VIDEO: The Plot of Windfall with Jason Alexander & Scooter Pietsch

A new play by Scooter Pietsch and directed by Jason Alexander, Windfall is a dark comedy Rep audiences will get to experience first!

Watch our latest From Script to Stage video below to hear as Director Jason Alexander and Playwright Scooter Pietsch explain the plot of the show and why they think Arkansas audiences need to experience it.

Tickets are on sale now at www.TheRep.org or by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. ‪#‎WindfallatArkRep‬ ‪#‎ArkansasRep‬

August Tuesday: An Introduction

THEREP_AUGUST (no credits)-page-001Our final show of the 2014-2015 MainStage Season is upon us!

August: Osage County, a Pulitzer Prize-winning play that is finally taking The Rep stage, will open June 5. And to highlight this critically acclaimed play, we are starting a brand-new weekly blog series, showcasing the various aspects of the show.

To kick things off, we thought it would be a good idea to look at the plot, characters and really why Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp wanted to bring this show to The Rep stage.

Plot

When the large Weston family unexpectedly reunites after dad disappears, their Oklahoman family homestead explodes in a maelstrom of repressed truths and unsettling secrets. Mix in Violet, the drugged-up, scathingly acidic matriarch, and you’ve got a major new play that unflinchingly—and uproariously—exposes the dark side of the Midwestern American family.

“I knew this production needed to live on the Rep stage, so we’ve had the rights to this play for four years. As my favorite American play of the past decade, the timing is right now—the movie has come and gone and the right actors are available. This is the don’t-miss show of the season,” Hupp said.

Characters

Beverly Weston: The father of the Weston family, aged 69, an alcoholic and washed-up poet. His mysterious disappearance one evening and eventually discovered death are the reasons for the family’s reunion.

Violet Weston: The sharp-tongued matriarch who is addicted to several prescriptions; she is aware of the family’s many secrets and is not hesitant to reveal them.

Barbara Fordham: The oldest daughter of the Weston Family who is the mother of Jean and wife of Bill, though they are currently separated. She has the intense need to control everything around her as it falls apart.

Bill Fordham: Barbara’s estranged husband and Jean’s father who is a college professor. He has left his wife for a younger woman named Cindy, one of his students, but wants to be there for his family.

Jean Fordham: Bill and Barbara’s precocious 14-year-old daughter. She smokes pot and cigarettes, is a vegetarian, loves old movies, and is bitter about her parents’ split.

Ivy Weston: The middle daughter of the Weston family; is the only daughter to stay in Oklahoma and teaches at the local college. Her calm and patient exterior hides a passionate woman who is gradually growing cynical.

Karen Weston: The youngest daughter in the Weston family who is newly engaged to Steve, whom she considers the “perfect man”, and lives with him in Florida, planning to marry him soon. Karen can talk of little else but her own happiness even at her father’s funeral.

Steve Heidebrecht: Karen’s fiancé; a businessman in Florida, (whose business, it is hinted, centers around the Middle East and may be less than legitimate) and is not the “perfect man” that Karen considers him.

Mattie Fae Aiken: Violet’s sister, Charlie’s wife and Little Charles’ mother; she is just as jaded as her sister, constantly belittling her son and antagonizing her husband.

Charles Aiken: Husband of Mattie Fae and the father of Little Charles. Charlie, a genial man, was a lifelong friend of Beverly. He struggles to get Mattie Fae to respect Little Charles.

Little Charles Aiken: Son of Mattie Fae and Beverly, 37 years old who is unemployed and clumsy.

Johnna Monevata: A Cheyenne Indian woman, age 26, whom Beverly hires as a live-in housekeeper shortly before he disappears; Johnna is the silent witness to much of the mayhem in the house.

Sheriff Deon Gilbeau: A high-school classmate and former boyfriend of Barbara’s who returns to the Weston household to relay some news.

Production History

  • The show was originally produced on Aug. 12, 2007 by the Steppenwolf Theatre Company at the Downstairs Theatre in Chicago.
  • The Broadway production began previews on Oct. 30, 2007, at the Imperial Theatre only days before the 2007 Broadway stagehand strike on Nov. 10, which temporarily closed most shows on Broadway. The strike continued through the official opening date of Nov. 20, forcing the show to re-schedule its Dec. 4 opening. The Broadway show closed on June 28, 2009, after 648 performances and 18 previews. The Broadway debut used much of cast from Steppenwolf in Chicago, and opened to receive wide acclaim.
  • The production, originally slated to close on Feb. 17, 2008, was extended for three weeks to March 9 after the strike, and later extended to April 13, 2008, when it was subsequently given an open-ended commercial run.
  • August: Osage County made its UK debut at London’s National Theatre in Nov. 2008.
  • Additionally, a US National Tour was launched at Denver’s Ellie Caulkins Opera House on July 24, 2009. This production went on to tour throughout the country.

