Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Grey Gardens - meet director Christopher Dykton

What do you find appealing about Grey Gardens?
The characters.  It's a mix of complex characters.  Edith and Little Edie are seen at two distinct moments in their lives thirty years a part and we ask the question, "How did we become like this?"

What single word would you use to describe yourself as director of Grey Gardens?
Determined.

What have you learned about yourself while working on this show?
It's easy to reflect on who I am and who I was years ago, when doing a show like Grey Gardens.  And also, how nutty part of me is.

What do you hope the audience takes away from Grey Gardens?
I hope they embrace the love of the two Ediths.

How does this show differ from other shows you have worked on?
The cast is small and the production is technically complex.  Three actors play two parts across thirty years -- that's really different to do.

How long have you been directing and choreographing?  How did you get involved with LTA?
Directing and choreographing have been my dual passions artistically for the past twenty years.  I first worked with LTA in 1990, when I played Bobby in A Chorus Line.

What advice would you give others who are interested in working in theatre?
If you have the desire to do it, do it.  It's magical, whether you are on stage or behind the scenes.



Grey Gardens - meet cast member Marshall Cesena

Meet Marshall Cesena who is playing Jerry and Joe Kennedy Jr. in LTA's Grey Gardens.

What do you find appealing/interesting about your role in Grey Gardens?
I love the parallels between Joe in Act I and Jerry in Act II.  Whether they mean to or not, they both seem to exist (in the context of the show, at least) to stir the pot between Big Edie and Little Edie, providing a catalyst for the larger conflicts in each act.  This show has layer after layer; I probably discover something new each time I read through the script and every time I perform a scene.  It's incredibly well written.

What have you learned about yourself in playing the role of Joe and Jerry?
I've been on a small hiatus from theatre and this show has set the bar very high as my first production back.  It's really rekindled my love of performing, especially with this amazing cast and production team.  The role itself has taught me about real character work.  Both these guys come from worlds that are unfamiliar to me, from an upper class family to a high school dropout/runaway.  Both these guys are also real people, so no only has there been a lot of research involved, but I've also had to incorporate character traits of my own that mirror those of Joe and Jerry.

What single word would you use to describe your characters?
Joe - "Kennedy".
Jerry - "Sincere".

What do you want the audience to take away from Grey Gardens?
I remember seeing the original Broadway production in October of 2006.  It completely blew me away.  I hope the audience comes away with the same sense of self reflection that I did.  The show presents you with so much information, so much to take in, that you end up months later remembering some nuance or relating your life to Little Edie in some way.  I love when a show sticks with you that way.

How does this show differ from other shows you have worked on?
This show doesn't have the feel of a musical, but rather a play with music dispersed throughout.  It's a deep show that gets you thinking more than most other musicals.

How long have you been acting?  How did you get involved with LTA?
This is my first show with LTA!  I've been acting since I was little and while I'm not sure what got me involved then, I've stuck with it because I love it!  There's something about really committing to a character and channeling your energy into them that is deeply satisfying.

What advice would you give others who want to get involved in theatre?
Go see more shows!  My first day of acting school in New York City, my teacher told us all that we should get tuition refunds and spend the money seeing Broadway shows.  The more theatre you watch, the more you learn about good theatre versus bad theatre.  Immerse yourself!


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Grey Gardens - meet cast member Penelope Gallagher

Meet Penelope Gallager who is playing Lee Bouvier in LTA's Grey Gardens.

What do you find appealing about Lee in Grey Gardens?
My character is a real life princess!

What have you learned about yourself in playing this role?
Her older sister becomes the first lady of the United States.  That's pretty cool!  It's fun to have an older sister, even if it's just for a show because I don't have any sisters.

What single word would you use to describe Lee?
Tomboy.

What do you want the audience to take away from this show?
The love between mothers and daughters is powerful.

How does this show differ from other shows you have worked on?
It has a really small cast.

How long have you been acting and how did you get involved with LTA?
I've been acting for six years starting with drama camps.  The LTA summer camps are great!

What advice would you give others who want to get involved with theatre?
Never give up!  You'll have a lof of no's at auditions but the little yes's you have, you will cherish.


Grey Gardens - meet cast member Dick Reed


What do you find appealing or interesting about your character and this show? 
As a grandfather myself, it’s natural to try to help set my grandchildren on a path to a pleasant and meaningful future, like Bouvier. For Norman Vincent Peale, the chance to be something of a televangelist is great fun! At services, my Rabbi sometimes gets me feeling like NVP and I want to shout out “Hallelujah!,” but I’ve never had the guts to do so. I brought some of that feeling to this show.

What have you learned about yourself in playing the role of Bouvier & NVP? 
As an actor who has done dozens of roles in scores of productions I have been wonderfully surprised to learn so much stagecraft that I had not known. Chris Dykton is an amazing director. I sincerely hope to do other shows with him – providing there are roles for old farts like me! It’s so nice to have three surrogate grandchildren in the cast – and I feel like they ARE my grandchildren. That aspect of Blackjack Bouvier is easy to play.  The martinet father is tougher – albeit merited in the context of the play --  it is not something I enjoy.

