James Joyce’s The Dead, rehearsal blog 1 | Quotidian Theatre Company

Janice Hall

Quotidian Theatre Company opens its 15th Anniversary Season with its first musical, James Joyce’s The Dead. Richard Nelson and Shawn Davey adapt Joyce’s story about a family Christmas party and marry the story with music that draws from Irish tradition. Rehearsals for the show begin tonight in Bethesda. Janice Hall, who plays Gretta, joins the production from the New York opera scene, and will be sharing her rehearsal experiences here on the QTC blog:


It all started back in January, when my old college friend Stephanie Mumford, one of the founders of Quotidian Theatre Company (along with her husband, Jack Sbarbori), sent me an email to inquire as to whether I might be available and willing to take part in this production. Stephanie and I performed together in shows at Colorado Women’s College in Denver back in the day, and have stayed in sporadic touch over the years.  Steph and Jack have come to see me perform on the opera stage (up to now, my chief performance venue), at the New York City Opera, and I have followed with interest their doings with their very own theatre company.

 About five years ago, I made some shifts in my life, moving back to the U.S. after living many years in Germany, and adding some other performance avenues to my operatic life; mainly cabaret, theatre, and film. So the invitation to be a part of this production was perfectly timed, and seemed to be an excellent fit for me. What little I knew about James Joyce’s The Dead, I had learned from my friend Marni Nixon, who was a member of the original Broadway cast. I knew, for example, that it was based on a James Joyce short story, and that it had been filmed in the 1980’s by John Huston, with his daughter Angelica Huston in the role of Gretta, the part I will be portraying.

Although I wasn’t living in New York at the time of the Broadway production in 2000, I was able to watch the archival DVD of that production at Lincoln Center Library, and I was struck by the strong ensemble nature of the show. While some roles are larger than others, there are no unimportant or uninteresting characters here, and the addition of Celtic-themed music and dance seemed a brilliant idea to me.

An added treat, as you will soon see online, was the opportunity to film an interview with Marni Nixon. Marni is beloved by many as the voice of Deborah Kerr in the film The King and I, of Natalie Wood in West Side Story, and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady. But she is so much more than that: she is an accomplished classical singer and actress in her own right. She was most generous in giving of her time and good humor to our project, and she supplied us with priceless tidbits and reminiscences of her experiences with the original production.

I am very excited to be plunging into this piece.

~Janice Hall


Quotidian Theatre Company’s production of James Joyce’s The Dead runs Nov 16 – Dec 16. Showtimes are Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm, with one added 2pm performance on Saturday, Dec 15. All performances are held at The Writer’s Center: 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD 20815. There is ample parking across the street (free on weekends), and the theatre is just five blocks from the Bethesda Metro Station on the red line. Tickets are $30, or $25 for students or seniors, paid for at the door by cash or check, please. Call 301.816.1023 or email quotidiantheatre@comcast.net to reserve.

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