The fine young singing actress, Neala Barron, now starring as Lizzie Curry in the Boho Theatre production of 110 in the Shade at Chicago’s Theater Wit, sat down with me to talk about her career, and her feelings about the role.
T2C: So, I see you went to the University of Illinois for theater as an acting student, but didn’t go through a musical theater program.
NB: I received my BFA in Acting from the conservator Program at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. This classical training has given me a wide a varied toolbox of skills to approach my career onstage. I’ve always had an expansive palate for the art I like to see and create. Give me a Shakespeare play, a Brecht show, a campy comedy parody, a Golden Age song and dance piece, a rock musical …if the material is good, I’m into it.
T2C: How did you become such a fine singer as well?
NB: I’ve been singing my whole life, and it’ is a part of who I am. I don’t have any formal vocal training. But I have had the great luck and opportunity to work on a broad mix of musical styles which let me develop my musicianship over the years. I view musicals as plays. You must be an actor first when approaching this type of material.
T2C: How does singing a dramatic song and acting a dramatic scene differ for your?
NB: Songs are tools of expressing a higher emotional state. How you sing and shape the music is all connected to your intention, which is what an actor uses to direct his work. I’d say I’m happiest when I’m in musicals and get to add these musical elements to my performance.
T2C: What made you choose to pursue your acting career in Chicago?
NB: I grew up on Chicago theater. I’ve always wanted to be a part of this community and make my mark here. Chicago is a hub of some of the most exciting, inclusive, and inventive theater art happening in the country. There is heart and guts and sweat and blood in what is made here. I have the opportunity here to choose to work on projects which are creatively invigorating, challenging, and which stretch me as an artist, all while getting a high level of exposure that maybe would not be the case in other major cities. If something took me to New York I would certainly ride that. But Chicago is forever home.
T2C: How do you like playing Lizzie?
NB: I love playing Lizzie. I think she very much knows who she is and what she wants. Lizzie’s story is that of a girl who has been conditioned by her society to think a certain thing about herself, because she does not fit into a box of what is deemed as worthy. She endures a constant barrage of other people’s opinions about her own value, and is subject to a ceaseless classifying of who she is from her family and community. Her differences are not celebrated or viewed as strength, and she has to actively fight the negative misinterpretation of herself withinherself, as well as with the world around her.
I hope audiences love her humor and her heart. I hope they love that she is strong, independent, highly intelligent and emotionally intuitive. I hope that my portrayal is representative of all these things which are deeply true about her character, while also conveying her deep desire for human connection, her need for acceptance of self, and her longing to find love.
T2C: Lizzie is an unusual role for its day, because it doesn’t demand a typical musical theater leading lady.
NB: I don’t know what a “typical musical theater leading lady” is.
T2C: I think that the golden age musical theater leading lady roles, in particular, were all written with a lot more uniform physical type in mind. On the other hand, our definition of beauty, along with our changing notions of sexuality and greater inclusiveness in general in much of our society, may be changing the leading roles which you and other women who don’t fit that description might play in the future.
NB: It is my strong opinion that regardless of how someone looks, their body type, or gender identity, they can play leading roles in shows. There is certainly some similarity here to the ongoing conversation of representation in the theater industry on the whole, and the (frankly, antiquated) thought that there is a set picture of what qualifies someone as conventionally or appropriately “right” for roles. I certainly have struggled, as I’m sure every human does, with self-acceptance throughout my life. Being too much, too little, too fat, too skinny, too loud, too quiet, too this or too that, is something every artist at some point reckons with. I embrace and champion my “atypical” type. How boring would it be if all artists were all the same? How uninteresting to see the same bodies on stage in every show? How not compelling would that art look like? It is in our differences that make our art robust with varying perspectives and experiences. This is what strengthens our storytelling community.
The Olivier Awards Return
Celebrate the very best in British theatre in a star-studded evening as the Olivier Awards return to the Royal Albert Hall on April 2nd.
Three-time Olivier Award nominee & Primetime Emmy winner, Hannah Waddingham will be hosting the awards for the first time.