Awards

August: Osage County was the recipient of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, in addition to winning five 2008 Tony Awards, including Best Play, three 2008 Drama Desk Awards including Outstanding Play, the 2008 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play, the 2008 Drama League Award for Distinguished Production of a Play and the 2008 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Broadway Play.

Check back every Tuesday throughout the run of the show (June 5-21) to get a glimpse into a new aspect of the show and buy your tickets for the show by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 or visiting TheRep.org.

Wait Until Dark Wednesday: Fight Choreography Photos

10599443_10152293686761105_3499274649356528634_nThere is no denying that there are some physical scenes in our production of Wait Until Dark— from an innocent slap to pushing to full-on fighting. And to get the actors prepped for the physical nature of the historical production, they have left it in the hands of master instructor and fight choreographer D.C. Wright.

Throughout rehearsals, Wright, who has worked on Rep productions, such as The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged), Treasure Island, Death of a Salesman, To Kill a Mockingbird, Henry V and more, runs through each physical scene in slow motion to ensure actors are safely acting out their scenes and also make sure it’s as realistic as possible.

Check out these photos (and video!) that we captured during a recent fight choreography rehearsal before the run of the show!

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Craig Maravich (Mike Talman) and Amy Hutchins (Susy) run through their physical scene

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Maravich and Hutchins

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Nate Washburn (Sam) and Hutchins act out their innocent slap scene

VIDEO: Husband-and-wife team Hutchins and Michael Stewart Allen’s (Roat) fight scene in rehearsals below:

Great seats are available for Wait Until Dark. Purchase yours online or by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405.

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D.C. Wright (Fight Choreographer) is excited to be back at The Rep again, having previously directed the fights for The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged), Treasure Island, Death of a Salesman, To Kill a Mockingbird, Henry V, Hamlet, both productions of Les Misérables, Moonlight and Magnolias, Of Mice and Men, and Romeo and Juliet. He has also directed fights for One Man, Two Guv’nors and Hamlet at Theatre Squared in Fayetteville; Romeo and Juliet, Winters Tale, Titus Andronicus, Taming of the Shrew, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare: Abridged, Macbeth, Twelfth Night and Henry VIII for the Illinois Shakespeare Festival; and the Off-Broadway production of The Blowin of Baile Gall. D.C. Wright has been teaching, performing and directing violence since 1994.  He is recognized as a Certified Teacher of Stage Combat by the Society of American Fight Directors and as a Master Instructor by Dueling Arts International. D.C. teaches Movement and Stage Combat at Western Illinois University.

Wait Until Dark Wednesday: Learning to Play a Blind Character

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Actress Amy Hutchins will portray Susy Hendrix, a blind character in Wait Until Dark.

Think of the time it takes to play a lead role in a play. Weeks, months, days and hours memorizing lines, learning to interact with other characters, figuring out blocking on stage and keeping in mind various other things that have to be acted out flawlessly for each performance.

Now, imagine how long it takes to play a lead role who is blind– and the actor is not blind.

That is the very case of Amy Hutchins, who will be portraying Susy Hendrix, the blind lead character in the historical production of Wait Until Dark.

To better prepare for her role, Little Rock’s very own World Services for the Blind–the only facility in the world that offers comprehensive programs to blind or visually impaired for sustainable independence– offered free Life Skills Training to Hutchins, which involved learning basic techniques of daily living and orientation and mobility training, said Tony O. Woodell, President and CEO of World Services for the Blind.

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Robert Duvall as Roat terrorizes Lee Remick as blind Susy
in the 1966 Broadway production.

This included how to cook, clean, sew, iron and how to mark items appropriately for use.

“Ms. Hutchins was able to learn how to orient herself in a room by using senses other than sight and learn basic skills of travel for those that are blind and visually impaired,” Woodell said.

One thing Hutchins enjoyed about her class was observation– watching others at the WSB facility who are blind or are visually impaired go about their day. It was key to learning certain mannerisms and helped in learning different strategies to complete simple tasks that were critical to portraying the character Susy.

