Landing the lead roles in Ken Ludwig’s classic comedy “Moon Over Buffalo” is just another exciting step in Mitchell Spencer and Sally Fint’s young acting careers. The two take the Falk stage this weekend in the Karla Hartley directed production as the quirky couple George and Charlotte Hay, roles each have described as some of their most challenging ones to date. Nevertheless, the two are grateful for this opportunity, especially given their respective journeys up to this point.
For senior Mitchell Spencer, the last three years have been nothing short of surreal. The Plant City native traded his country roots for the bright lights of Tampa, a decision that has paid off abundantly. While at UT, Spencer has become a regular on the Falk Theater stage, typically starring alongside his good friend John Millsap as the male lead. He’s demonstrated his multifaceted acting abilities by taking on roles ranging from the mysterious Duke Vincentio in Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” to the bawdy and boisterous Monsieur Thenardier in UT’s recent production of “Les Miserables.”
“It’s an awesome compliment to keep getting leads in plays; I guess that means they think highly of me and I’ve been taught a lot,” Spencer said.
Spencer concedes that his most current role as George Hay has been pushing him in ways other roles have not. Though both the Duke and Thenardier were comedically inclined roles, his part in “Buffalo” dabbles in a drastically different area of comedy: slapstick. For a witty person like Spencer, cheap laughs aren’t his forte.
“This role in particular has been a bit of a struggle for me, because I haven’t done over-the-top slapstick comedy since high school,” Spencer said. “Ever since I got here they keep casting me in dramas or when they do cast me in comedies, it’s shows like ‘Measure For Measure,’ which isn’t comedy in the sense that we think of it today.”
Spencer has certainly carved a name for himself in his own regard, but he emphasized the influence that others, such as his co-star Fint, have had on his personal growth. “She’s been awesome to bounce chemistry off of,” he said. “For instance, I’ve never had to make out with anyone before, and she made that fairly painless. Although the first night was a bit awkward in that [her boyfriend] Nick was there. But we’ve grown comfortable with each other–we go out of our way to spend time together to work on the show.”
Though Fint is praised by her fellow actors today, she was initially unsure of how people would receive her upon her arrival at UT. As a transfer student, she feared the difficulties of adapting to an entirely different social sphere and having to prove herself to an entirely new unit of directors and professors. Yet to her delight, she was greeted with a warm reception right from the start.
“I assumed everyone was going to be like ‘ew, new girl, go away’ but I was pleasantly surprised when people just instantly started asking me to hang out or have lunch. It’s been an easier transition than I thought it was going to be,” Fint said.
Though grateful for the warm reception by her new peers, Fint had to wait before getting the chance to grace the stage. After stage-managing Vaclav Havel’s “Temptation” during her first semester, she subsequently landed her first mainstage role as Mariana in Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” the following semester, then kept the ball rolling by portraying The Mother in “Six Characters in Search of an Author” at the start of this school year. Since then, Fint has established herself as quite the character within the theatre department. More specifically, she’s known for her upbeat, affable demeanor and frequent use of “sound effects” in everyday conversation. She punctuates her feelings with a wide array of noises, such as a ‘quack’ or a pitched screech, and has even acted in a studio theatre production as a character who spoke only in cryptic babel. On stage, however, Fint is a very sophisticated actress and possesses the ability to evoke intense emotions and deep feelings quite brilliantly.
Like Spencer, Fint has experienced similar challenges in adjusting to her character in “Moon Over Buffalo.” Aside from the pressures of being a leading lady, Fint has worked tirelessly to embody the idiosyncratic qualities of Charlotte Hay, which differ greatly from her own attributes. Charlotte is supposed to be a burnt out actress in her mid-forties; Fint is a budding young actress in her early twenties. Charlotte is literally a drama queen; Fint is a humble, mild-mannered free spirit.
“We’re pretty different but I do have a soft spot in my heart for her,” Fint said. “She desperately wants to be famous, to have these roles she’s not capable of doing anymore. I can relate to her in that she almost tries too hard sometimes. If you have tried too hard for something, you know what it looks like, if that makes sense.”
Taking on dense, exhausting roles has become commonplace for both Fint and Spencer. They live for the challenge, knowing that upon graduation only the most versatile can survive in the world of professional theatre. Given their impressive resumes and experiences thus far, they’re primed to succeed for years to come.
“Moon Over Buffalo” is directed by Karla Hartley and opens Thursday, March. 27 at 8 p.m. in the Falk Theater. Additional performances include Friday, March 28 at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 29 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 30 at 2 p.m.
Griffin Guinta can be reached at Griffin.firstname.lastname@example.org.