Thursday, June 27, 2013

Meet the Cast - Avenue Q - Aerika Saxe

What do you find appealing about your character?
Gary Colema’s character appealed to me because he’s one of the only humans in the show. There’s something really surreal about interacting with puppets and I always loved how when watching Sesame Street, the humans made the puppets seem real because they spoke and interacted with them like they were. Gary is the celebrity guest, but in true Avenue Q fashion, he’s a washed up celebrity instead of a big star.  I had never seen Different Strokes before being cast in this role.  Part of my homework was watching episodes and I have to say, I really enjoyed the show.  It was truly entertaining to watch and see how Gary Coleman rose to fame.  As far as how that impacted me, well I have to admit, I developed a lot more respect for the character I'm playing.  I was able to get a better understanding of why the creators put him in this show.  I feel like the creators wanted the audience to experience a little firsthand schadenfreude by having my character here and I'm more than happy to fulfill the role. 

What do you find appealing about this show?
I love Avenue Q! I know, a surprise! Really though, I feel like this show starts where Sesame Street left off. I think being twenty-something’s, we’re often feeling like Princeton, recently graduated and realizing we have no clue what we want to do with the degree we just spent so much money earning. I feel like Avenue Q demonstrates that it is okay to not be like your law school friend, or the one in the Army, but to just to be you. On top of that, it takes such an in your face look at such sensitive topics that we normally only speak about in whispers.  I think that because you’re laughing at topics you’re normally not allowed to talk about, it makes it easier to break down some of those barriers and start open and honest dialogue about things like racism, homosexuality, and even porn. 

What do you want the audience to experience/take away from this show?
I want the audience to have a blast watching this show and realize it’s okay to laugh because it’s meant to be funny. There are so many stereotypes and some of them are pretty hilarious!! We all know they exist but we don’t talk about them. Why? I think this show forces you to. I’d like audiences to leave with their stomachs sore from laughing and feeling a bit more comfortable too. I hate how we have to walk on eggshells because we don’t want to offend somebody. Some of the most “politically correct” terms are, in reality, the most offensive. If you don’t know, ASK! It’s not that hard and the person will probably appreciate it!

How does this show differ from other shows you have worked on?
This is one of the smallest shows I’ve ever been a part of. There are only 8 of us and because of that we’re doing a lot more work. Even when you’re not on stage your backstage singing or helping someone with a puppet! It’s really allowed the cast to bond and I can already sense there could be some tears during closing weekend. This show is also very new as opposed to typical community theatre shows. Most of us in the show remember when it came out in high school or the early years of college, so it’s something we grew up with. This is one of those “dream role” shows for a lot of the cast! Then, of course, there’s the content. Because of the dialogue of this show, we’re all known to come up with some pretty awesome zingers of our own during rehearsals. We’re a very multicultural cast, as intended when this show was created and it makes it a blast because we’re constantly saying “highly inappropriate” things. Then of course there’s our director, Frank Shutts! Besides being a brilliant director, he also made sure that this show is not only fun but a learning experience. He does this by asking us why we’re doing or saying something, to get to the meat of the story.  He was very quick to point out that there is a story behind all the dirty jokes and it’s our job to bring it out. 

How long have you been acting and what made you get involved in theatre? How did you get involved with LTA?
I’ve been acting since I was 5.  My dad cast me in my very first show “Down by the Creek Bank. After that, I began doing a lot of shows in my church youth group. Once I went to high school, I began taking every acting class offered by my school. So it comes as no surprise that I went on to minor in theatre at Lynchburg College, before moving onto acting in the Lynchburg community. When I moved out of my college town, I didn’t know anything about theatre in the DMV area so it took a while before I auditioned for anything up here. I found the NVTA webpage and saw auditions for The Full Monty.  After much encouragement from the husband Ben and my dearest friend Brooke, I decided to give it a go. This is my second show with LTA and I hope it won’t be my last, I love this company! They are so genuine and the love of theatre is prevalent in everyone, from the costumers to the box office. These are people who really care and it shows.

