It was such a pleasure being a part of this show. This is the second production in the inaugural season of the Cloverdale Playhouse. The Playhouse marks the return of community theater to Montgomery, and being a part of this season is such an honor. I barely consider myself an actor. I’d like to fancy myself an author, but I haven’t finished too many things (and nowhere near being published or produced). So getting a call back was a surprise and a shock. But being opportunistic, I jumped at the opportunity and immersed myself in it.
The last statement rings true for this entire cast. As an actor, I thoroughly enjoyed working with this group of guys and dolls. I learned and gleaned from them, fed off their energy, and had more fun than one should have doing rehearsals. (What am I saying? Rehearsals are ALWAYS fun.) Our conversations spanned philosophical topics such as music, sports, and Family Guy. Eventually, we discussed the play. And that’s when the magician, Greg Thornton, began to create art.
In reading this script, there are so many talking points: the relationship amongst the four boys, theirs with Jack’s (their social worker), the boys amongst themselves or with their individual relationships to the “outside: world, just to name a few. I had the opportunity to garner the thoughts of a few of the cast members, and here’s what they had to say when I asked them some questions about the show.
A: What were your initial thoughts and reactions when you found out you were cast in the show?
Jaymee Vowell: I was excited to be a part of the inaugural season of The Cloverdale Playhouse. Montgomery is so fortunate to have a community theatre of this caliber and I feel very blessed to be able to soak up the wisdom & experience of the director, Greg Thornton, and my fellow actors.
Tara Fenn: I asked the Greg if I could scream!! I was very excited and thrilled to be involved with this production.
Roy Goldfinger: I was very pleased to have the opportunity to work with Greg Thornton. As a season subscriber to ASF from 1985 through around 2006, I had seen and appreciated Greg in scores of shows (maybe idolized would be a better word), but had never met him until he agreed to head up the Playhouse. The experience has been a rewarding one.
A: As you read and considered the script, what challenges did the script provide as you learned the role you are playing?
Jaymee Vowell: For the role of Clara I had to learn to communicate using only one word, “No”.
Tara Fenn: The script is so well written, and I enjoyed learning about the various characters. I found speaking the language of my character to be the challenge because it was so different than my own choice of words.
A: Describe the boys and tell us what you think about the bond that the boys have with each other.
Jaymee Vowell: I think the boys have created their own family. Just like in any typical family, there are going to be family members that annoy you & family members that you tell all your secrets to…and at the end of the day – you love them all.
Tara Fenn: All of the men are very lovable in their own ways. Arnold has such a strong concern about everything and everyone, he may not show it in appropriate ways, but you can tell it’s there. He is interested in pleasing others, even when it’s not exactly convenient for him. Norman has a big heart, and wants to love someone and have someone love him back. I think that’s why he likes to eat the doughnuts because it’s comforting. Barry and Norman seem to have similar issues, but Barry just wants to feel important. I believe that’s why he makes his dad seem bigger than life, and why he makes up fake identities that seem bigger than his real life. Lucien is just the sweetest of them all. He’s dependent on them in a lot of ways, but every one of them depends on him in emotional ways. Every character confides and talks with Lucien. He has such a sweet spirit about him. I love that they work together, play together, and sometimes cry together. They care for each other in a way that not many people would probably get at first glance.
Roy Goldfinger: From the start of Act I, each of the boys faces and prepares for a major, potentially life-changing “crisis”: for Barry, the reunion with his father; for Lucien, the hearing before the State Senate; for Norman, Sheila’s visit to his “pad”; and for Arnold, going to “Russia” (symbolic in his mind of a new and better place). Except for Barry, who crumbles, each “triumphs” in his own way – Lucien “succeeds” in dramatizing his plight and securing continued assistance, Norman and Sheila really connect, and Arnold (given the final train announcement and stage direction, i.e., “Russia.”) arrives at his “better place”. And Jack, well, Jack creates the climactic crisis for all three of the remaining boys, by leaving. Jack’s epiphany comes, after the surprise party scene, when he realizes he has a connection with (and moral obligation to) the boys that transcends mere employment – and accepts and embraces that fact. In my view, Barry is the newest of the boys; he is both the closest to and the farthest from relationships with the outside world. The other three have an established relationship and pecking order, with Arnold as the recognized ringleader. Interestingly, there is almost no interaction between Arnold and Barry; 3-4 lines, at most. But Barry clearly does not recognize Arnold’s leadership role: when Arnold tells him to turn off the lights during the rat-catching scene, Barry rebels. Nor does Arnold look up to Barry’s intelligence/values (as do Lucien and Norman, albeit grudgingly), hence, “… rugs are more important than golf.” Lucien is the most beloved by his comrades, and with good reason: he is the most truly caring of the boys, and really listens to and hears what is said to him, even if he doesn’t always understand it (at least, not in conventional terms).
