A sound sleep

An East Passy­unk Cross­ing res­id­ent is a re­fresh­ing pres­ence as the tit­u­lar fig­ure in a mu­sic­al panto. 

Upon re­ceiv­ing their de­grees, many col­lege gradu­ates lack con­crete vo­ca­tion­al paths and can of­fer only shrugs and sighs when people pose “What’s next?” to them. Ariana Sepúlveda suffered no such un­ease at her May com­mence­ment, hav­ing earli­er in the spring se­cured the role of Au­rora in the People’s Light premiere of “Sleep­ing Beauty: A Mu­sic­al Panto.” Through Jan. 15, the 22-year-old is frol­ick­ing over her for­tune in frat­ern­iz­ing with a South Philly-heavy cast bent on beck­on­ing audi­ences to sea­son­al rev­elry.

“I couldn’t have asked for a bet­ter com­pany with which to ex­plore my love for this art form,” the East Passy­unk Cross­ing dwell­er said of her af­fil­i­ation with the Mal­vern-based en­tity. “My fel­low per­formers and all of the oth­ers in­volved have been amaz­ing, too, and really make me eager to stay here in Phil­adelphia long term and be a part of more great work.”

People’s Light cus­tom­ar­ily caps the cal­en­dar year with es­pe­cially up­lift­ing pieces and has suc­ceeded again in pro­mot­ing har­mony by of­fer­ing “a rauc­ous, heart­felt spin on the clas­sic tale of fair­ies, awaken­ings, and true love.” With mu­sic and lyr­ics by Passy­unk Square den­iz­en Alex Bechtel, the brainchild finds the hires work­ing to re­it­er­ate, as dir­ect­or Pete Pry­or pos­its, that “love is the cure for any curse,” in this case the scourge of the wicked Chanteuse that the tit­u­lar char­ac­ter’s fath­er seeks to keep from con­found­ing his daugh­ter’s ex­ist­ence.

“There’s so much at stake for her,” Sepúlveda said. “I think she has such ma­tur­ity for a 16-year-old go­ing through these dis­cov­er­ies, and I’d say she pulls that off be­cause she’s su­per bright, en­er­get­ic, and cha­ris­mat­ic.”

The ad­oles­cent, ac­cord­ing to the thespi­an, also rev­els in es­teem­ing people as equals and strives for in­clus­iv­ity, a trait that she and Sepúlveda share. With South Philly nat­ive Tom Teti, who por­trays her pat­ri­arch, and cur­rent loc­als Bechtel, Tabitha Al­len, Luke Bradt, Tori Mit­tel­man, and Josh To­tora among her peers, that deep de­sire for unity has met with re­sound­ing re­gard.

“Like her, I’m eager to learn,” the act­ress said, not­ing how that en­thu­si­asm for in­creas­ing wis­dom comes through in the song “Lost in the Stars.” “Since I gradu­ated, I’ve be­come really ex­cited to find out more about who I am, so to have this job at this point is go­ing to go a long way to help­ing me to ac­know­ledge what I’ve seen and what I could be­come.”

THAT IN­FATU­ATION WITH con­sid­er­ing se­quences and pro­cesses dates back to the per­former’s up­bring­ing in War­wick, N.Y. With steady in­flu­ence from broth­er Noel and im­mer­sion in­to mu­sic­als’ won­ders through her par­ents, the Em­pire State product felt quite com­pelled to court a cre­at­ive jour­ney and soon found her­self hooked on every as­pect of stage-cent­ric pro­jects.

“I liked be­ing able to take everything in and learn the dia­logue of the field, so to speak,” Sepúlveda said of her pur­suit of mas­tery of what drives cre­at­ive minds to be so dar­ing in be­liev­ing they can tell en­rich­ing tales. “The am­bi­tion, I’d say, was al­ways there, and I just had to work to com­pre­hend what could hap­pen if I really put all that I had in­to this pas­sion.”

Re­la­tion­ships with her home state’s Forest­burgh Play­house and TADA! Youth Theat­er proved pivotal sparks, and she cred­its their guid­ance with mak­ing her early ef­forts a re­flec­tion of her con­stant curi­os­ity, es­pe­cially due to her be­ing able to as­so­ci­ate with and pick the brains of equity em­ploy­ees.

“They were in­cred­ibly cap­tiv­at­ing,” she re­called. “I gained this amaz­ing sense of how much I needed to de­vote to my mat­ur­a­tion, and that set me up for find­ing a col­lege des­tin­a­tion that could give me ex­tra chances to work on be­ing even more self-mo­tiv­ated.”

Yearn­ing to ex­per­i­ence post-sec­ond­ary edu­ca­tion in a siz­able ex­panse, she earned place­ment at The Uni­versity of the Arts and made the most out of the “It’s whatever you make it” sen­ti­ment by en­gross­ing her­self in her stud­ies and roles, the lat­ter in­clud­ing Ofe­lia in “Anna in the Trop­ics,” Sheila in “A Chor­us Line,” and Riff Raff in “The Rocky Hor­ror Show.”

That gusto and out­reach from People’s Light per­son­nel made her fi­nal semester at the Cen­ter City in­sti­tu­tion par­tic­u­larly pleas­ant, as she learned that life as a Phil­adelphia pro­fes­sion­al would be­gin not far bey­ond the ac­cept­ance of her dip­loma.

“I’d been work­ing out­side the field, so I knew I could fall back on oth­er av­en­ues, but I can’t say it loudly enough how for­tu­nate I feel to be able to have such a great part to play for such an out­stand­ing lead­er in loc­al theat­er.”

Ac­quir­ing the part as a prin­cess on the pre­cip­ice of trans­form­a­tion­al ex­per­i­ences has proven an oc­ca­sion to in­tensi­fy aware­ness of the Phil­adelphia theat­er scene’s re­li­ance on go-get­ters to pro­pel the craft to new heights. Be­cause of that, one could con­tend that “Sleep­ing Beauty: A Mu­sic­al Panto” will serve as the first of many chances for Sepúlveda to show that new blood can come to earn con­stant con­sid­er­a­tion as flu­id con­trib­ut­ors.

“We’re still very early in­to this run,” she said of the work that de­b­uted Nov. 16. “Already, though, I know the tire­less pro­fes­sion­al­ism of those around me is go­ing to be a per­man­ent mo­tiv­at­or. I’m ex­cited to meet more people like that in the near fu­ture.”

Giv­en that she has logged just six months in South Philly and resides in an area rich with act­ing con­tem­por­ar­ies, Sepúlveda will likely have no trouble with mak­ing such ac­quaint­ances.

“There’s such a great vibe down here, and it’s really com­ing through this time of year,” she said. “It suits me in so many ways to be here at this point in my life.” SPR

Con­tact Staff Writer Joseph My­ers at jmy­ers@south­phil­lyre­view.com.

“Sleep­ing Beauty:

A Mu­sic­al Panto”

Runs through Jan. 15

People’s Light, 39 Con­es­toga Road, Mal­vern

Tick­ets: $36-$74



Por­trait photo by Maria Young. Pro­duc­tion photo by Mark Garvin


You can reach at jmyers@southphillyreview.com.