“My character knocks the salt and pepper shaker off the table and she has to find it later and [character] Gloria throws silverware all over the floor and she has to find it– she didn’t put them there so she has to find it,” Hutchins said. “So I asked, what is a good strategy?”

She said the instructor told her to think of the floor like grid pattern– think of the surface area like graph paper– you’ve got to go section by section.

19819996_BG1“Visiting WSB has given Ms. Hutchins practical skill knowledge that will help her better represent individuals who are blind or visually impaired.  With this practical knowledge, she can base her character in reality rather than stereotypes,” Woodell said.

For Hutchins, having the WSB in the area proved to be a valuable resource for her preparation.

“I just wanted to give an accurate representation,” Hutchins said. “It’s my job as an actor to figure out how to navigate the world without sight.”

Have a chance to see Hutchins in action when Wait Until Dark takes the stage from Friday, Oct. 24 and running through Nov. 9. Get more information and purchase your tickets at TheRep.org.

A Dreamer Reborn: Reinventing Pal Joey at The Rep

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The American musical has long given birth to the lives of dreamers and romantics. In this new, radically reconceived version of Rodgers & Hart’s Pal Joey, our sexually charismatic protagonist Joey is both a dreamer and a romantic, albeit a troubled one. He is a Bad Boy who is trying to be better.

This has never before been the case with Joey.  When he first made his appearance–in a series of short stories in the New Yorker by John O’Hara–Joey  was an untalented, narcissistic young nightclub singer, a cad and a womanizer with few redeeming qualities.

In 1940, O’Hara called upon Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart to set Joey’s sexual machinations  to music. And they did so gloriously with songs which have since become standards, including “Bewitched,  Bothered and Bewildered” and “I Could write a Book.”  In the process, O’Hara, in his libretto, incited Joey’s ambition to own a nightclub, something he achieves by becoming the plaything of Vera Simpson, a rich Chicago socialite, and betraying every one around him.

The songs softened those harsh edges. The musical was a modest hit in 1940 and and launched the career of Gene Kelly. Later, Frank Sinatra turned it into a contemporary film vehicle for himself by setting it in 1957 San Francisco. The movie was almost unrecognizable from its source material. That was understandable. After 1952,  “Pal Joey” became what is known as “a problem” musical. It has never been successfully revived, due in part to a rhetorical question posed by Brooks Atkinson, the New York Times critic, in his review of the 1940 production: “Can you draw sweet water from a foul well?”

That was the challenge when I and my creative team set out to reinvent the show with all due respect and admiration for its origins. Part of the problem was that Joey had been born at a pessimistic time. In 1940, Europe was at war and America was preparing for it.  So one of the first decisions we made was to update the musical to 1948, a much sunnier era.  We are after all, an optimistic people. It is part of our DNA. And post-War America was brimming with optimism, a country on the make perfectly suited for a guy on the make.

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Clifton Oliver stars as Joey. Mr. Oliver has also starred as Simba in The Lion King, Fiyero in Wicked and Benny in In The Heights.

And in our version the guy on the make is African-American. His presence raises the stakes. We felt that there was a certain poignancy in the notion of a talented young black man going for the brass ring in the white world of 1948. Joey’s dreams are fueled by the change that is in the air. Jackie Robinson has broken the color barrier in pro baseball. Joe Louis is the World’s Heavyweight Champ. Harry Truman has integrated the Armed Forces. For someone whose grandparents could have been born into slavery, Joey’s hunger to succeed is fierce. He wants everything the American dream promises.  But as he strives, he must confront not only his all-too-human flaws, but also a society which has told him to know his place.

On the most basic level, Joey just wants what we all want: to be visible, to count, to be worthy of someone’s love and attention. The two women who love him, in different ways, are Vera, the white socialite, and Linda, the working girl who is African-American. Our decision to make Joey and Vera’s relationship interracial was not taken lightly. It is a loaded one, especially for 1948. But our musical is less about race than about the desire for connection with another human being, whatever the age or color or sexual orientation for that matter.

MI0001717341We took our cue from the songs of Rodgers and Hart, which are all about the yearning for sex and love despite feeling unworthy of it. With this as our major theme, we replaced six songs in the original with others from their extraordinary catalogue, including “Sing for Your Supper,” “Nobody’s Heart,”  and “Glad to Be Unhappy.”

