Thank you to everyone who auditioned for Next to Normal and As You Like It. We are pleased to share the cast lists as well as notes from the directors for these productions:
NEXT TO NORMAL
A note from M. Bevin O’Gara, Director, Next to Normal:
Thank you to all of those of you who auditioned and so bravely shared your thoughts and experiences with us. Hearing your stories and thoughts about Next to Normal and mental health was both moving and informative.
Casting this project in a university setting required asking a unique set of tough questions: What makes a family a family? Do they need to look like each other or come from similar lived experiences? How do we honor the talent we see in the auditions and honor the intentions of this particular story? What do our choices say to the student body here at Emerson and to the larger audience these productions attract? How do we create the most constructive educational experience for the process and balance that with the most exciting outcome in terms of the production?
These were not questions easy to answer, but asking them was so important to how we are going to start to shape our production of Next to Normal for Emerson Stage. During the auditions, I was struck by how many of you shared your personal stories of being touched by the issues brought up in this play. Mental illness can affect ANYONE at ANYTIME from ANYWHERE and is EVERYONE’S problem. This realization became integral to envisioning the cast for our production. Since everyone is affected, why can’t the family look like anyone?
I also want to thank a few key voices at the table during the auditions and discussion. Having direct student input to better understand why this show was chosen and how the students saw it was invaluable. Our Assistant Director and Assistant Music Director’s voices were vital to where we ended up. I hope you all feel that we are honoring the original intentions of the selection committee in the casting decisions that were made.
I look forward to the conversation each unique artist will bring to the table as we shape our collective vision for what it is to be “next” to “normal” in this moment. And I am so honored to be part of a production at a university working with students and faculty who are taking these conversations seriously.
Thank you for having me here with you.
M. Bevin O’Gara
NEXT TO NORMAL CAST—
DIANA UNDERSTUDY—Hawa Kamara
NATALIE UNDERSTUDY—Lauren Dodds
DAN / DR. UNDERSTUDY—Anthony Lafornara
GABE / HENRY UNDERSTUDY—Emerson Hart
AS YOU LIKE IT
A note from Eddie DeHais, Director, As You Like It
Wow. Wow. Just wow.
At the top of callbacks, I told the group there that I could cast every single one of you, and I truly could have. In fact, we kept adding more and more folks to our callback in a desire to see more of you, to know more if you. Some of the folks we least expected to surprise us stunned us into silence, rocked us into cheers and applause, and even in one wonderful case made most of us tear up. This casting process was a gift, and I thank you for it from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for inviting me to do this show here. Thank you for inviting me to be a part of your community. And thank you for sharing yourselves with me.
You showed up. You all showed up. You showed up and listened to yourself, your scene partners, the words, and the world around you. You showed up and you tried new things. You showed up and you risked being seen. It is so hard to be seen; to feel seen. This is a play about not feeling seen, and I know that many many of you identify with its themes: of not being truly seen for who you are, of not being loved for who you are.
But harder than anything is to let yourself be seen because this is a true act of love, generosity, and hope. That is what we witnessed during these auditions. We saw the most remarkable dances, the silliest songs, intense emotional journeys, and dexterous work with complicated text. We saw each of you working, playing, listening, responding, thinking into your voices and your bodies. I felt like each and every one of you let us into a secret room deep inside of you where you threw a little party… and what a tremendous honor it was to be invited! To watch you dance and sing and speak beautiful poetry… Please know that if I could kidnap every single student who submitted an audition and take you to a radical queer theater commune in the woods, I would.
I speak only for myself, but so often we had to pause auditions to simply rave about you all. So often we pulled our hair and cried out about our embarrassment of riches. So much love and thanks to my gorgeous SM team who facilitated this process — helmed by the goddess’s gift to the world, Maia Tivony — as well as Nicole Lewis who spoke with fervor about every student, and my beautiful ADs Erin Huiett, Michelle Garcia, and Joshua O’Brien. All of these folks advocated for students in so many ways, whether carefully going over your resumes to catch little details, encouraging me to look more closely at someone who had slipped through the cracks, or being in deep conversation until the midnight hours about this ensemble.
All of you beautiful humans, embrace yourselves with abandon today. Please tend to the backside of your hearts. Be tender with yourself. The work is just beginning. I can’t wait to see what you all make. I encourage you heartily to look around at the others who were in that room with you: that is where the real collaborative gifts are waiting to be discovered.
In the words of Samuel McClure Taylor, “There is too much heartless, careful, well-crafted Shakespeare in the world. There is not enough berserk, reckless, caring Shakespeare.” Thank you all for a tremendous audition process that showed me that there is a generation of young actors dedicated to taking back Shakespeare as it was meant to be done: with courage, honesty, generosity, ferocity, and with wild, reckless, radical joy.
AS YOU LIKE IT CAST—
Nona Peterson—DUKE FREDERICK
Alieyah Brown—DUKE SENIOR
Alex Goldman—ORLANDO / AMIENS
Brendan Massar—OLIVER / CHARLES / LeBEAU/LeVAUX
Loey Jones Perpich—DUKE FREDERICK / JAQUES
The next opportunity to audition for Emerson Stage will be in January 2022 for NewFest: New Play Workshop, NewFest Rod Parker Playwriting Fellowship Production, and Into the Woods.