CTC conservatory actor Siddiq Saunderson steps into leading role with ‘Romeo & Juliet’

Reporter’s note: Each summer, Chautauqua Theater Company opens its stage doors to young actors and theatermakers for a fully funded fellowship. This summer’s conservatory includes 14 actors, four design fellows and one directing fellow. They will work alongside CTC staff and visiting professionals, and serve as the core of the theater company for all CTC shows. To help readers get to know them, interviews with CTC conservatory members will run regularly in the weekend edition of the Daily throughout the summer.


Who: Siddiq Saunderson, 21, Chautauqua Theater Company conservatory actor.

Saunderson’s major role for the season is coming up — he will play Romeo in Romeo & Juliet.

He started the season with CTC’s “Young Playwrights!” and also appeared in “The Community Engagement Project,” the August Wilson lecture in the Hall of Philosophy, the CTC After Dark production of One Arm and the inter-arts “Mango Suite” collaboration.

Where he’s from: A self-described “city kid,” Saunderson grew up in Brooklyn. He recently received his bachelor’s in acting from Carnegie Mellon University. After the season ends, he will be switching coasts and moving to Los Angeles.

First theatrical memory: Saunderson has a photo of himself in costume from his first play ever, in which he played everyone’s favorite book-loving anthropomorphic aardvark, Arthur.

Another big role came in a school play about the alphabet, in which each character personified a letter.

“I played ‘R,’ which was Royalty,” Saunderson said. “And I was the letter that was in charge of keeping all the other letters in their spots and making sure they were doing what they’re doing because it was all about the letter ‘A’ wanting to not be at the front of the alphabet.”

Theatrical credits: Although Saunderson started theater at a young age and attended a performing arts middle school, he didn’t often play the lead.

“I was always the supporting character, that character who has a really good cameo or line, or that really important scene in the play,” Saunderson said.

That changed last summer, when he played the title character in Peribáñez by Lope de Vega at Quantum Theatre in Pittsburgh, and then D’Artagnan in The Three Musketeers for his final mainstage show at Carnegie Mellon.

“By not always being the lead, I understand what it’s like to be part of the ensemble and to help support the storytelling for the leads,” Saunderson said.

Dream roles: When he moves to LA, Saunderson plans to focus on pursuing film and television roles.

“As far as what roles I would like to play in the future, I would just like roles that push up against the stereotype of what it means to be a black man in America right now,” Saunderson said, explaining he “would love to be playing lawyers and doctors and educated people, but also people that are complex.”

Currently listening to: Tyler, the Creator’s new album, Flower Boy.

Favorite food: “I love good cuisine,” Saunderson said. “I really, really love salmon, like ginger-glazed or teriyaki-glazed, but I also love sweet potatoes and mac and cheese.”

Why Chautauqua: Saunderson said he has been working toward Chautauqua for several years, but is glad to be here for this summer, and this season of shows.

“I’ve been focused on something since I got here, so it’s been really intense but exciting and definitely a learning opportunity, and I really am happy that I am doing this now, because I just left school,” Saunderson said. “This is a nice little theatrical boost into the industry before I enter.”

Tags : Chautauqua Theater CompanyMango SuiteRomeo & JulietSiddiq Saundersontheater

The author Dara McBride

A recent graduate of Syracuse University’s Goldring Arts Journalism program, she comes to Chautauqua after covering Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina, for The Post and Courier. A Delaware native, she spent three years as a lifestyles editor on Maryland’s Eastern Shore writing about local authors, musicians and artists. Her work has also appeared in American Theatre magazine. She can be reached at or @DaraMcBride.