A: Why should people come see this show?
Tara Fenn: It shows humanity in it’s simplest form…unprejudiced and honest living at it’s best for people who aren’t considered whole by mainstream society. I think it can raise awareness in many areas, as well as touch your heart and give you something to feel good about when you leave.
Jaymee Vowell: Because it is a tender, funny, show that just might make you see the world from a different perspective
A: What do you hope people will take from this show?
Tara Fenn: I hope they will take a sense of appreciation for the mentally challenged community. I have grown up around quite a few people who are different or challenged in some way. I have also been blessed with two Autistic children. Mental handicaps are often misunderstood because it’s something you can’t see like someone in wheelchair or being blind. I want the show to be entertaining, but also get people thinking about how they interact with people who are slightly different in some way. A little awareness goes a long way. Jaymee Vowell: that people are people regardless of ANYTHING else
I then had a chance to ask some fun questions:
1) What’s your favorite cereal? Corn Pops
2) What’s your favorite doughnut? Krispy Kreme hot glazed
3) Who’s your favorite superhero? Superman
4) Who’s your favorite golfer, and not a favorite golfer, who’s your favorite athlete? I don’t really have one anymore, but a long time ago it used be Michael Jordan.
5) What’s your pre-show routine (music, meal, drink, ritual)? I don’t really have one, but I would imagine it would include drinking water and singing to warm up my voice. Then going over my lines once last time.
6) Any green room/dressing room superstition that you have? I’m not a superstitious person.
1) What’s your favorite cereal? Ralston (hot), Trix (cold)
2) What’s your favorite doughnut? Sour cream glazed
3) Who’s your favorite superhero? Superman (what can I say, I’m a traditionalist at heart)
4) Who’s your favorite golfer, and if not a favorite golfer, who’s your favorite athlete? Tiger Woods (flaws and all), Kobe Bryant
5) What’s your pre-show routine (music, meal, drink, ritual)? Hot tea/honey/lemon/topped with a healthy dollop of Grand Marnier liqueur.
1) What’s your favorite cereal? Fruity Pebbles
2) What’s your favorite doughnut? plain HOT Krispy Kreme – must be hot
3) Who’s your favorite superhero? Greg Thornton
4) Who’s your favorite golfer, and if not a favorite golfer, who’s your favorite athlete? I don’t even like golf but I am willing to ride around in the golf cart and drink…and favorite athlete would have to be David Beckham because I like his underwear ads.
5) What’s your pre-show routine (music, meal, drink, ritual)? I like to be hand fed chocolate kisses & be pampered with a full body massage by a trained Thai masseuse but when that’s not in the budget, I load up on cheap coffee and stretch. The combination of caffeine and the calming quality of stretching tend to center me.
6) Any green room/dressing room superstition that you have? I just try not to piss off the theatre ghost
You can see Tara (who plays Sheila), Jaymee (who plays Mrs. Warren and Clara), and Roy (who plays Senator Clarke) in THE BOYS NEXT DOOR presented by the Cloverdale Playhouse. The show runs Thursday through Saturday, April 12-14 at 7:30PM; Sunday, April 15 at 2:00PM; and Thursday-Sunday, April 19-22 at the same times as week one. To inquire about tickets, visit www.cloverdaleplayhouse.org
Break Legs, guys and dolls!!!