And the Stars of the Play

Finally, 1:1 interviews with the stars of “A Pest Control Affair,” Stephanie Slayton and Bryan Headrick (although many really dug Pest Control, Phil 😆), when we hit the stage on Thursday, February 2nd 2023 as planned at Hyde Park Theatre in Austin, Texas, and as part of Scriptwork’s Frontera Fest 2023 – their 28th annual year! (Like, I could see Phil having his own Instagram account.)

But before we could go live at Frontera Fest, there were two evenings of productions that were cancelled. Scriptworks scrambled to get productions rescheduled and in the meantime, we did great on opening night but did not snag a position in the Best of Week. I started licking my wounds right away, because we still have a chance at #WildCardNight, which is one evening of five, great productions which, for whatever reason, did not go forward on their Best of Week.

And all of this is to remind you that I had no power for two days; and that plus the wound licking is why I’m behind on sharing these final 1:1 interviews with Stephanie Slayton as THE WIFE and Bryan Headrick as THE HUSBAND, Hook. I’ll begin these in the order that the interviews occurred:

But first, Bryan . . .

Bryan Headrick as THE HUSBAND, Hook

Bryan’s 1:1 interview:

Bryan on Backstage:

Bryan Headrick plays the lovable yet unknowing (lead) entomologist in “A Pest Control Affair”. He is a full-time actor and performer (stage, voice) and can la-de-da his way through a song but do not expect to hear him recording an album any time soon.  /Head-rick/ like Fedrick.

He’s been in Austin since 1990 and he originally spent some time at the University of Texas at Austin [as a theatre student] then at St. Edward’s University [as a theatre student]. Bryan then went out on his own because academic programs that required learning math and chemistry were a “No thank you” for him. Brian was on campus at St. Edward’s during Hook’s tenure, but he did not have a freshmen biology course with him nor did he hear ramblings of “terrifying” Dr. Hook as he was called in an endearing memorial testament on the day that he died and shared via YNN Austin (go to 00:45): )

But we are not here for sadness but gladness because Bryan has an interesitng tie to Hyde Park Theatre: in 2007, Hyde Park Theatre (HPT) hosted his wedding! He set-up the marriage ceremony like a theatrical production which included a bona fide stage manager for the sound and light cues. When he attended the open house at HPT earlier in January 2023 [for all production casts] that was his first time returning to that particular stage. Oddly enough, this is where we started our interview because I love Bryan’s energy. He could power the state of Texas with it or at least Austin for sure, and we bounched around a lot while still talking about some important things.

Q. How did you choose Hyde Park Theatre as a marriage venue?

A. It was an easy solution for two sets of families from different religious backgrounds, and the perfect way to honor a ceremony of two theatre lovers.

Q. Are you a voiceover artist as well?

A.  The voiceover industry is a tough nut to crack. It’s always been a world onto itself and hard to get into. Technology does allow us to create our own voiceover studios using our closets (showers even, maybe?) using equipment that you can buy over the internet. This opens things up to people that might not have access to a sound studio [for whatever reason] to do recordings. Bryan has taken classes and started to dip his toes into this industry.  His delight with cartoon characters that most of us know from being a child are usually done by voiceover artists. It’s not until we get older that we realize all the work that goes into making those characters a success.

Q.  How did you get started in commercials and what is that process like?

A. Some of the entry [into commercials] came during the covid time period, because everyone had to get used to working remotely. And even with commercials, you’re still telling a story. A recent commercial that Bryan did not get was for erectile dysfunction.

Some useful resources for those trying to penetrate these industries are Casting Networks and Backstage, because they eliminate the old-school way of having to print hundreds of headshot photos or acting resumes. In some ways, acting was exclusionary if someone did not have the money to pay for the use of such services and the printed materials generated from those services. Today, someone new to the industry can do more with less [money].

