October 29, 2018 § Leave a comment
Stunning, delicate, explosive, intimate, touching, immersive, passionate, funny, lovely – these are the characteristics of live theater and when done well, there is simply no substitute for the immediacy and power of a good old show. As a theater artist somewhere in my sixth decade, I continue to be amazed at theater’s ability to evolve through its primary asset: the actor.
A Chorus Line, now running at our Metropolis, is a modern staple of musical theater with a history too profound to easily describe. Yet this legendary show, this face on theater’s Mount Rushmore, continues to evolve and refresh with each new iteration as the show both invites and demands the very best from each generation of actors.
Sheila – the lovely yet world-weary vamp – and Val – the steamy self-made woman – are rivals at the audition, each vying for attention both for their talents and their attributes. These are talented professionals, wary of each other, a simmering duel forming one of the many subplots of a very tense day. In many versions of A Chorus Line, this rivalry becomes openly antagonistic, as each dancer tries to upstage the other.
And then theater evolves.
In a closing dress rehearsal, I was honored to experience an entirely new moment of this show. At the end of the audition as Sheila (Kara Schoenhofer) has been dismissed and is walking to collect her bag, she passes Val (Mollyanne Moon). In the past, the look passing between the dancers would have been daggers or icicles. These two brilliant actors evolved the moment, eyes welling with tears as the rivals ache for each other, the rivalry ending for now, the loss each will feel without the other’s presence.
It is a moment of wonder, of newness, of aching loveliness – a moment of pure theater, an evolution that advances the work and the art form. This is just one example of transformative power in this show and there are many more: Diana’s (Jessica Miret) battle for righteousness, Cassies’ (Casiena Raether) quest for acceptance, and Paul’s (Luke Halpern) search for himself and many more – the show overflows with funny, dramatic, touching and exquisite expressions.
Robin Hughes, a Director of colossal talent, provides both guidance and freedom for actors to finds these moments, to discover fresh forms of connections in the context of an established, venerable production. Excellent direction leads to an awakening of possibilities which the actors not only pursue but also thrive within. Theater continues to transform, to advance, to dazzle us with its immediacy.
It is my honor to be a part of this ongoing evolution.
Please contact me with your thoughts and ideas:
Artistic & Executive Director, Metropolis Performing Arts Centre
October 25, 2018 § Leave a comment
I’ve never really considered myself a “good” theatre person. I honestly don’t know many musicals or plays other than the ones I was in or had to read about in school. I knew bits and pieces of musicals here and there and was familiar with certain songs but overall I was pretty clueless.
When I heard about Metropolis doing A Chorus Line, I HAD to be in it because I love to dance. All I knew about A Chorus Line was that it was a dance show and the opening number song. I didn’t know that’s where “Dance Ten Looks Three” or “At The Ballet” or “What I Did For Love” were all in this show. I always feel so behind or out of the loop.
However, one thing I always appreciate about not knowing, is that I get to experience shows for the first time. I didn’t come in knowing the jokes or knowing my character or feeling like I knew all about the show. So I did my research. I watched the documentary, I read the book and I watched the movie and watched whatever clips I could find on YouTube. With this show in particular, it really hit home.
Being an actor is not easy. I felt a lot of connections to Mark because like him, I too felt like I am just breaking into this business. I’m hopeful but still naive in so many ways. Even weeks into our run, I’m still discovering new things about my character and other people’s characters. When you’re on stage for basically the entire show, it’s hard to see the same show twice. Every time we get a chance to go backstage, we’ll always talk about some new thing we did, some funny thing we saw someone else do that we’ll later find out they’ve been doing for weeks or we’ll have a new moment where we just see someone new, connect with them in a different way or at a different time. I think you have to go into this show that way. You can’t go in knowing that you’re going to get cast or that you’re not going to get cast. You can’t go in knowing where the jokes are or exactly how you’re going to react. Every performance has to be fresh and vulnerable which is scary.
Luckily, I have the most amazing and supportive cast. This would be an extremely hard show to do if you didn’t have that safe environment created by the cast and team to be vulnerable, to try new things and to feel safe to fail or cry or mess up choreography. I am so thankful for this show. It’s allowed me to be vulnerable and reminded me just how scary this career is but how brave I am to pursue it. It’s also reminded me every performer is doing their best. We have to be there for each other.
Yes, in a way we’re competition. We’re all competing for the same roles but more importantly, we can walk into this competition together. Every night, when Zach chooses his 4 girls and 4 guys, I am grateful that I am one of the chosen but it never ceases to also give me a pinch of sadness for my other fellow actors who did not make the cut.
A Chorus Line teaches empathy and we all need to be reminded of this in this business and in this life filled with so much hate, negativity, fear and violence. That’s why I do theatre. I do not need to know every lyric to every musical. I just need to know the lessons they teach me. What’s the point of being a “good theatre person” if you’re not a good person and carrying along those lessons out in the real world? Yes, as Cassie says, I need a job. However, our job is more than what we do onstage, but rather what we do offstage that counts.
October 10, 2018 § Leave a comment
On my thirteenth birthday (it might’ve been my fourteenth) my girlfriend at the time bought me “B’Way: The American Musical” CD; a compilation of songs from monumental musicals starting with the theme from Oklahoma! spanning to what was then the very new and revolutionary “Defying Gravity” from Wicked. It was jam packed with classics including Ethel Merman’s brassy rendition of “Anything Goes”, “Don’t For Me Argentina”, “Memory”, and “Good Morning Baltimore”. It was every adolescent-theatre-nerd’s dream. That night, I popped the CD into my navy blue walkman, slipped on my old school headphones, and listened to the entire album. Track 16 was one of the strangest songs I had ever heard; people talking over each other, speaking dance moves in broken patterns over dreamlike music. I turned over the CD case to find the name of the song. It was, you guessed it, “One” from the original cast recording of A Chorus Line.
Flash forward a few years and chubby teenage Brian is power walking to the back of the music section at Border’s (remember that place?) to buy the The New Cast Recording of A Chorus Line which had just re-opened on Broadway. Flash forward another year (and hundreds of car rides with Mom driving while I was scream singing Maggie’s crescendo in “At The Ballet”), and I’m sitting at the Schoenfield Theatre in New York with my high school choir mates, about to watch what had become one of my absolute favorite musicals.
I think the most beautiful thing about A Chorus Line is that you can relate to essentially every single character even if you aren’t a dancer. And, believe me, I am certainly not a dancer. Regardless, it is so easy to get swept into the stories and realize the beauty and complication that is simply growing up and being alive.
Flash forward to today, and I have the beautiful privilege of being a part of this production, along with the even greater privilege of playing Zach. It is magical watching these beautiful stories unfold night after night; re-living those car rides with my mom, singing “Nothing” in the hallways at school with friends, and those nights when I fell asleep listening to “What I Did For Love”.
Thank you to Robin for this role, to Mom for letting me to the soundtrack repeatedly, and to YOU for supporting Metropolis PAC production of A Chorus Line!