Which brings us to Ted, the piano player in the nightclub, who is a totally new character in the show. A songwriter and admirer of the Beat Generation, Ted bonds with Joey over their love of bebop and jazz. This gave us the opportunity to  re-interpret some of these well-known songs in the jazz idiom, giving them a fresh patina as performed by a very talented cast of actors.

We leave it to others to judge whether we have realized our goals. What we can say without reservation is that we are beyond delighted that the world premiere of our Pal Joey is at the Arkansas Rep in Little Rock. Bob Hupp and his exceptionally gifted and generous team have been invaluable in mounting this complex and challenging work. We are so very grateful to them. As we are to you, our first audiences.

After all, Pal Joey is ultimately about us. Our hopes, our dreams, our desire to love and to be loved, to be accepted for who we are. It is a quintessentially American story. If we have given Joey a heart, then we stand guilty as charged. But, as we all know, sometimes getting to the heart of the matter means a whole lot of drama—desire, doubt, betrayal, and all the other frolic and follies of our well-intentioned but often misdirected choices.

The miracle is that we ever end up connecting at all.

We hope you enjoy our Pal Joey.

– Peter Scheinder and Team

Home Away from Home: The Actor’s Holiday

Shane Donovan as Bob, Jennifer Sheehan as Betty, Case Dillard as Phil and Sarah Agar as Judy in Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas.

Photography by Cindy Momchilov, Camera Work. © Copyright 2012 Arkansas Repertory Theatre. All rights reserved.

Over the past thirty five years, The Rep has brought thousands of professional actors to Arkansas to perform in our shows, and every holiday season we fly in dozens of cast and crew members to entertain Little Rock audiences in our Christmas musicals.

This year, it’s interesting how the story line of White Christmas is so similar to the reality of the actor’s lives we employ — it’s the story of a group of young entertainers, traveling to a faraway place to put on a show for the holidays away from their family and friends. It’s the actors’ life in a holiday (chest)nut shell.

Read more about the cast and crew of The Rep’s White Christmas

There are a lot of things to fear going into the theatre industry: rejection, poverty, instability. But, for those of us that have ever dreamed of working in the theatre and a life on stage, probably the greatest fear of all is never being able to have a “normal life.” In choosing this profession, the reality is that we may never have the conventional “dinners at six” or the romanticized white picket fence, holidays with our family and friends or that Norman Rockwell idea of home.

The performing arts does not only take energy, it takes our time. Actors spend every night in the theatre – for three months, a six month tour, a season, or a Broadway contract. Our fellow actors become our family – and the theatre becomes our “home away from home” while we are separated from the ones that we love.

So… from our actors, directors, designers, managers and backstage crew of White Christmas, we want to wish you a very happy holiday and a peace-filled New Year. We are grateful to share our talents with you and we love sharing our lives. It’s our very personal gift to all of you this holiday season.

And for the opportunities, the applause and the appreciation of our craft – we are eternally grateful. Merry Christmas!

With love,

Nicole Capri and the Cast and Crew of White Christmas

Next to Normal: Wanderprobe

This week, we’ve been adding all of the technical elements into our rehearsals. Up until this week, we had been rehearsing in our own clothes, with no platforms and only minimal props and set pieces. This week, we’ve begun adding each in new pieces each day: first the set and the props, followed by the costumes, hair and lights. But my favorite day of the week, and of every tech week, was the first rehearsal we got to work with the band.

This rehearsal where the band and the actors work together for the first time is lovely referred to in musical theatre as the “wanderprobe.” You may be asking yourself, “What does wanderprobe mean?” Well, let me tell you.

To be frank, “wanderprobe” is a made up word. Its derived from the German word “sitzprobe,” which is defined by Wikipedia as a term used in opera and musical theatre to describe a seated rehearsal where the singers sing with the orchestra, focusing attention on integrating the two groups. It is often the first rehearsal where the orchestra and singers rehearse together.” A wanderprobe is where actors, the orchestra, and blocking come together for the first time. Essentially, it’s a sitzprobe with movement.

Wanderprobe day is my favorite day to be an actor. Wanderprobe is like Christmas and your birthday rolled into one, because all of the gifts are sensory. Your ears become vessels for these soul-inspiring gifts of song, presented to you one by one as you work your way through the score together for the first time.

During the first few weeks of any production, the only instrument you have in the rehearsal room is a piano and maybe a drum set. You spend the rehearsals imagining what the music will sound like with the band. But somehow, at wanderprobe, the full orchestrations always sound better than you can even imagine it.