What single word would you use to describe your character in “Grey Gardens”?
"Family". As I play two characters, I’ll go with the larger role – Blackjack Bouvier.  Lineage could work too – he wants his “family crest” to be “burnished,” but family works better for how I’m playing him. 


What do you want the audience to experience/take away from this show? 
I hope they have a very enjoyable time and walk out humming one of the tunes. Nicky McDonnell (who plays Edie) will break their hearts – both with what she does and, especially, with what she says in her songs. The lyrics and music are amazing, and she does them every justice. The cast as a whole is excellent and will present the audience the story of these two women in a way that will surprise, amuse and inform them. Their lives were both easy and hard, and this comes across extremely well in the play.

How does this show differ from other shows you have worked on? 
The main difference is one of production values. I’ve done more than 100 productions in the DMV area, including lots of shows that have won awards (I’m especially proud of British Embassy Players award for my King Arthur in Camelot), and the production of this one is the best I have ever been around. LTA and this production team have no peers in my 40 years of doing community theatre. From auditions to the first read-through to each rehearsal, everyone associated with the production is organized, available, helpful, understands conflicting schedules and teaches everyone – by word and by deed – how to be better storytellers. And isn’t that what we’re doing? Telling a story with songs.

How long have you been acting and what made you get involved with theatre? 
How did you get involved with LTA? I’ve been doing this for longer than half the cast has been alive (40 years)! My first theatrical role was to have been playing Hoss Cartwright in 1963 during the “Bonanza” era. Tragically, President Kennedy was assassinated on the day we were to open. Of course the show was cancelled. It was a lot of years later when I was working at the Naval Research Lab and my co-workers talked me into a show, “The Man Who Came to Dinner.” I was hooked and have done one or more shows a year ever since. LTA has always seemed out of my reach. The production schedule was too ambitious for me while I was working. Now that I’m retired and have more time, and LTA wanted a baritone/tenor aged 65-80, it was right in my wheelhouse. I auditioned and was lucky enough to get the role. I’ll be back!

What advice would you give others who are interested in working in theatre? 
Go for it! Really, that’s all there is to it. Everyone can sing and dance – honest! – it’s just up to the director and choreographer to use them properly. So many people are afraid to do either in front of an audience. The rewards are fabulous. Simply fabulous. Start small, if that’s easier, and then build. While there are truly amazingly talented people around, most of us are just folks who have learned to like singing and dancing on stage. It is truly addictive!



Grey Gardens - meet cast member Nicky McDonnell

Meet Nicky McDonnell who is playing Big Edie in Act 1 and Little Edie in Act 2 of LTA's Grey Gardens.

What do you find appealing/interesting about your character and this show?
I prefer musicals that feel more like plays - when they touch on deeper themes and characters.  Grey Gardens explores the terrain of humanity that is typically left behind.  Big and Little Edie defined a social circle and due to their circumstances, they fell from grace.  No one was there to truly catch them when they fell despite their pedigree, but they had each other and held on to one another to survive.  Exploring which character needs the other one more and when and why it is fascinating to me - that shifts throughout the show and the documentary.  It touches on many of the great Greek themes of loss and despair, betrayal, courage and survival - hopefully all that pathos will draw the audience more deeply into the story.

What have you learned about yourself in playing these roles?
To play Big Edie and Little Edie you have to have the deepest sense of compassion and tenderness.  You have to rid yourself of judgement and cliche.  You have to make these women real and steer clear from caricature.  You have to go further than you want to go into yourself emotionally.  Though the characters are larger than life, they are also incredibly nuanced.  I've learned that I relate to these women deeply as I see their circumstance all around me in our world.  All around us millions of people are in need - looking for dignity - the Beales just happened to make front page news.

What do you want the audience to take away from Grey Gardens?
I want them to try and relate and discover the intricacies of the story.  I want to evoke compassion rather than judgement.  I think a lot of people will see crazy instead of courage.  I want them to see nostalgia instead of nuts.  I want them to see bravery instead of bonkers.  Most of all, I want them to see and feel the love that exists in this story.

How does this show differ from other shows you have worked on?
It is an incredibly well written show, both libretto and score.  It's a very difficult show.  It's also way off the beaten path of your typical musical.  I've worked on difficult shows before but I think this may be the toughest show I've ever done.  It's daunting to be sure.

What single word would you use to describe your character in Grey Gardens.
Extraordinary.

How long have you been acting?  What made you get involved in theatre?  How did you get involved with LTA?
I've been on stage since I was four and never left for good.  After twelve years in New York City pursuing theatre, we moved here in 2001.  I was in the middle of a career change.  In 2002, I saw that LTA was doing Master Class.  I auditioned and got to play Callas.  I've been working with LTA ever since - as time permits.

What advice would you give others who want to work in theatre?
Just do it.


