Ian Foster comes from an acting legacy. His father is a retired theater professor. His mother is an actress and director.
“It was something I grew up around and was something I really enjoyed doing,” he said. “I was torn between doing sports and doing theater, and I was able to do both for my whole life, which is nice.”
Nicole Cowan got involved in theater after her mother signed her up to be in a Christmas play.
“I just kept with it,” she said. “I got really into it in high school, and stayed in college way too long, not knowing what I wanted to do, and one day, I was talking to my guidance counselor, and she said ‘You know what, you’re just two classes away from a degree in theater.’”
Foster and Cowan are the leads in Kauai Community Players’ last play of the season, “Talley’s Folly.”
The show is set in post-World War II and follows the trials and tribulations of two lovebirds — Sally Talley and her Jewish suitor, Matt Freidman.
The play opens Friday and runs for three weeks at Puhi Theatrical Warehouse. Tickets are $20, with $5 off opening weekend.
How long have you been acting?
Nicole: I was 7.
Ian: I was in my first role when I was 5. I did some children’s theater off and on. And in elementary school, I was in a play my dad was directing. I was in fourth-grade and the rest of the people in the play were in college. I didn’t do anything with my high school. I was one of the high school kids who thought sports were more cool than theater. So I did sports, but still missed theater. I ended up doing it in college. I played baseball in college as well. I was in a show, and my whole baseball team came to opening night. It was a cool experience.
What’s your favorite part of being on-stage?
Nicole: I think just being able to be on-stage and tell a different story. Being able to jump out of your skin and learn a new character and portray them in a way no one else can. A lot of actors have played Sally Talley, but no one can do it the way you can. You’re always going to bring your own perspective for something, and that can be fun.
Ian: I think most people who perform feel that same way about being able to tell a story to people and evoking an emotion in someone is a pretty powerful thing to be able to do and take pride in. I’ve always enjoyed talking to people and making people laugh, talking story and BSing, so being able to tell a story, but put your own variation on a character to bring them to life is a lot of fun.
Are you from here?
Ian: I grew up in Arizona, and I came out to Kauai about seven years ago to visit my parents after I graduated college. It was going to be for a month. And then I stayed.
Nicole: Same as Ian. I moved here six or seven years ago. I’m originally from Northern California and I was on the Big Island for a couple of years before I moved here. I came out to visit my parents and stayed — they live on the Big Island.
Is there a favorite character you’ve played over the years, or favorite piece?
Nicole: That’s so hard. I think the characters I identify the most are the most fun for me. I did “Emma’s Last Dance”, and I identified with Peggy quite a lot.
Ian: This one is really cool and very challenging, and I like challenging myself. But the last two shows I’ve done are my favorite. In “The Rain Maker,” I played this over-the-top salesman-type person, and I’m not a big sales guy — I don’t like pressuring people to buy something or do something — but it was fun to able to take that role and go with it. “Spamalot” was my favorite because I’ve always loved Monty Python and the “Holy Grail” was always one of my favorite movies, and to be able to play my favorite characters growing up, to have them on-stage, that just made it more fun for me. It was always jokes and goofing around. You get different aspects in theater — joking with different cast members or being serious all the time while at rehearsal. It’s a big variation of emotions going on throughout the process.
I know you guys are more seasoned, but do you still get stage fright?
Nicole: Yes. I prefer acting in front of people I don’t know. So if my friends want to come to see the show, I always just say don’t tell me what night you’re coming.
Ian: I think that’s almost part of the whole experience, no matter how many shows you do. It could be the last performance we’re going to do of the season, and I know I’ll still have that last bit of anxiety. But it’s good — you use it in your character and go with it. You switch it from a nervous energy and turn it into a positive, self-propellant energy. Performing in front of people you don’t know is preferred and a little easier, despite my mother directing this play.
Is acting more of a hobby for you, or do you want to pursue it professionally?
Ian: I don’t think I want to do it as a career. It’s something that’s fun to do. Everyone says “You dedicate so much time, and you’re not even getting paid, why are you doing it?” But it’s something I enjoy. I do it because I have fun doing it. I talk to people who try to do stage professionally, and they say it’s pretty ruthless. You make friends and then you’re undermining them for roles, trying to look out for yourself. I don’t like that part.
Nicole: I never wanted to pursue it professionally.
How long have you been involved with Kauai Community Players?
Nicole: Just this show, then I did one in 2015. I’ve taken a two-year break … there were many times when I said I was done with stage acting, and it wasn’t for me anymore. But a friend of mine showed me the script, and I identified so much with Sally, and the script was so sweet, I had to go for it.
Ian: This is my second performance with KCP. I saw they were doing this show, and I decided to come out and audition for it. When I read the script, it’s such an amazing story. The story is really beautiful, and I think that’s good if you enjoy the story you’re telling.
What’s your favorite part of being with KCP?
Ian: The variation of shows they do. They do a musical. They’ll do a big cast of 10 or 12 people and they’ll do a show with two or three or four people. You never know what you’re going to get. There’s different directors, and they have their own spins on different shows. Reaching out to the community and exposing the Kauai community to theater — it’s definitely not the most popular thing out here, that’s for sure. I had a couple local friends come to a show, and it’s the first play they’ve ever been to, and they’re in their mid- to late-30s. So it’s cool to help show people something new.
Nicole: I really like how KCP and its audience is like a family. Everyone comes and sees the same shows, and they’re all super supportive of you. You feel a lot of support from the theater community.
Do you have advice for kids who want to start acting, but are nervous to start?
Ian: A big helpful is Women in Theatre. They do a lot of shorts and stage readings. That, or Summer Stars for the kids. There’s definitely a lot of kids getting interested in theater, on the island, I’ve noticed. Also, just go for it, just do it.
Nicole: I say just go for it. It’s super intimidating to audition. I get intimidated and have even backed out of community theatre because I get overwhelmed sometimes. I think that’s something to remember. Everyone gets intimidated. Everyone is nervous. What’s the worst that could happen?