Q.  Do you actually audition online?

A.  Yes. You submit yourself for an acting job that you’re interest in then wait back to get invited to audition.  The Austin acting market is growing and becoming bigger and more inclusive.

Q.  Is Austin still weird?

A.  Yes. Just go look at Frontera Fest and you’ll see just how weird. (That’s the best promotion for the festival!) It takes nerve to go out there on stage.

Q. Commercials versus Theatre

A.  Commercials are fun things to do that if you want to make your living as an actor – that’s one way to do it.

Q. You’ve been on a lot of different sets . . . What’s been the strangest production that you’ve ever been in?

A.  After Bryan moved out of Austin and before returning, he lived in New York City. One of his support jobs was as a backstage hand. He worked on an off-broadway musical called, Naked Boys Singing, and it was about naked boys who sang. Part of Bryan’s job was to open the curtain, which was designed as pants with a zipper down the middle, at the start of the musical. The curtain zipper was supposed to come down and audience would then see seven good-looking, naked men. The actors’ hands were over their “junk” in the Adam fig-leaf pose. 

This was a mainstream show which was originally marketed to the gay community, and it became a big hit with the New Jersey bachelorette party crowd. These Jersey women would enter with their [phallic paraphernalia] and listen to this naked cast sing songs about body positivity, being vulnerable on stage, and about accepting yourself. The cast was “delightful” in their “full monty.” The theatre itself was falling apart and there was raw sewage leakage and cockroaches galore.  “An infestation, baby.” (This is an inside joke, however, if you come to the play, it’ll all make sense!)

Q. Do you have a favorite insect and/or is there an insect that gives you the heebie jeebies.

A.  Growing up, Bryan’s mother used to read to him every night from the book, The Giant Jam Sandwich. The story is about how one million and one wasps swoop into a town and the townspeople have to come together to figure out how to get rid of these wasps. Each townsperson used their individual skills to contribute to building a giant jam sandwich so the wasps would fly into the jam, get stuck and be trapped.

A two-year old Bryan thus grew up with a lifelong fear of wasps and now he is playing the part of real-life entomologist Dr. Allan W. Hook aka Dr. Wasp to his former students and a world-renowned scientist and discoverer of new species of insects (two of which are wasps). The adult Bryan appreciates wasps more today especially their pollinating duties. And, he has never been stung by a bee or a wasp. He does not have a favorite insect and he prefers them to be far away. “Their sheer number” is a bit unnerving to him, because he’s of the belief that if insects wanted to, they could wipe humans off the face of the earth.

(FUN FACT: If all insects were destroyed, Homo sapiens would begin to die off in biblical proportions within 72 hours. However, if all Home sapiens were eliminated from earth, insects would thrive. You deduce the conclusion on your own.)

Bryan sort of has an affinity for scorpions especially as they carry their young on their back. “They’re adorable in a terrifying way.” He also likes spiders because they eat mosquitoes. (Yes! Everything needs to eat!!)

Here’s what Bryan has coming up:

  • He will be filming with a t.v. show, “Killer Relationship”.  There’s a big market for re-enactments of true crimes and Bryan has been hired to be part of that series:
  • Bryan also spends a lot of his time working with simulations particularly with UT Dell Medical Center and The University of St. Augustine. Universities incorporate training/live simulations into their programs to help their medical students with their “people skills.” Actors like Brian are hired to act as patients with fictitious medical problems so that medical students can learn how to deal with real humans. The actors in these roles are indirectly “teaching empathy as they try to get students to think about what it’s like to be in their patient’s shoes.”

Next up is Stephanie Slayton . . .

Stephanie Slayton as THE WIFE

And the star of our show, Stephanie Slayton! I’m not sure if Stephanie is comfortable with me calling her the star but she’s the only character in every scene. The synopsis of the play, though, reads like the Husband, Hook is the star but really it’s her but really it’s them! (See what I did there?)