Thursday, December 3, 2015

A Christmas Carol - meet cast member Clare Baker

Tell us about your role in A Christmas Carol.
I play Belle Fezziwig, Scrooge's past love.  She is the daughter of Mr. Fezziwig who was Scrooge's employer.  When Scrooge visits the past, he sees his relationship with Belle unravel before his eyes.  Eventually, Scrooge's greed overpowers his love for Belle and they part ways.  Scrooge then sees Belle's family that she has after their relationship ended and sees what his future could have been.

What were some challenges you faced while working on this show?
The three scenes Belle is in are consecutive but each have very different emotional levels to each of them.  During the scene in which Belle and Scrooge break-up, I struggled with reaching the raw emotion needed for this scene.  I had to work hard to emotionally connect to the feelings that Belle was experiencing during this scene.

What do you hope the audience takes away from A Christmas Carol?
That friends and family are the most valuable things a person has in their lives and that wealth is never as important as the people in your life.



A Christmas Carol - meet cast member John Trope



Tell us about your character in A Christmas Carol.
I play Scrooge in his younger self. He is in the early stages of his life finding love and where he discovers his joy. There is a transition from the charming, pleasant fellow he used to be to the hateful, selfish miser he becomes by making money his single pursuit.  I also play Topper, a good friend and party guest of Fred's. He strives to get close to Lillian, his lady friend. His happy place is a drink in one hand and a mistletoe in the other.

What were some of the challenges working in this show?
I work mainly with Clare Baker (Belle) and Olivia Hays (Lillian) for my characters, who are much younger than me. Once we got to know each other and hang out around Old Town, the chemistry became natural. That's important for any ensemble. They are family.

What do you hope audiences will take from A Christmas Carol?
That audiences would reflect on what the most important thing is in the center of their lives. That only God can change and fulfill people's hearts.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A Christmas Carol - meet cast member Eva Gary

Tell us about your character in LTA's A Christmas Carol.
Martha Cratchit, the oldest of the Cratchit children, is a kindhearted teenager who always has her family's best interest in mind.  She tries to provide for herself and her family by working at a young age.  Because Mrs. Cratchit has to spend the majority of her attention on Tiny Tim, Martha tries to step in as a motherly figure for some of the children.

What were some challenges you faced in working on this show?
As the Cratchit family began working on individual scenes together, I noticed the age gap more and more between myself and the other kids.  I felt that I was at an awkward age because I was the oldest of the children.  As we rehearsed more, I learned how to use my age as an advantage.  Now being older plays into the scene well because I have taken on a caregiver role and the age is a benefit instead of a challenge.

What do you hope the audience takes away from this performance?
I would love for the audience to take away a grateful feeling this holiday.  It's nice to be reminded every once in a while how blessed we are and to see the joy of a family like Martha Cratchit's that struggles but still makes room for gratitude and cheer.


A Christmas Carol - meet cast member Celeste Gary

Tell us about your role in LTA's A Christmas Carol.
My character's name is Fan Scrooge.  Fan is Ebenezer's little sister who is bright, energetic, and loves Ebenezer very much.  Ebenezer and Fan's mother passed away and Fan is now the only joy in Ebenezer's life.  Her father is very cruel to Fan and her brother after their mother dies.  Their father loves Fan because she reminds him of his wife, so to make her happy he allows Ebenezer to return home from boarding school over the holiday.

What were some challenges you faced with this show?
I found it challenging to connect with my character because I have two sisters and I don't have a brother.  Unlike my character, my parents are kind and loving.  This made it difficult to relate to Fan and make her feel more real to me.

What do you hope the audience takes away from A Christmas Carol?
I hope the audience enjoys the show and that the performance helps them get into the Christmas spirit.  I hope seeing the show reminds people (including me) that it is important to be grateful for what you have.


A Christmas Carol - meet cast member Nathaniel Burkhead

Tell us a bit about your character in LTA's A Christmas Carol.
My character, Tiny Tim, is a very sweet and kindhearted person, very innocent.  I love how he stays happy and filled with Christmas cheer.  He is the kind of person that will always see the glass as "half full" no matter what happens.  He is also kind of funny, in the way that when everyone else sees Scrooge in a bad way, he believes (in his optimist sort of way) that Scrooge isn't really a bad person, or that he just doesn't have the knowledge to realize that he is.

What were some challenges you faced in working on this show?
Some challenges in working on this piece were learning to speak in a British accent, which, thanks to this play, has become natural.  Another one was learning to walk with a limp, which resulted in several ankle problems and also a sprained ankle once.  Lastly, there was finding the right sized crutch, which we had to raise twice, and then lower.  At last, we finally got the right size.

What do you hope the audience takes away from A Christmas Carol?
I hope that the audience will take away the transition with Scrooge from "Christmas! Bah, Humbug" to "Merry Christmas everyone!!", the happiness of Fred, the sweetness of Tiny Tim, and loads of Christmas cheer.