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 to music that draws from Irish tradition. QTC favorite David Dubov returns to the stage to play the production’s Freddy Malins, and writes here about the theatre family he’s found in the fictional family onstage:
Let me state for the record that my brain and my feet do not get along even though they’re in the same body. My singing voice has a strained relationship with my speaking voice, but can be downright okay — if I’m signing in a chorus.
At least that is what I thought coming into rehearsal for James Joyce’s The Dead at Quotidian Theatre Company.
As you’ve probably seen from the other great blog posts from my fellow cast members (all better singers and dancers than me), this Tony Award-winning musical is a warm and tender look into the Christmas party at the Morkan household. As such, and being set in Dublin, it is very Irish and involves much singing and dancing.
My trepidation about the rehearsal process was quickly borne out when, early on, my musical training as a cellist quickly ran up against the limit of translating that into vocal expression in a complicated song, full of syncopation, fast and energetic.
On the first full run of the song in its place in the play, I stumbled badly in getting the timing, and keeping up with the lyrics. My face flushed six different shades of red and I was, well, mortified in front of my fellow actors. At the next rehearsal, it got even worse with dancing added into the mix.
But, as Steve Beall so eloquently laid out in his wonderful posting, we come to rehearsal to be harrowed and to be vulnerable in front of others. It helps us grow and be stronger as people outside the theatre. (I’m going to be one of the strongest people in the world, if that is literally true.)
More importantly, as a cast, we are close; we laugh, talk, work things out together, argue over points of motivation, of movement, of meaning. Just like a real family.
After my struggle with this challenging song, just like a real family, my stage family rallied around me; offering suggestions, sympathetic words, and encouragement. Just like the Morkans and their guests enjoy each other’s company, listen to each other, pick up on each other’s moods and feelings, encourage each other, and support each other — we, as a cast, harmonize both figuratively and literally to bring this special night alive.
And as the rehearsal process has progressed, and I’ve immersed myself in that world, I find that maybe there is not such an indifferent friendship between my brain, my feet and my voice after all. And I continue to surprise myself in that regard: where did this harmony come from? I certainly haven’t suddenly come across new skills (see above)…
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.