Meet Into the Woods’ Alexandra Pool, Matt Succi, Matthew Lincoln-Bugg & Rafael Medina @ George Mason University

Journey into the woods as we meet four cast members – Alexandra Pool, Matt Succi, Matthew Lincoln-Bugg & Rafael Medina – of George Mason University’s production of Into the Woods, playing this weekend at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts.

Alexandra Pool

My name is Alexandra Pool. I am 18, and I grew up in a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio called Wyoming. I am a Freshman.

What productions and roles have you played at George Mason University and elsewhere?

This is my first show at GMU; the musical roles I’ve played before include Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof and Babette in Beauty and the Beast, but most of my work has been straight theatre, particularly Shakespeare.

What two roles are your dream roles to play in the future?

Non-musically, Cecily in The Importance of Being Earnest, and musically Millie from Thoroughly Modern Millie.

Why did you want to appear in George Mason University’s production of Into the Woods?

Theatre is my passion, I love musicals, and I knew it would be an amazing production.

(L-R) Rafael Medina (Jack) and Alexandra Pool (Little Red Riding Hood) performing at the seventh annual ARTS by George! benefit event in September 2012.Photo by Stan Engebretson.

Introduce us to the role and character you are playing and tell me how you relate to this character.

I’m playing Little Red Riding Hood – a character on the brink of maturity but not quite there who begins the show as a naïve little girl and ends it wise enough to know that wisdom is worth it even when you don’t want it. As one of the younger members of the cast, I can definitely tap into the feeling of being a girl who doesn’t even know how much she doesn’t know, and I think that feeling of ‘knowing things now’ after a life experience you weren’t prepared for is something we can all relate to.

What has been the most difficult challenge learning your role?

Little Red takes such a journey over the course of the show that it’s been a challenge to really keep in mind, in my physicality, my voice and my performance where exactly she is in that journey during any given moment of the musical.

What have you learned from your Musical Director and Director about playing your character and about singing this ‘not-so-easy’ score?

Our brilliant Music Director Denny Layendecker has been amazing about showing me how much Sondheim gives you to work with, just in the music itself. One thing he’s reminded us many times that’s incredibly insightful and helpful is that “It’s all music”: not just the songs and the notes and melodies, but even the text itself and the way the characters interact. He’s taught me that using the poetry of the music instead of just the math will not only make it more compelling, but also make it easier to sing- which is a useful and wonderful revelation.

Our director, Ken Elston, is the reason Little Red will have the depth and character arc I’m trying to give her. He’s taught me how the fluidity of the moment and the dependence of a character’s objective on the people around you – are what makes a scene and character compelling.

What is your favorite line of lyrics from the show?

It’s a tie between a line I sing- “Isn’t it nice to know a lot? And a little bit not.” And “Dwarfs are very upsetting!” from Agony.

How would you describe Stephen Sondheim’s score for Into the Woods?

Brilliant! Full of melodic jokes and clever lyrics, containing songs ranging from hysterical to charming to thought-provoking and melodies that captivate you and carry you along with them.

How is Into the Woods relevant today to students of your age?

Into the Woods is such a show about people learning who they are – which is exactly what students my age are trying to do.

What is your favorite scene and song that you are not in and that you don’t sing, and why?

The song “Agony,” sung by the two princes, is the funniest thing in the show- as well as being sung surpassingly well by two incredibly talented singers! I sing along every time when I can catch my breath from laughing- it’s fantastic.

Why should audiences come to see this production of Into the Woods?

Into the Woods would be worth it just for the comedy, or just for the music, or even just for the amazing costume and set design, but the people I’ve been lucky enough to work with are bringing enough talent and passion to this show that audiences should come to see it because it will make you think, make you feel, and stick with you for a long time.

 Matt Succi

My name is Matt Succi. I am 18 and I grew up in Orlando, Florida. This is my first year at George Mason University.

What productions and roles have you played at George Mason University and elsewhere? This is my first role at George Mason University.

What two roles are your dream roles to play in the future?

Jimmy from Thoroughly Modern Millie and Sky Masterson from Guys and Dolls.

Why did you want to appear in George Mason University’s production of Into the Woods?

This musical is such a big deal for George Mason University  because it’s the first musical in a while, and as soon as I found out that they were doing Into the Woods, I wanted nothing more than to be a part of it.

Introduce us to the role and character you are playing and tell me how you relate to this character. 

