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. Vanessa Kinzey plays the role of Mary Jane Morkan, and has this to say about the production’s first rehearsal, a read-through of the play:
There is something exciting about the first read-through of a play. There’s the hustle and bustle of meeting new people and reuniting with familiar faces, but more than that, there’s the anticipation. The anticipation of getting your first taste of what this show has the potential to be. No play will ever sound quite like it does at the first rehearsal, and the first read-through remains one of my favorite theatrical experiences.
Last week, I was giddy with excitement as I prepared to attend the first read-through of James Joyce’s The Dead at Quotidian Theatre Company. My enthusiasm was doubled because this would not only be the first rehearsal of a new show but marking my first time working at Quotidian.
As I walked down the corridor to the rehearsal room, I could hear the others who had gathered before me. The electricity was teeming from the room and soon I was engulfed in it. Our director, Jack Sbarbori, greeted me warmly and introduced me to my fellow cast mates and production team members. Before long, this group of individuals was seated in a circle ready to embark, together, on a new journey.
From the first few moments of our read-through, I could feel that it would be different. Although I’m no stranger to musicals, I’ve never done a read-through for one where the music for the play was the underscore for our reading. And the result, for me, was magical.
James Joyce’s The Dead primarily takes place during a Christmas Party where family and friends gather together to sing and dance and celebrate. It feels very organic; you’re witnessing a party. As I looked around the room at my fellow artists, most of them strangers to me, I couldn’t help but feel warmth and familiarity exuding from them. And as we spoke our lines and sang our songs, it was so real, so warm, that I could almost believe that it was really happening — this really was our party — and suddenly I felt as though I was surrounded by people whom I had known my whole life. Several times I was moved to tears, especially by Jane Squier Bruns, who plays Aunt Julia. Her performance was tender and vulnerable, and I found myself resisting the urge to throw my arms around her — perhaps in an attempt to keep her forever, just as she was that night. But just like my character, Mary Jane, I was unable to do so and had to let that moment slip away.
Over the next several weeks, this show will grow and evolve into a much different piece. The music will be cleaner and sharper, we will be learning to dance together, and our spoken words will find new purpose. And all of this will be built on the foundations we laid that first night, when we brought this story to life for the very first time.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve.