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Interview: Emily Shain and DeLeon Dallas talk about ACTUALLY

“Yes”, “No”, “Maybe”…ACTUALLY, now playing at the San Diego Repertory Theatre explores the dynamics and the importance consent, communication, and how words and actions may have unintended repercussions.

This two person play is set on a college campus during the first semester for (Emily Shain) and Tom (DeLeon Dallas). After a first date and a lot of alcohol, memories are murky, emotions are high, and they both find themselves in situations they could not have foretold; with ramifications that could ripple throughout the rest of their lives.

Emily Shain & DeLeon dallas in ACTUALLY at the San Diego Rep
Photo Credit: Jim Carmody

Emily and DeLeon took the time out of their busy schedules to talk about the play, their characters, and why it’s an important conversation starter at this time.

1.) What drew you to this show, and this character specifically?

Emily: So many things! At first I was drawn to the sheer athleticism that the play demands from its actors -so much language, humor, heart. It felt like the ultimate acting challenge and exactly the type of play I live for. But as we began working on the play, I felt an overwhelming desire to do Amber Cohen justice. I am drawn to the way her brain speeds forward at 100 miles per hour as she is on her quest to figure out how she inhabits space in the world- as a woman, a sexual being and a deeply complicated, empathetic individual.

DeLeon: The ability to tell this story mainly through monologues feels like a giant marathon. I was drawn to this play specifically for that reason, because of the incredible challenge it offered as storyteller. As far as the character of Tom, when I first read this play I remember how uncomfortable he made me. The way he moved through the world of this play as a young black man and how different he was from me, I knew I had to take him on.

2.) A lot of this play is written as a direct address to the audience, how does this impact how you perform subject matter like this?

Emily: We speak to the audience as if they are our best friends (full of love and without judgment) but in reality we sometimes receive back some very different energy. It is such a delicious, dangerous challenge. Some nights, I can barely handle how vulnerable it is to not only unveil some unpleasant truths but also to lock eyes with someone as you share, implicating them in the moment.

DeLeon: We speak to the audience as if they are our best friends, people who we can confide in and be our most honest selves with. However, every audience is different, and will respond differently to both of these characters. I think the real challenge is not letting that have any kind of effect on how we as the actors are telling these two individuals stories. That we stay true to what the playwright has written and to the work that we have created.

3.) What do you hope audiences will walk away from this play thinking or talking about at the end of the performance?

Emily: I hope people leave thinking about how complicated human beings are and how difficult it is to know what someone is really going through. I also deeply hope that it begins a discussion around consent-what is required for two people to be on the same page? How do we teach people to better communicate? And most importantly, how can we give the future Thomas Anthony’s and Amber Cohen’s the tools to navigate a similar situation better?

DeLeon: I hope they understand that this is a story about human beings trying to figure out how to navigate through a complicated situation. I hope our audience can experience this play and realize that there is more to this issue of sexual assault and it cannot be summed up to a verdict. And if you’re coming to see this play and are expecting some kind of verdict, then I think you are missing the very thing the play is asking you as the audience member to pay attention to.

You can see more from these performers on their social media and then go buy a ticket to the show.

Emily: Instagram: @eshainey
DeLeon: Instagram: @ddallas17

ACTUALLY is playing through November 4th, so don’t miss this extraordinary and timely play! Showtime and ticket information can be found at


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