Local Treasure: Terynn Erby-Walker

First Stage had the opportunity to (virtually) sit down with young performer, Terynn Erby-Walker, to hear what it was like working on First Stage’s world premiere specifically designed for the digital platform and to mirror a trip to the theater. The Golda Meir High School sophomore plays the role of Olivia in THE QUEST FOR SOLOMON’S TREASURE, streaming now through November 15, with new episodes released each Sunday.

THE QUEST FOR SOLOMON'S TREASURE; Terynn is in the middle; left column. 

Terynn has been involved at First Stage since fifth grade when she auditioned for Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse. While that audition didn’t lead to a role, she participated in a summer session of the Theater Academy and is now in her second year as a Young Company member. Most recently, she has performed in First Stage productions of RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER™: THE MUSICAL (playing Clarice)THE WIZ; BIG RIVER: THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN (playing Alice); and ELF – THE MUSICAL.


Tell us what it was like working on THE QUEST FOR SOLOMON’S TREASURE.

Preparing for THE QUEST FOR SOLOMON’S TREASURE was such an exciting experience!  Not only was I thrilled to work with the director Jeremy Tardy, but it was my first time working on a film. We had Zoom calls every weekday and I worked with Tardy on memorization and character-building skills. It’s lessons like those that create great actors like Tardy himself! I learned so much!

First Stage always kept our safety top priority throughout the process. We were temperature-checked upon entrance, and every filming day we were required to wear our facemasks until Jeremy called, “Action!” We were filmed one by one in front of a green screen. Each episode is carefully edited to place each character in front of realistic scenery—and sometimes each other—when in reality; we never got within six feet of each other. Talk about something new! It was amazing!


What was it like performing in a world premiere?

I honestly didn’t think about THE QUEST being a world premiere. I guess it’s an even bigger deal than I thought! It is a brand new story to the audience—and even the cast. We did not see the episodes after they were edited… So, in a way, we’re first-time watchers too as the episodes are released. It’s such an incredible and uniting experience to be in a show like this.


What are some of the major takeaways from your experience?

I’m definitely going to cherish the coaching Jeremy Tardy gave us during the filming process. Unlike on a stage, the smallest actions are visible. Everything you do as an actor means something, so really digging into a character’s background and behaviors… like which parent they’re closest to, their zodiac sign, favorite color… all of that leads to the output that the viewers can see on the videos.

I’ve always tried my best to really become the characters I play, but since we filmed, I think differently about my character’s tics and thought processes; not just their facial expressions in the moment. Film acting is so much deeper than on the surface and that’s a lesson from this experience I’ll remember forever.


What surprised you most?

I was surprised with how comfortable we all were with one another. Personally, I’ve only met two of my cast mates before COVID-19 hit, and I hadn’t seen Jeremy Tardy long enough to think, “I wonder what he’s like in real life… Oh well, I’ll never know.” So getting to audition, rehearse, and film with these amazing people day after day as if we’d known each other for years was really shocking. It was special, especially in this time, to feel so close to and easily jump into conversations with the cast even though we actually never physically got close to one another.


Without giving away any spoilers, what did you learn about Milwaukee?

Before working on this show, if someone were to ask me who the first black heavyweight-boxing champion in Milwaukee was, I’d just shrug. If I were asked what the former name of The Rave was, I’d have absolutely no clue. There’s so much historical information in THE QUEST that I can confidently say that audiences will also learn a lot… this amount of detail about our city isn’t exactly taught in school.


Do you think it is valuable for families to tune in to this new web series?

Yes! I think THE QUEST encourages audiences to work together with friends and family to solve the riddles. For example, in the first riddle, one of the opening lines is “in the heart of cream city.” When I hear “cream city,” it goes in one ear and out the other, but when my mom hears “cream city,” she thinks of the cream city bricks that are commonly used throughout Milwaukee.

Adults and children perceive each piece of information differently and sometimes you can’t understand them by yourself, which makes working together with your friends and family to solve the riddles so much more fun. 


Do you think this new way of presenting theater is effective?

With everything closed, theaters and actors are struggling right now.

This virtual production not only gives actors the opportunity to continue their craft, but it also gives audiences the feeling of going to theater (though not physically). Everything you’d feel in a theater is still there—the emotion, the suspense…

The best thing a theater can do right now is to bring those great stories and feelings back to the people who miss it just as much as I do.


How has this experience benefited you—especially in this time?

Since I was little, I was the type of person to float around and mind their own business. Not that I’m antisocial, it’s just that I wouldn’t be bothered by eating lunch alone or being picked last for a group project. This year, I made the goal to become more open and then… Poof! The schools were closed.

THE QUEST FOR SOLOMON'S TREASURE gave me the chance to open up some more, be social, and safely interact with people. I’m grateful I can still share theater with my friends and family and keep doing what I love in a time when it feels so hard to smile. While we rehearsed for this show, and even now, as I watch the episodes as they are released, all that’s going on in our world just melts away. I can’t thank First Stage enough for that. 

Tune in Sunday nights at 7pm to join THE QUEST!

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