For some, the summer before sophomore year in high school can be a time of developing a “cool” factor and dabbling with first dates. For Lyla Elmassian, the summer before sophomore year was full of Shakespeare and sonnets.
Elmassian, a junior at Sonoma State University, is majoring in Theatre and Arts with a concentration in acting. She recently starred in the campus production of “The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek,” where she played the role of a Pace Creagan, an 18-year-old, fearless and feared by her peers.
Elmassian was involved in the production of “She Kills Monsters” earlier this year. In an interview with the STAR, Elmassian explained the difference between playing the damsel in distress role (Monsters) and the progressive feminist role (Trestle).
“There is an aggressive quality in Pace that is so different from any comedic or damsel in distress role I have played in the past,” said Elmassian. “Pace made me balance the vulnerability as well as the necessity to keep my walls up.”
The theatre and arts track involves a very busy and hectic commitment, requiring students to audition into an ‘acting block’ Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for their junior and senior years.
After her work in Trestle, Elmassian plans to shift her focus to film.
In one of her current classes this semester, she is learning about how to translate her experience and work in theatre to films produced on screen.
She explained that film, and television specifically, incorporates the best parts about theatre onto the screen.
“In the theatre setting, larger gestures and facial expressions are required on such an immense stage,” explained Elmassian. “I have to balance my expressions and use less obvious facial expressions to translate the written word on film.”
In between rehearsals and class, Elmassian still finds time for friends and fun times. She loves leaving the schools setting to walk around the bookstore in Santa Rosa and meeting the interesting characters that surround that downtown area. Elmassian also enjoys being active and outdoors, especially taking in the beauty with walks around campus. Among her other passions, Elmassian holds the work of Shakespeare, especially “Romeo and Juliet,” in high esteem.
“I have special connections to this show,” said Elmassian. “It’s such an honest play with very interesting and over the top circumstances. It’s wonderful.”
Aside from the personal connection Elmassian has to theatre, she loves the friends and connections she has made with people through the major and the lifestyle. And those feelings are reciprocated.
Kyle Ryan, a fifth year at SSU, worked alongside Elmassian in the production of “The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek.”
“It’s been a great process,” said Ryan. “She puts a lot of hard work into the show. A lot of people really noticed how she was able to connect with her character.”
Elmassian’s connection with theatre and her fellow actors is never a chore and only ever a passion.
Another fellow acting student, Anna Leach, remarked on Elmassian’s capability to dive completely into character.
“She has this uncanny ability to embody every character she plays,” said Leach. “It’s equally fascinating, disturbing and thrilling to watch her transform into a new character on stage.”
It is amazing to watch someone you know and love to fade away and then become someone completely different.”
With the support of her friends, colleagues and family, Elmassian hopes to succeed in all her future endeavors, the closest one landing a lead role in the upcoming production of “The Cherry Orchard,” which will be performed next spring.
Information for this performance and other performance by students in the theatre and arts department can be found online.