.
MONUMENT: Ok, Riley. We’re just gonna start with some warm-up questions. Sound good?
RILEY LEONARD: Sounds great, let’s do it!
M: Alright. First things first: what is your favorite color?
RL: Blue. Cobalt blue.
M: Favorite food?
RL: Anything covered in BBQ.
M: Do you like BBQ pizza?
RL: Especially BBQ pizza.
M: What’s your favorite season or time of year?
M: Why’s that?
RL: Perfect time for camping, the air smells great, the weather’s good-- not as wet and rainy as spring. At least not around here.
M: Are you a sports fan at all?
RL: Not really. I do follow the olympics though. Especially any kind of one-(wo)man sport. I really feel like it raises the stakes, a true championship.
M: Do you watch the World Cup?
RL: No, I don’t.
M: You might have to check that out, you know, every four years…
RL: Yeah, yeah you’re right. I’d probably love that.
M: Coffee or tea?
RL: Coffee. It’s more caffeinated and I enjoy the bolder, richer flavor of coffee.
M: Do you prefer it hot or iced?
RL: It depends on the season. If it’s hot out I’ve gotta have it iced. If it’s cold out, need it hot. Strike that balance.
M: Cat or dog?
RL: Dog. I feel like you can do a lot more with a dog. It’s not that I don’t like cats, in my experience dogs just have a little more personality to them.
M: What are some other hobbies or interests of yours outside of theatre?
RL: I love getting on YouTube and searching through interesting videos. Or just researching online about anything I happen to be interested in. I love reading articles, listening to NPR-- I actually love watching/reading the news. I’m really just an old person.
M: Where would be a dream vacation?
RL: Anywhere tropical. I love the weather and the atmosphere. For some reason it seems like people are more laid back in warmer climates, if that makes any sense?
M: What do you admire in people?
RL: Someone who is genuine and true to themselves.
M: What do you despise in people?
RL: A complete lackthereof. When they’re disingenuous and put on airs. I just think that’s so… insecure. Yeah.
M: What’s a quality that charms you in a person?
M: Where are you from?
RL: Indianapolis, but I also lived in Columbus.
M: When did you move to Columbus?
RL: Around when I was fifteen.
M: A formative time. Is there anything about where you lived that may have shaped your worldview?
RL: Oh, yeah. For one thing it offered me a lot of perspective. Columbus seems far more traditional of a town. Growing up in Indy, where the city seemed to be more liberal-minded, and then moving to Columbus offered me perspective on both sides of the map, if you will.
M: When did you develop an interest in theatre?
RL: Probably when I was in middle school, when I did my first play. I just thought it was a lot of fun. We did… I think it was called Run for the Money, I actually forget which character I played but it was a lot of fun.
M: When did you decide that theatre was what you wanted to do with your life?
RL: Um… probably when I was a senior in high school. You know, when you’ve gotta decide what you want to do with the rest of your life-- which, you know, is a lot of pressure when you’re a senior in high school. (Laughs) Theatre was the only thing that I was really interested in at the time and it was something I had been doing for a while, so, why not keep doing it for the rest of my life?
M: So you go to college and major in theatre. Was there ever a time along the way where perhaps you weren’t so sure this was for you?
RL: Yeah, yeah. A lot of times when I feel like I’m doing enough I feel stagnant and that I’m not finding opportunities and then I start to feel like I’m not cut out for this. And then there are other times where you just start to feel like an imposter. You know, “Am I really a theatre person?” or “Am I really interested in theatre?” because what I want from or am interested in theatre seemed to be different from what those around me wanted.
M: Were there any specific instances that affirmed your belief in theatre and your place in it?
M: Or even challenged your beliefs?
RL: Yeah, um… probably when I finally started to get involved in student directed work. Or when I was doing some shows at Theater 7, where I really was just starting to kind of develop my own process. And I finally felt successful in doing that and it was probably then that I felt more affirmed in my beliefs-- in myself and my place in theatre.
M: What are the kind of stories you tend to gravitate to?
RL: Anything that has to do with the human condition. Any story that investigates that part of humanity that isn’t gonna change any time soon. I think the, you know, bigger picture ideas are what really attract me and I think that those stories are really why I’m doing what I’m doing in the first place.
M: Are you drawn to the same stories as an audience member?
RL: Oh, yeah. Yeah I’m really not interested in the commercialized brand of theatre. It’s really gotta be something more profound for me.
M: What’s a favorite play.
RL: Of Mice and Men. It offers a lot of substance and insight in the human condition.
M: What role do you think theatre plays in the modern world?
RL: I think right now it’s place is very political. I don’t know if that’s been caused by recent events or if it sort of just evolved that way with our society but there’s a lot going on right now that needs to be addressed and theatre happens to assume the role of whatever society needs most at a given time.
M: Where do you think theatre will be in the future?
RL: My hope is that we evolve into something less overtly political and more story-based. You know, more investigations of the human condition.
M: Let’s transition to Wolf. What about this play excites you?
RL: The opportunity to be involved in a play that is challenging and relevant. That forces the audience to engage in the given circumstances and weave through the same fractured realities and battles that Elise does. I’m also really excited to be playing a character with such a wide range as Danny. It’s super challenging and finding those little moments where he no longer appears to be as he once seemed are really satisfying.
M: Is your character like you in any way?
RL: It’s hard to say. Elise is an unreliable narrator, and, at least in the eyes of the audience, she really shapes the perception of Danny. I think that there are some elements of him that do resonate with me though.
M: Would you say it’s more or less challenging to play someone like yourself?
RL: That’s tricky. It really just depends on the specific character. What’s exciting about Danny is that there’s just enough there to recognize myself in him but he’s vastly different otherwise, which presents a great challenge as an actor to bring his incongruencies to life.
M: Outside of yourself, of course, who do you think is going to blow people away?
RL: Raven Newbolt, hands down. She’s so committed and willing to make herself totally vulnerable onstage. There’s a lot of trust that is required to do that, especially to the extent she has to, and it makes for a perfect scene partner. Beyond that, she’s so talented and what she’s able to do onstage in any part is going to be remarkable-- but this is especially true as Elise.
M: Is there anything you’d like the audience to take away from Wolf?
RL: This is a play that requires the audience to consider and discuss. I think this is a hard-hitting story but it’s one that could do a lot of good and I honestly would be happy with sparking some understanding among our audience.
M: As always, the final question: in a hundred years, what would you like to be remembered for?
RL: Man, I don't know! (Laughs) Um... Honestly if people could remember me as someone who was genuine, passionate, and wholly committed to my craft I think that would be enough.
Now you know Riley! You can see him in person in our upcoming production of Hers is the Head of a Wolf at the 2018 IndyFringe Festival in the Indy Eleven Stage! For tickets and more information, visit www.indyfringe.org! Subscribe to our newsletter for more from our Get to Know series as well as all other updates from Monument!
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