I play the Mysterious Man who also happens to be (spoiler alert) the Baker’s father. In the show a lot of the Baker’s problems were caused by his father’s mistakes and all the Mysterious Man wants to do is undo all his mistakes so that his son can be happy. Wanting to right the wrongs you do to a person you care about is something I can identify with.

What has been the most difficult challenge learning your role? 

The most difficult challenge I have faced as being the Mysterious Man has definitely been getting the age down. I believe he is the oldest character in the show, so as an 18 year-old trying to play a man in his golden years, it’s a challenge, but a challenge I welcome nonetheless.

What is your favorite line of lyrics from the show? 

“Any moment, big or small, is a moment after all.”

How would you describe Stephen Sondheim’s score for Into the Woods

Complicated, but pleasant to listen to for sure.

How is Into the Woods relevant today to students of your age? 

Into the Woods is full of morals and the biggest one that reached out to me was to take responsibility for your mistakes which is a universally accepted lesson for all ages. Aside from that the jokes in this show are timeless and even students my age should have a good time watching it.

What is your favorite scene and song that you are not in and that you don’t sing, and why?

My favorite scene has to be when the Baker takes Little Red’s cape and she let out the biggest scream ever until the baker returns the cape, it’s hilarious. For song I’d say “Agony” by the princes; it’s so cheesy but they have such beautiful voices and it’s just perfect.

Why should audiences come to see this production of Into the Woods?

We have such a talented cast who worked so hard to put on this production. People are going to be talking about this show for years to come so don’t hear about the show see it for yourself, it’s going to be legendary.

 Matthew Lincoln-Bugg

My name is Matthew Lincoln-Bugg. I just turned 24, and I grew up in Purcellville, VA. I am a Junior.

What productions and roles have you played at George Mason University and elsewhere?

I was “Preacher” in Bernstein’s Mass and “Ralph Rackstraw” in Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore. And I playedEmmett Forrest” in Legally Blonde, the Musical with McLean Community players.

What two roles are your dream roles to play in the future?

Either “Anthony” or “Toby” in Sweeney Todd, or any character in A Chorus Line.

Why did you want to appear in George Mason University’s production of Into the Woods?

It’s one of my all-time favorite shows! It got me interested in musical theatre when the revival came around and I did it my first year at the college I transferred from. There, I was “Rapunzel’s Prince.”

Matthew Lincoln-Bugg (Cinderella’s Prince) performing at the seventh annual ARTS by George! benefit event in September 2012. Photo by Stan Engebretson.

Introduce us to the role and character you are playing and tell me how you relate to this character.

I’m playing Cinderella’s Prince. He’s all about himself, which is the way he was raised. The funny thing about playing this character is that we are COMPLETELY different.

What has been the most difficult challenge learning your role?

Because I’ve done the show before, I am familiar with the material. As for creating the personality and movements of the character, it was/is challenging. Again, we are completely different. He puts himself first all the time while I’m constantly thinking about others. So, to get into character, I usually have take a second and talk myself into the role.

What have you learned from your Musical Director and Director about playing your character and about singing this ‘not-so-easy’ score?

I got lucky with my music. I don’t have really challenging rhythms or moving lines. But Dr. Layendecker and Dr. Elston have brought the songs that Jacob and I sing to a whole new level. So, I’m excited to see how the audience will respond to the songs.

What is your favorite line of lyrics from the show?

“Someone is on your side, no one is alone.”

How would you describe Stephen Sondheim’s score for Into the Woods?

Amazingly Genius!!!

How is Into the Woods relevant today to students of your age?

Never take for granted what you have or what you get.

What is your favorite scene and song that you are not in and that you don’t sing, and why?

“Your Fault.” That is way too much fun, haha.

Why should audiences come to see this production of Into the Woods?

They’ll get a better understand of how the stories came to be and what happened after. And, it’s a fun show!

 Rafael Medina

My name is Rafael Medina. I turned 21 last summer. I grew up  in the town of Great Bridge, Virginia, but I consider many places home. I’m a senior.

What productions and roles have you played at George Mason University and elsewhere?

George Mason University: Fuddy Meers, TempOdyssey, Kimberly Akimbo, The Last Five Years, The Elephant Man

TFA: Live Wire

LOCAL: Lisa Frank Virginity Club – 2012 Intersections Festival at Atlas Theatre

Answers , F2F – 2012 Source Theatre Festival

What two roles are your dream roles to play in the future?