The event will feature performances from all of the Best New Musical nominees, including The Band’s Visit, Standing At The Sky’s Edge, Sylvia and Tammy Faye. Also performing will be Oklahoma! and Sister Act, both nominated for the Best Musical Revival award, as well as Disney’s Newsies, which has been nominated for Matt Cole’s choreography.
The multi-Olivier Award winner The Book of Mormon, will be performing to mark its ten-year anniversary in the West End. Additionally, special award winner Arlene Philips will be honored with a tribute from the cast of Grease.
The ceremony will be broadcast live on Magic Radio from 6pm with Ruthie Henshall and Alice Arnold hosting.
The highlights program will also be aired on ITV1 and ITVX at 10:15 pm in the UK and via Official London Theatre’s YouTube channel elsewhere.
And the nominees are:
Out of Town
The Unpacking of the First Métis Man of Odesa, An Interview
Punctuate! Theatre is unpacking a love story. A love story about a couple. A love story about Ukraine. And a love story against an unbelievably complicated backdrop. Starting at The Theatre Centre in Toronto, the company is ushering forth the world premiere of First Métis Man of Odesa before it spins itself out on stages across Canada. Spanning continents and set against the backdrop of the COVID pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Métis playwright and Punctuate! Artistic Director, Matthew MacKenzie (Dora Award-winning playwright for Bears, After the Fire, The Particulars) joins forces with his wife, the award-winning Ukrainian actress Mariya Khomutova (Odesa Film Festival Grand Prix – The Golden Duke award-winner NONNA, Two People), to tell the story of their COVID courtship and share an intimate perspective on the personal impacts of the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Drawn from their real-life love story, a story that is ultimately still unfolding to this very day, First Métis Man of Odesa unpacks the journey of Matt and Masha’s love that spans continents where distance and conflicts can’t tame their passionate connection. After meeting on a theatre research trip in Kyiv, a spark is struck, and a romance between a Métis Playwright and a Ukrainian artist is ignited, taking them from the beaches of the Black Sea to the banks of the North Saskatchewan River, within the onset of a global pandemic, the eruption of a brutal war, but also the many joyous moments that this union begets, including marriage and the birth of their son.
During the height of the lockdown in 2021, an initial version of this piece was presented as a radio play at Factory Theatre, written by MacKenzie and directed by Nina Lee Aquino. This March, First Métis Man of Odesa, as directed by Lianna Makuch (Pyretic Productions/Punctuate!’s Barvinok), makes its stage debut, offering a compelling continuation of the initial story told in that first radio play. The couple, Matthew MacKenzie and his wife, Mariya Khomutova, sat down with Frontmezzjunkies and thankfully answered a few questions about their incredible journey from that first love-struck connection to its World Premiere at The Theatre Centre in Toronto.
Tell me, how you decided to embark on telling your own story and what the beginning of this creative process looked like for you two?
Initially, Matt wrote an audio play for Factory Theatre about our romance, then getting married and having their son during the pandemic. The plan had been to expand the piece for the stage, a plan that took on much urgency after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Both the pandemic and war have a deeply dehumanizing effect, so our hope in telling our love story is to share the human side of these major world events; a human side that headlines and news clips can’t fully capture.
What aspect of your character, or your involvement with/creation of this play resonates the most powerfully inside you?
For both of us, the opportunity to share all the joy, humour, anger, and frustration we’ve experienced in the past few years is a really therapeutic process. Many of our friends and family only know snippets of what we’ve been through, so the opportunity to tell our story across the country is one we are deeply grateful for.
The phrase “you don’t know what someone is carrying with them” has really hit home over the past couple of years, as we have had to contend with some pretty epic challenges as a couple and as individuals.
Tell me a bit about what it is like to bring your character to the stage? What does mean to you to be telling this story?
We play ourselves in the play, but we very much play versions of ourselves in the play. We had to mine conflict between us out of a few outbursts, as there haven’t actually been a lot of [conflicts] in our relationship so that we could bring the drama of what we are going through to the fore.
Challenges of playing ourselves have included the fact that [Matt] is not a trained actor, while Mariya is. Mariya though comes from a theatre tradition that was almost entirely focused on the classics, so playing herself in a play based on her life is definitely a new and challenging experience!