Click to watch Stephanie’s 1:1 interview or scroll to read:

Stephanie Slayton has been acting in Austin for the past 12 years. She considers herself more of a storyteller who chooses to tell stories tied to the human condition (versus sci-fi or fantastical).  You can read about her film background or reach out to her professionally via Backstage (acting, writing, or directing):

Q. What makes you stay in acting, because it seems like a grueling industry?

A. A couple of years back when Stephanie was playing Charlotte in Empty Nestor’s “Handbook,” she was asked how she got started in acting and what her process was. Here is a great 1-minute clip of her answers then along with the process she goes through to get into a character:

In response to what motivates her to remain in acting . . . Stephanie said that the roles find her now. She reads a script all the way through before committing to anything because she knows that whatever [art] she puts out there will remain “in the ethers forever” via social and film.

Stephanie also spends a lot of her time writing for upcoming projects that she’s producing. That’s taken her in a new direction with the human condition and telling stories via her own experience(s) but also spending time with people then telling the story thru their eyes.

Q.  Is there a current project [in these human condition stories] that you can share?

A.  For the past year and a half, Stephanie has been interviewing people in the elderly community about sex and about happiness. It’s sort of scary to get old. A lot of people fear it in a lot of ways and sometimes, communities let the elderly down by not allowing/hearing/telling their stories. In films, if you’re past a certain age, you’re relegated to stereotypical roles like the kooky grandmother or the always-in-pain elder or the old person dying.

But Stephanie’s time spent with the elder community has revealed that there are rich stories to be told. She’s doing a docu-series which she intends to turn into either a drama or dramedy series/feature in the future.

Q. Is there a special elder or some familial relationship that is part of the motivating factor for telling [elder] stories?

A.  Growing up, Stephanie’s dad ran an assisted living facility, and she spent a lot of time there and saw elderly people differently than how they are often stereotyped on film. She saw them the same as she saw herself: funny and hilarious and still desiring of the same things as anyone.

Stephanie has a lot of friends of an older age group that she’s spent time interviewing [for her docu-series], and who were in the arts and who felt that once they hit a certain age, there were no roles left for them if they didn’t want to play the grandmother or the crotchety next-door neighbor. They [elder baby boomers] wanted juicier, meatier roles.

She hopes to find a co-writer to collaborate on these stories, someone who comes from these under-represented, older generations and who can help her bring these stories to life. There has been a shift in the last five years with films in the casting of more roles representing elderly people. Stephanie hopes this will become “contagious” in the industry and that films will continue to move towards representing the very large, growing elderly communities and their stories that sometimes are forgotten to exist.

At the beginning of this [docu-series] journey, Stephanie didn’t really know what she was looking for but she did know that she didn’t know anyone over 65 who was happy. So many felt like they “followed the rules” and “wished they had done more”. She encouraged friends to continue following their dreams while simultaneously asking, “Why do you believe you can’t do it now?”

Q. What have you learned about yourself through acting?

A.  Each role has given Stephanie a deeper level of empathy when it comes to the human psyche and why we are the way we are.  She studied under Carol Hickey and Carol encourages actors to let go of subjectivity, where an actor may not like a particular character and instead to try and understand why a character is the way that they are. That’s what joins all of us humans. Stephanie wants roles in which there’s not a definitive good guy/bad guy but instead just watching humans interact and tell their own story.

Q. How do you connect with your character and then how do you leave that character when that role is done?

A.  Stephanie tends to try and leave everything as soon as she hears “cut” which she finds is important especially for heavier roles. She needs to laugh and clear the air immediately. She’s always prepared to step into character because she’s been trained [for so long], but then she also wants to leave that character and take a break, including breaks from acting in general with a shift towards writing and these personal projects that she has.

Getting into the character, it’s really about the story. She tries to use the words as a guideline to find the relationship between the characters so that anything that she’s saying is something that comes from memory but also comes from a place that it’s necessary to say it and not only because the line says to say it. She also plays off of her scene partner; sometimes that means that the delivery might be different but the intention is always the same.