What advice would you give others who are interested in working in theatre?
Go for it !! You have nothing to lose. You may get cast, you may not. In auditions anyone and everyone has a chance. You can’t get cast in every show either, sometimes you’re just not the right fit, but that’s doesn’t mean you’re not talented. Keep trying. If you can’t sing, or act but want to be involved then do something backstage. Every piece of theatre is important. LTA wouldn’t be the award winning theatre that it is without the gems working the lighting and the people designing and building our sets. Seriously, these shows can’t happen without dozens of people who aren’t on stage working on it.

Catch Aerika & her cast mates in Avenue Q at LTA  from July 27 - Aug. 17!
Tickets: / 703-683-0496


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Meet the Cast of Twentieth Century - Michael Gerwin

What is appealing about playing your character?
My wife says I do nervous befuddlement very well. That’s comfortable for me. 

What do you find appealing about this show?
Working with this talented cast and crew is enjoyable!!!    It is fun to do comedies involving stereotypical theater people!!!  In those roles, it is very difficult to go “over the top” or take yourself too seriously.  My character is a theater wanna-be but the motivations are the same. 

How did you get involved with LTA?
One day in 2002 I told my friend John Kirby I was auditioning for Arsenic and Old Lace at LTA. John was a not only a co-worker and but he and I had acted together in To Kill A Mockingbird at Tapestry Theater.  John asked if he could join me for the audition.   I was interested in the part of Teddy Brewster, a man who lives under the illusion that he was Teddy Roosevelt.   (I have always been fascinated by Roosevelt.) That evening at auditions, John met a lovely and talented actress named Kristen Page.  A day or two later we were pleased to learn that I was cast as Teddy, John was cast as my brother Jonathan Brewster (the Boris Karloff looking villain) and Kristen was cast as Elaine, Mortimer Brewster’s girlfriend.  I immensely enjoyed playing a slightly demented caricature of our 26th President (which included my consulting with a stuffed teddy bear).   As it happens, John and Kristen fell in love and are now married with a beautiful son, Jack.   Residents of Eastern Maryland, the Kirbys are actively involved in Port Tobacco Theater in LaPlata, where they have acted in and directed several marvelous plays.  John directed and Kristen produced Port Tobacco’s 2010 rendition of Arsenic and Old Lace. This is my second LTA show under the direction of Roland Gomez. The first was Heaven Can Wait where I played a hardboiled 1930s police detective.   Roland definitely tries to direct each comedy so you get the maximum laughter for your buck!

Other thoughts? 
I’d like to thank my beautiful wife for encouraging me in this crazy hobby.  Sarah, I love you very much.

Michael Gerwin is playing Dr. Grover Lockwood in Twentieth Century.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Meet the cast of Twentieth Century - David James

What made you want to do the role of Oscar Jaffe?
I wasn’t sure I did want to do the role of Oscar Jaffe.

Did you not like the role?
No. To be honest I was afraid of the role.  This rings true for all the roles in Twentieth Century, but it is exemplified in the role of Oscar. In order for any actor to do more than just bring his character to life, they must be willing to take risks. Go a little beyond their comfort level. Comedy demands this more than anything.  An actor’s first responsibility in a performance is always believability. In reading the script, I thought it to be, for me anyway, an almost impossible task to bring Oscar to life without making him a cartoon. I did not think I could do this level of comedy. I lacked the experience in this comedic genre. When an actor creates a role he must make definite choices and he must commit himself to them 100 percent. When the choices are so insanely broad, to put it mildly, as they are in the role of Oscar, any level of tentativeness will ruin the performance. An actor has to really trust his instincts. I was not sure I trusted mine.                   

After having said all that, why did you choose to do it?
I mentioned an actor must be willing to take risks to succeed, so I decided to take the risk. But I was not alone and I did not take the risk blindly. Trust is also a tool an actor must possess to succeed, and I trusted my director, Roland Gomez. I have done two previous shows with Roland and he saw something in me that I did not. Whatever it was, it lead him to believe I could do it. This is also very convenient for me because if I stink the place up, I can blame Roland!

Are you happy with your choice of doing the show?
Yes, I am! I have learned a great deal from this cast and crew and they have been very supportive. There are many fine performances being turned in by my fellow actors. It has made my job much easier having so much to work with on the stage. This cast is very committed and the audience will be delighted with all their efforts and hard work.