Tell me a bit more about your development process? Was there a typical ‘first read’ or was it different, given your own story inspired the work…
We were able to conduct several development workshops over a period of six months. There was no shortage of content that we could derive from our lives, so the challenge was determining what to keep and what to let fall away. Even after our first read, we cut 15 pages from our rehearsal draft. Events in our lives and in Ukraine will no doubt continue to necessitate the evolution of our script.
What’s been the most challenging part of this process for you?
For Mariya, it was buying into the idea (that is quite a common one in Canada) that a play about someone’s real life can be art. Seeing Hailey Gillis’s My Ex-boyfriend Yard Sale, really helped her believe this was possible.
For Matt, it met the challenge of performing for the first time in ten years. The last time he performed, he made his friends promise they would never let him perform again, but all agreed it didn’t make much sense for anyone else to play him in this piece.
The most rewarding?
Having already performed several shows in Kamloops, the most rewarding part of this process is sharing this story with refugees from Ukraine. Their responses have been incredible and have really encouraged us to share our story with as many people as possible.
What do you want the audience to get from this play, and from your character?
We want the audience to join us as we relive our sweeping love story, from Odesa to Toronto. We want the audience to see the human side of the conflict in Ukraine. And we want the audience to leave the theatre with the hope that love can and will conquer all.
First Métis Man of Odesa is in Toronto for its world premiere run at the Franco Boni Theatre @ The Theatre Centre from March 30 – April 8, 2023 (opening March 31). Following the world premiere in Toronto, First Métis Man of Odesa will appear at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, The Cultch in Vancouver, and the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg. For information and tickets, please visit theatrecentre.org/event/first-metis-man-of-odesa/
Florence Welch, Martyna Majok, Rachel Chavkin and More On New Musical Gatsby Coming To A.R.T
Florence Welch Photo by De Wilde
Producers Amanda Ghost and Len Blavatnik for Unigram/Access Entertainment, Jordan Roth, and American Repertory Theater(A.R.T.) at Harvard University announced today that Gatsby, a brand-new musical stage adaptation of the legendary F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, will make its highly anticipated World Premiere at A.R.T. in 2024, and will be directed by Tony Award® winner Rachel Chavkin and choreographed by Tony Award winner Sonya Tayeh.
Gatsby will feature music by Florence Welch, the Grammy Award-nominated international rock star of Florence + the Machine and Thomas Bartlett, the Oscar and Grammy Award nominee, with lyrics by Ms. Welch, and a book by Pulitzer Prize® winner Martyna Majok.
Gatsby will be produced at American Repertory Theater by special arrangement with Amanda Ghost and Len Blavatnik for Unigram/Access Entertainment, and Jordan Roth, in association with Robert Fox. Hannah Giannoulis serves as co-producer.
American Repertory Theater (Diane Paulus, Terrie and Bradley Bloom Artistic Director; Kelvin Dinkins, Jr., Executive Director) at Harvard University produces groundbreaking work to catalyze dialogue and transformation. Tony Award-winning and nominated productions include Jagged Little Pill; Waitress; Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812; All the Way; The Glass Menagerie; Pippin; Once; and The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. Its revival of 1776, a co-production with Roundabout Theatre Company, is currently touring nationally. Learn more at AmericanRepertoryTheater.org.
Additional Gatsby news will be announced soon.
Tech2 years ago
How to Take Advantage of Virtual Numbers for SMS
Business2 years ago
Entre Institute Review – Is Jeff Lerner’s Program a Scam?
Entertainment2 years ago
A Star is Born – Barvina Takes Entertainment World by Storm
Events3 months ago
New Year’s Eve Traditions In The US and Around The World
Film9 months ago
Elvis and The Mob Connection
Broadway2 years ago
Broadway Reopening: The Theatre Listings
Events2 years ago
The Question On Everyone’s Mind Should Be How Did The Haitians Get To Mexico
Spiritual2 years ago
The History of Numerology
Family2 years ago
Who Is Justine Ang Fonte and Why Are We Letting Her Near Children?
Broadway11 months ago
Funny Girl Makes Julie Benko a Star