Q.  How do you remember lines and/or how do you remember where you are inside of a script when you’re on stage?

A.   Stephanie does have tricks that she uses, because she has audible dyslexia, so she’s trying to get off script quickly. If she has to go back to the words on paper, they can (because of the dyslexia) be jumbled. When it comes to remembering lines, Stephanie says that she does so by staying with the story and counting on the words from that scene to show up. She sees this as the most honest part of any story with the end goal being the same that the writer had, even if it’s a slight shift from the [script]. Her intention is to tell the same story and when she remains inside the story, the words always show up.

Q.  Do you have an insect you dislike and/or one that is a favorite?

A.  Stephanie is creeped out by earwigs and/or silver fish, whichever ones are found in sinks/drains. They eek her because of their ability to crawl in the ears and basically burrow into the body.  She otherwise likes insects and her favorite currently is spiders, which she used to be afraid of as a child. But now, when so many people have a fear or phobia about spiders, Stephanie has come to appreciate them. She has a close friend who studies spiders and this friend educated Stephanie’s whole outlook on them, especially the “golden retriever of insects” the tarantula. (Yes! They Texas brown tarantula is quite soft to the touch and friendly!)

Sometime after Stephanie started to learn more about tarantulas, she landed an acting role in which her co-star was a tarantula (in a dream sequence) thus teaching her even more about them. And if she had to choose which insect to be, she would choose to be a spider. (I should have asked which one! Maybe a Daddy Longlegs.)

(There is a myth that earwigs will crawl into the ear for the purpose of eating your ear wax so as to get to your brain. Even though that is indeed a myth, earwigs and silverfish can crawl into the ears but they’re not looking for the wax, only to be a nuisance:

Q. What has been your favorite role/production you’ve been in and what attracted you to “A Pest Control Affair”?

A.  Stephanie’s favorite product is a recent western and based on a true story in the 1800. The story is about basic survival and not the old style westerns of good guy vs. bad guy. Her character has gone through many traumatic losses which shaped and hardened her character  . . . and the entire time when you watch or read the script, you don’t know who is the good or bad guy or who you’re rooting for or even if you’re rooting for them at all. And for Stephanie, there’s a lot of honesty there and a lot more conversation that can come up [because of that honesty].

She was attracted to the Pest Control story because she liked the relationship. There wasn’t a good guy; there wasn’t a bad guy. It’s a story about the central characters with their push and pull of two people coming together and making sacrifices along the way. Stephanie liked the idea where the husband and the wife were both strong in their stances but strong in their love for one another, too, with that push and pull of compromise and self-expression of *This is who I am* vs. *This is what I’m willing to do because I love you*. Stephanie sees the Frontera Fest story relatable to any relationship of co-habitation in which two people share space that they’re trying to make into a home that each can enjoy. (100%!!!)

Q. What was the strangest/oddest role you’ve ever done?

A.  About eight years ago, Stephanie did a film called The House That Papa Built. It was about a group of siblings that lived in a house and never left it. The only way that “Papa” contacted them was through a telephone in the house. It was a sci-fi, alien/existential theme and hard to do research on because the character was so out there.

What Stephanie has coming up:

Finally, and to highlight the impressive endeavor, Little Renegades, an all-female, film production house responsible for the scripted series “Blood Sisters” and “Brides of Dracula” and where Stephanie is currently working on her docu-series on the full lives (sex and happiness – can I get an Amen?!) that elderly people continue to have whether the younger generations understand or acknowledge it:


As always, our thanks to ABC Home and Commercial Services for their sponsorship of this production during Austin’s Frontera Fest, the largest in all of the Southwest, produced by Scriptworks with Hyde Park Theatre as the playhouse. And please, consider a donation to Scriptworks and Hyde Park even if it’s only $5 because EVERY PENNY COUNTS when your arts budget has been wiped out.