Playing God … and W

Actress Shannon Grounds on tackling a pair of the ultimate power roles – at once

Playing God … and W
Illustration By Robert Faires

Shannon Grounds is feeling mighty mighty these days, and why not? In the new show StallGraffiti ATX, the acclaimed local actress gets to play the current Leader of the Free World in one playlet and the Supreme Deity of All Creation in another. That's one righteous load of command and authority for one poor player to exude, so we checked in with her to find out how she's handled this singular performance challenge.

Austin Chronicle: A lot of actors do background work to get "inside" a character. Did you do any special research to play Bush and God?

Shannon Grounds: Well, I have to admit that I did not do a lot of research for God. But after all, do we not all have a spark of the Divine within us? Besides, her manifestation is described in the script as a "hot redhead," so ...

I did do quite a bit of research to get into the mind of George. I watched as many press clips of him as I could, read all the articles about him I could find from as many perspectives as possible, and scoured the Internet for pictures. (As an odd side-note, there's an entire series of him grabbing bald men's heads. I'm not kidding.) But seriously, almost all of the gestures that I use for Bush were pulled from actual photos of him.

AC: Sometimes actors find aspects of the part they play onstage bleeding into their offstage life. Have you found yourself expecting to hear "Hail to the Chief" when you walk into a room? Have you been issuing commandments to your chosen people or asking folks to leave burnt offerings for you?

SG: Now that you mention it, no. But I should! I should take advantage of this rare opportunity for as long as it lasts! Lo, I command all who hath not seen StallGraffiti ATX to proceed to the Blue Theater forthwith. May my castmates greet me with smiles and hugs, fans leave rose petals strewn in my wake, and all who behold my performance think I am fabulous, outstanding, perhaps even Best Actress in a Leading Role! Mwahahahaha! (Oh wait, I guess God wouldn't have an evil laugh.) Cuz after all, (insert drawl here) this play is hard work ... and I'm workin' hard.

AC: Playing the Commander in Chief and the Almighty in one show pretty much puts you at the top of the heap, rolewise. As an actor, where do you go from here? In terms of a challenge, what's left to play?

SG: Plenty. In a town like Austin, with all the amazing creative talent that we have – so many gifted playwrights and theatre companies doing original and exciting work – I'm never without the feeling of, "Ooh, I wanna do that! I want to work with those guys!" I look at companies like Refraction Arts, Hyde Park Theatre, Physical Plant, the Rude Mechs, Salvage Vanguard, just to name a very few, and I feel like a kid in a candy store that can't quite reach the shelves. Many, many thanks to Andrea Skola for asking me to work on this project and to Dan Dietz and Shanon Weaver for writing such amazingly fun roles to play. end story

StallGraffiti ATX runs through June 25, Thursday-Saturday, at the Blue Theater, 916 Springdale. For more information, call 444-6920 or e-mail

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Shannon Grounds, StallGraffiti ATX, Refraction Arts Project, Hyde Park Theatre, Physical Plant Theater, Rude Mechanicals, Rude Mechs, Salvage Vanguard Theater, SVT, Andrea Skola, Dan Dietz, Shanon Weaver

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