This is Part Five in a series of interviews with the very talented group of five young actors in the cast of Arena Stage’s production of The Music Man. Today – meet Colin James Cech.
Thanks to Mia Alessandra Goodman, Heidi Kaplan, Jamie Goodson, Ian Berlin and Colin Cech for participating in ‘The Music Man Kids’ series.
Joel: Why did you want to appear in The Music Man, and who do you play?
Colin: I wanted to perform at Arena Stage because I had previously taken several classes with the Arena educational program and I fell in love with the theatre and all the people who work here. In the musical I play Barney Hix who is the youngest son of the banker in River City.
You appeared earlier this year in Tosca at Washington National Opera. Tell us about that experience.
When I was at The Kennedy Center it was a very different experience for me. Musical theater is unique to American Culture, but Opera is classical and European. There is a different history and style of music. However, once I got used to the flow and the rhythm of the show I began to have a great time.
You have also appeared as Young Scrooge and Turkey Boy in A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre in 2010 and 2011. What fond memories do you have performing in A Christmas Carol, and what did you learn about yourself as an actor from your Ford’s experience?
When I was at Ford’s Theatre it was like a dream come true for me because A Christmas Carol was my first professional theatre musical. I have many fond memories of the show but the best night was during snowmagedon. It was a great performance and we had a standing ovation. After the show the ushers would always throw open the huge doors. My Dad was at the performance and he told me when they threw open the doors and snow was pouring down, the audience was delighted. After we changed and were released my Dad was waiting for me and we walked out into a perfect Christmas Carol winter’s evening.
You participated in Voices of Now Ensemble at Arena Stage. Tell us about that.
Last year when I participated in the Voices of Now Mead Ensemble, it was an introduction to the theatre. I rehearsed in the education room and I went most places in the Arena Stage complex, except for all the professional areas (dressing rooms, the Fichandler Stage and many others). In the Voices Of Now program it was the first time my own writing was used to create our script. We were journaling about the human body for several weeks, and one day I was looking at the script, and I was so excited when I discovered that there was a page of lines made directly from my journal. When I was cast in The Music Man it felt as if I was seeing a whole new side to Arena that I had never seen before.
You began acting in Bogota, Columbia, in 2005. How did you land up there and what was your first role?
I lived in Bogota, Colombia because of my Dad’s job with the American Embassy. When I was in first grade our class put on Where The Wild Things Are, I got the role because my mother made my costume. One of the teachers at the performance saw me and thought I should go to MISI ( a Colombian School of Arts,) . I got my first role as an elephant in The Lion King. To perform in their productions I had to take lessons (tap, jazz, ballet and acting) at their school five days a week for periods up to three hours long.
I saw you perform the role of Young Guido in the musical Nine at The Arlington Players and you were terrific. Since you are understudying the role of Winthrop here, do you see any similarities in the characters of Winthrop and Young Guido?
Comparing Young Guido and Winthrop I find that the two characters are very similar. Both are very lonesome and both have some tragic experiences before the show begins. However, after Harold Hill arrives in town, the two characters begin to separate from their similarities as Guido stays the same and Winthrop becomes a more lively kid.
Why has it been important for you to perform in community theatres in the area, and why should young actors also consider doing that?
Performing in community theatre has always been an exciting journey for me because you meet so many new kids and adult actors. Also, you are able to perform in many different locations. In my experience, community theatres also have much more flexible time tables and it is easier to balance theatre and school. Every time you meet someone new in community theatre, you have a chance to learn something new.
You are also understudying the role of Winthrop. As an understudy, how often do you have to attend rehearsals? Do you have to attend all the performances? Do you have a speech coach working with you?
As an understudy I have to come when the Stage Manager is going to be rehearsing Winthrop scenes, but I do not have to come every time there is an understudy rehearsal. I also have my own role as Barney Hix in the ensemble, so I have a show every night and I am always on call for whenever I may need to go on and be Winthrop for one night.
What has been the most fun working with Director Molly Smith and the cast of The Music Man?
The most fun part of working with Molly Smith is the unique way that she directs productions at Arena. She tries to give the actors the chance to fully understand our characters instead of pretending that we know them during the performance. We had at least a week to do table work and fully become our characters before we put them on the stage and blocked the show.
Why should theatre goers come and see The Music Man?
Theatre goers should come and see The Music Man because it is an American Classic as well as a family friendly experience. There are many numbers and songs that are so familiar with American families your toes start to tap with the beat right away. Arena Stage at the Mead Center is a marvelous architectural building with huge windows and three theatres inside (the Kreeger Theater, the Kogod Cradle and the Fichandler Stage), and no one should allow themselves to not come and see the Arena Stages production of The Music Man.
COLIN JAMES CECH (River City Kid, u/s Winthrop) makes his Arena Stage debut in The Music Man. He most recently was on a D.C. area stage in Washington National Opera’s production of Tosca at the Kennedy Center. In 2010 and 2011 he played Young Scrooge and Turkey Boy in A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre. He also has been active in community theater, recently appearing as Young Guido in The Arlington Players production of the musical Nine and was a past participant in the Voices of Now Ensemble at Arena Stage. He is a 14-year-old Alexandria resident but got his acting start as part of the Misi Theater company in Bogota, Colombia, in 2005.
The Music Man plays through July 22, 2012, in the Fichlander Theatre at Arena Stage at The Mead Center for American Theater -1101 Sixth Street, SW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call (202) 488-3300, or order them online.