My two dream roles are Beast from Beauty and The Beast and Gabe from Next to Normal.

L-R) Kyle Imperatore (The Baker) and Rafael Medina (Jack) at George Mason University’s seventh annual ARTS by George! benefit in September 2012. Photo by Stan Engebretson.

Why did you want to appear in George Mason University’s production of Into the Woods?

I was keenly set upon being part of this production because of the many truths the story has to reveal about the human journey. Similar to why I will encourage audiences to come see the show, the story illuminates the truth that the human spirit has the power to transcend all other forces in the universe. And while there is something beyond our physical control, the forces which bind hearts together can never be broken. I wanted to be part of movement that tells that truth.

Introduce us to the role and character you are playing and tell me how you relate to this character.

Jack is a dreamer. He lives at home with his mother, who thoroughly protects him from the outside world . . . maybe too much. He’s a young man who has no father and is desperate to make connections and life lasting friendships. He is the caretaker of his cow, Milky-White, his closest, most dear friend in the world. Jack can have a tendency to be clumsy and naïve, but that is only because he doesn’t know the challenges and obstacles the larger world has in store because of his loving and protective mother. Even though he hasn’t been exposed to the outside world that much, he has an incredible imagination. And with his imagination has incredible potential. He desires friendship and community – two things that without I could not survive.

Jack is the kind of boy who catches fire once he has set his heart upon something he truly wants; it is through this quality that I most closely connect to Jack.

What has been the most difficult challenge learning your role?

It has been a challenge understanding Jack’s cognitive process and arc. And Jack always has something on his mind that does more than take up space. He desires to have things figured out before he embarks on any journey, but what he doesn’t realize is that there were many things he forgot to account for. Jack undergoes an enormous transformation from the beginning of the play to the end. By the second act Jack and his mother are rich. Jack has stolen a prized possession from Giants in the Sky which has made him and his mother much better off. And of course, because of Jack’s journey through act one and the time elapsed into act two, Jack is a different person; he has a new sense of confidence, an increased feeling of worth and belonging included. Being able to portray Jack in those two separate yet connected lights has been my greatest challenge.

What have you learned from your Musical Director and Director about playing your character and about singing this ‘not-so-easy’ score?

From and acting standpoint it has been emphasized to above all else to not lose the story in anything I and the rest of the cast do on stage. The acting and the singing marry each other, so long as we’ve done our personal work trust it, and remember that we’re telling a story. And our responsibility to the story is beyond description. As I’ve learned in the past but also renewed again in this production process, our cast has incredulous responsibility to our telling of this story. We possess and ethereal power once we’re on stage and it is our task to tell it in the way we think truth is most honestly revealed and shared with the audience.

What is your favorite line of lyrics from the show?

“No One is Alone.”

How would you describe Stephen Sondheim’s score for Into the Woods?

Hauntingly inspiring. Potent, in the way it can stick with you after you’ve experienced the story. Sondheim’s work brings an incredible variation in texture and color, allowing audiences to see and hear circumstances in ways they may have never envisioned, which help make the story of our characters come to life.

How is Into the Woods relevant today to students of your age?

Into the Woods offers students my age to remember that the course of our lives is undefined. It is impossible to foresee exactly what is in store for all of us. And of course, this can be frightening. But we must find the courage within ourselves to venture into the unknown, and remember that we are never alone. We can make discoveries in friendships, relationships, and maybe most uniquely, people we don’t even know that can change our lives forever.

What is your favorite scene and song that you are not in and that you don’t sing, and why?

“Stay With Me.” It is my favorite because it is unconcealed love pouring out of someone into another.This song illuminates the tenderness and loving nature of the Witch that can be drowned out in her personal torment and struggles of the past.

Why should audiences come to see this production of Into the Woods?

Audiences should come see Into the Woods to venture, remember, discover and treasure. I personally believe that people need to be able lean and depend on each other more. As the witch says, “The world is dark and wild.” We need to be there for each other. This story burningly ignites the truth that the human spirit transcends all other forces in the universe no matter how great the obstacles. I’m eager to share this truth.

Into the Woods plays at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts Concert Hall – located on the Fairfax campus of George Mason University at the intersection of Braddock Road and Route 123, in Fairfax, VA. Performances are on Friday, October 26, 2012 at 8 p.m., Saturday, October 27, 2012 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and on Sunday, October 28, 2012 at 4 p.m. For tickets, purchase them online. Here are directions.

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