Next to Normal: Game On

As I alluded to in last week’s blog, the first rehearsals with an unfamiliar group of actors are a unique experience. Imagine starting a new job and being expected to immediately connect with your co-workers on a personal level. It’s our job to be able to tap into these emotional places easily and truthfully. However, even the most skilled actor can appreciate a little assistance in connecting with their fellow performers.

Our first week of rehearsal was filled with music and staging. We’ve already learned our vocal parts for the entire show, as well as the staging for most of Act I. That first act was already beginning to take shape when we ran it on Sunday afternoon. The company is showing glimpses of the beautiful work that will be part of our performances– from Peter James Zielinski’s awe-inspiring riffs to Jonathan Rayson’s masterclass in acting when he performs “I Am The One.” But for me, one of the most valuable pieces of this week’s rehearsal took place outside of work: Game Night.

On the evening before our day off, I invited the cast and crew over to my apartment for a relaxing night of food, drink and games. We spent the evening playing two rousing games of Telephone Pictionary (if you don’t know how to play, you can find instructions here: www.greatgroupgames.com/telephone-pictionary.htm.) It’s a very simple game to learn, but a challenging game to master. And the attempts to play it well are almost always hilarious.

You see, games just make you laugh, and last night’s festivities were no exception. I can’t remember the last time I laughed that much (It was probably the last time I hosted a Game Night). And with a show as heavy as Next to Normal can be, it is important to let all of that emotional weight go. The opportunity to relax with these new-found colleagues builds an innate sense of understanding and trust between us that wouldn’t be present if we only discussed the show.

After two rounds of Telephone Pictionary, Conly Basham (our Natalie understudy) shared with the group that she moonlights as a handwriting specialist. She spent the next hour analyzing each of our handwriting, talking about creativity v. structure, optimism v. pessimism and, perhaps most pertinently to Next to Normal, family relationships.

On our very first day of rehearsal, our director Nicole Capri told us “We are defined by our relationships.” Hearing Conly talk about each person’s handwriting, and what it may or may not reflect about their own relationships, was illuminating for our work both onstage and off.

Game Night allowed us to see each other outside of our work environment as more than colleagues – as people. We learned things about our co-workers we wouldn’t know solely discussing our work. And that additional knowledge and compassion will somehow reflect back on what we bring to the stage in next week’s rehearsal.

Mo Brady is originally from Seattle and made his Broadway debut in The Addams Family. He performed in the world premiere of Catch Me If You Can at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, as well as in six additional original productions at the theater. His performances inSeven Brides For Seven Brothers and Hello, Dolly! there won him a “Best of Seattle” Award from Seattle Weekly magazine. He has worked on many developmental productions and world premieres, including Villains Tonight! with Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen for Walt Disney Entertainment, Robin Hood with Martin Charnin and Snapshots with Stephen Schwartz, both at Village Theatre in Seattle. This fall, Mo performed in workshops of two Broadway-bound musicals: The Rhythm Club, directed by Casey Nicolaw, and The Honeymooners, directed by Jerry Mitchell. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Whitman College. Read more at www.mobrady.net.

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