Rehearsing to the full orchestrations (written by Michael Starobin and composer Tom Kitt) reminds me of when I fell in love with this score. The thrilling electric guitar at the top of “I’m Alive,” or the violin at the beginning of “So Anyway” that pulls at your heartstrings seem as vivid onstage as they do listening to the music at home.

But there are other parts of the orchestrations that I’ve never noticed before, and they’ve made me more aware of the subtleties of the score. The gentle guitar strumming at the top of“Hey #1”seems to reflect Henry’s tentative proposal to Natalie, and the drums that come in during “I Am The One” reprise seem as though they are leading a marching band straight through the theater.

When you’ve been rehearsing a show for weeks, it helps to have some extra inspiration. Working with the band has been just that. The energy these orchestrations bring to our rehearsals inspire us to delve deeper into the material, and make me even more excited to begin sharing the show with audiences next week.

Watch a clip of “Hey #1″ with Mo and Kristin Parker

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.

Next to Normal: Henry’s iPhone

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.

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.

Next to Normal: In Rehearsal with Mo Brady

Hello fans of the Rep! My name is Mo Brady, and I am playing Henry in the upcoming production of Next to Normal. The folks at the Rep have asked me to share some insights on the show from behind the scenes. As a lover of blogs, Twitter, Instagram and all things Internet, I am more than happy to oblige.

Next to Normal is my first show here at the Rep. In fact; it’s my first time ever in Little Rock. Traveling to a new city for a theater job is often a whirlwind. Usually, it involves flying half way across the country to an airport you’ve never been to. From there, you are picked up by someone you’ve never met and then whisked away to an apartment you’ve never seen but is now your temporary home.

Just about twelve hours later, you find yourself at the first rehearsal. Often it’s the first time you’re introduced to much of the cast and production team – people that will become your surrogate family for the run of the show. These first rehearsals usually are full of introductions, discussions of concepts, reviewing of schedules – and today’s first rehearsal was no exception.

However, at today’s rehearsal, I was struck at how grateful everyone was to be working on this show. Nicole Capri, our director, spoke passionately about this play. And she is not alone – Next to Normal is a piece that most actors are passionate about, as well. It’s something about the story – the struggle of a contemporary family, attempting to connect – set to a thrilling rock score that draws in actors, directors and audiences alike.

Next, Nicole leads us on a tour of the The Rep’s building. She points out where to find coffee in the morning (very important), and where we can get a drink after the show (also very important). My favorite part of the tour is seeing the auditorium itself, because it introduces us to the space that we will be sharing with you – the audience. This is the first time I’ve seen the theater, and I am surprised that there are not one, but two balconies. I love this, because it allows us to be closer to you in performances.

Following the tour, we jump into our first music rehearsal. Next to Normal features some beautiful, but complicated melodies. Often, all six actors are singing different words and different notes, all at the same time. It’s a thrilling score to sing – once you’ve learned it. But at first, it can be overwhelming to figure out how the pieces fit together. We learn the basics of two group numbers, knowing that we have a lot of homework tonight to review our newly learned vocal parts.

The full cast rehearsal is followed by a music rehearsal for just Kristin Parker and me. Kristin, who plays Natalie, and I share four brief, but beautiful songs in the show. These songs essentially define our relationship from start to finish, and they’re full of delicious acting nuggets. Last fall, I had the pleasure of auditioning with Kristin, before either of us were cast in the show. In that audition, I was struck at how fearless and open she was. I hoped that we would get to perform this material together. Today, I found myself feeling grateful to be singing with her again.

The most exciting part of my first rehearsal day was the costume fitting. I’m naturally a pretty straight-laced guy, so playing a stoner is a fun acting departure. The first thing I saw on the costume rack was a hoodie, which made me smile. Every time I imagine Henry, I picture him wearing a hoodie. As I tried on the various skinny jeans and porkpie hats, Shelly Hall (our costume designer) and I bounced ideas off of each other – What if we leave this shirt unbuttoned? Do I wear my hair up or down? What about guyliner? It was fun to see how Henry will look, as it will inform how I create the character in tomorrow’s rehearsal and the weeks to follow.

I’ll be posting to the blog each week, to give you the inside scope at how the production is coming together. I look forward to sharing this experience with all of you!

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 in Seven 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. Follow @mo_brady on Twitter.