On our first day of staging, we were shown our props for the first time. The first thing I noticed was a stack of iPhones, which caused a smile to grow across my face. But when I picked up one of the phones, I realized they were not real but incredible replications. Even when you are holding one, it looks and feels like the real thing.
As we began to rehearse the show, I incorporated the use of a phone into Henry’s staging: checking his Facebook as I walk into Natalie’s practice room for the first time in “Everything Else,” or texting my Mom to let her know I’d be staying at the Goodmans for dinner in “It’s Gonna Be Good.”
While I figured Henry is an iPhone kind of guy, I didn’t think that the clean, blue phone cover it had was very true to his character.
When I was in high school, I remember doodling on EVERYTHING: my binder, my textbooks, even my converse shoes. I figured that an artistic, thoughtful guy like Henry would probably do the same.
So, when I came in this morning and saw Lynda J. Kwallek (our properties designer) in the rehearsal room, I asked her if I could draw on the iPhone cover. Luckily for me, she said I could mark it up however I wanted. And that’s exactly what I began to do.
My first act was to tag the phone as Henry’s. I drew a big “H” on the cover with a silver Sharpee, complete with a diagonal stripes. As a kid, I was fascinated with perspective drawings, so I made sure to shadow the “H” with a black Sharpee.
At the front of the Next to Normal script, playwright Brian Yorkey describes Henry as: Musician. Romantic. Stoner. Slacker. Philosopher King.
I wanted to add something to the phone cover that would reflect Henry’s romantic and philosophic sides. So I googled “romantic philosophy” and found some beautiful quotes by Jean Jacques Rousseau. One of these quotes seemed to reflect Henry:
“Take the course opposite to custom and you will almost always do well.”
Henry is a passionate, brave and driven young man, who indulges in experiences that are off of the beaten path. I figured this was a great mantra for him, so I wrote the quote along the edges of the phone cover.
Next, I decided to mess up the cover a bit. I added a bunch of shapes: squares, circles and a few spirals, in honor of the Fibonacci Sequence (and Henry’s nerdy side). I wanted the phone cover to look busy, as if I’d been drawing on it for months. My hope is that during the weeks before opening night, the markings on the cover will begin to fade and acquire a weathered look.
Creating this phone cover allowed me to dig a little deeper into Henry’s character. Thinking about what Henry would draw helped me to understand him in ways that will make my performance more fully realized.
When you see the show, check out the phone cover. Hopefully, it will bring a bit more reality into the world of Next to Normal for you as well.
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.