Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Something Truly Next to Normal

May 10 to July 17

On my way to Texas, I let Tulsa go. I released the drama and frustration and looked into the future. For the first few days in Dallas, I was staying with Alixe Ward and her family. Alixe is one of my best friends from Tulsa and I was looking forward to spending some time with her. Her family took me in with open arms and welcomed me into their home. I even have a key to their house (Sean doesn’t even have one! LOL!). I got into town, dropped off some of my stuff, and headed down to Uptown Players for my first rehearsal for Next to Normal.

As I pulled into the Kalitia Humphrey’s theatre, I was very nervous. I wanted this to be a great experience. After Rent, I needed this to be a positive time in my life, remind me of my love for theatre, and restore my faith in theatre people. I also wanted this show to be really good. I loved this show on Broadway and I love Aaron Tveit so I wanted to make sure that the first regional theatre production in the country wasn’t a piece of crap. Maybe I was asking too much from my first show out of school. As I walked into the theatre, I met the cast, the producers, the director, and the music director. From that moment on life was magical…literally magical. Everyone and everything worked so well together. And the cast was incredible onstage and off. I was nervous about moving to a strange town and starting work with a group of people that that didn’t know. Patty, not only extremely talented, is also the most humble person you will ever meet. She has a new born son and a wonderful partner and they are just the cutest couple you’ll ever meet. Gary…is literally Henry….give or take a few years! J He is talented and such an amazing role model for young guys in theatre. Anthony is amazing. I mean the nicest, most genuine person you will ever meet. I can’t imagine a better Gabe! And I mean that. Anthony would have given Aaron a run for his money. JBraggs is great too. While I didn’t really get to know him that well during the rehearsal process, we shared a dressing room and “bro chilled” then. Lol. I also met a wonderful guy named Seth. He was the understudy for Dan and the Dr so during the understudy rehearsal, he was my Dan and I was his Gabe. He is such a cool guy and I’m glad I was able to spend a little time with him during this process.

The only person left that I haven’t mentioned is Erica Harte, the girl that played my Natalie. Walking into the first rehearsal, I remember seeing her from callbacks. We were the last two standing at callbacks. We both sort of hand this grin on our faces that we were both trying to control…but we really couldn’t help but let it shine through! As we went through our first scene together, we came upon the makeout scene. Now in the past, I have waited until dress rehearsals to actually start kissing. This usually allows for you to become a little more comfortable with the person and make any possible awkwardness go away. As we were nearing the kiss, I was casually still going through the last of my lines, looking at Erica trying to “really feel it”, and the next thing I know we are sucking face! She kissed me! First time through! What the heck was she doing…but it worked. As we came up for air I think I might have been a little red…I was not expecting that at all! But I also didn’t mind. She later told me that she likes to get the kissing out of the way so that by the time the real thing happens, you haven’t built up any tension. She was right. From that time forward our relationship was just truthful on and off the stage. Over the summer our relationship blossomed…not into anything physical, but into an amazing friendship. Onstage we were hot and heavy in the physical world and offstage we mentally connected. I think a lot of people assumed that since I didn’t really have a lot of friends in town and left a lot of people back at college, that Erica and I just sort of filled in where others had left us. But this was different. This was, is, something I’ve never truly had before in a friend. Someone who understood everything about me with absolutely no judgment. I could share anything with her and she could do the same with me. Not to mention the fact that she is truly and amazing person with a wonderful heart. I am so grateful to Michael Serrecchia for casting me, not only for the chance to be in this cast but also to be able to meet such a wonderful woman.

As the show began to come to a close, I was not ready to leave Dallas….or Erica for that matter. Erica had told me out another theatre in town that was auditioning for Spring Awakening. I told her that I was way too old to actually play Melchior (and she said the same thing about Wendla) but that I would at least go and audition to see if I could do Hanschen. The funny thing is, we both got cast as Melchior and Wendla! I didn’t have to say goodbye to Dallas yet!

I did have to say goodbye to Next to Normal though and Uptown Players. What was this? Why did this show affect me so much? How did these people mean so much to me in such a small amount of time? It’s because of the amount of respect that everyone had for each other. On one of the last nights while I was in Erica and Patty’s dressing room (a place that I found myself on a usual basis before, during, and after the shows), Erica and I were talking about Spring Awakening and how we hoped that, like Next to Normal, it would be a positive experience and that with such a young cast, we could leave negativity and problems at the door. Patty, being the amazing woman she is, looked at us and told us to only surround ourselves with people who loved us and wanted us to succeed. She wanted us to surround ourselves with encouraging people and to leave those with negative and demeaning attitudes behind. Looking back, that was some of the best advice I had gotten all year. With this being the start of my career in theatre, it was time to let go of the past, let go of the negativity, and move forward with people who loved and supported me.

I left Next to Normal with a challenge: to find another production that contained this amount of love and talent. Challenge Accepted! J

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