My name is Brent Stone and I am playing Dan in McLean Community Players production of Next to Normal. After taking a hiatus from theater after college, I caught the stage bug again more than ten years ago and haven’t stopped since. With a primary background in dance, I pursued more well-rounded roles beginning about five years ago and have found them to be a wonderful challenge. My introduction would be incomplete without a mention of my family – two of whom join me in this production – while our oldest, Nicholas, studies Theater at Muhlenberg College.
Why did you want to play Dan?
The role of Dan offered several challenges that intrigued me. I was excited to explore depth and range of the character’s emotions – the overwhelming sense of responsibility of holding the family together, the commitment to a wife he loves and even the battling of his own ghosts. From a performance standpoint, I was challenged and intrigued at the prospect of taking on the rock musical genre. Finally I was hoping for an opportunity to working with director Lisa Anne Bailey and music director David Rohde.
Dan and I are similar in ways – we are both married, very much in love with our wives, have a strong commitment to family and, for the lack of a better term, appreciate the normal conventions of life. I also relate to Dan on the level of juggling work and home life.
What are some of the challenges of playing Dan?
The show is made up of music pieces interspersed with short and sometime very intermittent pieces of dialogue. The sheer navigation of this make up offered its own trial. Dan’s unique path also provided a unique test. When I saw Next to Normal at The Kennedy Center, I found myself distinctly upset at the production’s conclusion. For me, the show’s “resolution” flew in the face of what I understood to be hopeful. And yet, the show’s final piece, Light, clearly was intended to offer some measure of hope to an otherwise fractured conclusion. To navigate the end path for Dan – that of utter disappointment comingled with optimism – and to honestly convey these two emotions – has offered a singular test.
How have Director Lisa Anne Bailey and Musical Director David Rohde helped you shape your performance?
From the beginning, director Lisa Anne Bailey has provided the grounding in character development essential for a fully-rounded story. She has encouraged and challenged us to create fully developed characters and to explore relationships with each fellow character. For a production as challenging as Next to Normal, this grounding and development is essential for the production’s success. Lisa has also been more than a willing and able sounding board open to guiding us in exploring our characters. In short, it has been a joy to work with Lisa.
Lisa, along with Music Director David Rohde, described and guided the casts’ understanding that the telling of the story through the song is paramount. This story’s preeminence supersedes even that of singing show’s challenging pieces exactly as written. So audiences may well hear nuanced changes to meter or even notes within pieces that help to tell the story more completely.
The intimate nature of the Alden Theatre will provide a compelling complement to this show’s challenging story. Audiences will come face-to-face with the struggle that confronts this family. Paired nicely with the beautiful space, MCP has stepped up to the plate by assembling one of local theatre’s strongest production teams. Joining Lisa and David, producers Linda Stone and Patti Green Roth have brought on the talents of Joan A.S. Lada, George Farnsworth, Michael Schlabach, Stan Harris, and Jeff Auerbach.
From the beginning, Lisa has stressed that Next to Normal, at its core, is a story of love, family, challenge and growth. While other productions have made mental illness central to the story, Lisa has guided us in the understanding that mental illness is the method of bringing those deeper themes to the fore.
What do we learn about Dan when you sing your songs?
While participating in 16 of the show’s pieces, three stand out in helping understand Dan. In “It’s Gonna Be Good,” we get a sense of Dan’s optimism and striving for the normal. As described in this song’s lyrics, even though Diana has only been on a good path for two weeks, Dan is well convinced that things are indeed going to end well. His past experience with his wife should have provided more warning that this was not true.
In “I’ve Been“, we get a small sense the internal test Dan is facing. While confronting Diana’s exacerbating problems, Dan wrestles with his exhaustion, commitment to responsibility while, at the same time, struggling with this fears. And in “A Promise,” we get a picture of Dan’s commitment to Diana even when all that holds them together is indeed his word that he will stay with her.
What challenges have you had learning Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey‘s score and challenges you may have had in learning it?
With its rock genre, the Next to Normal score is well outside of my musical comfort zone. It was clear that the fuller voice used in more traditional musicals was not appropriate for this show’s rock stylings. David Rohde provided invaluable guidance in adjusting vocal placement and tone to that more appropriate for this show’s modern sound.
What are you doing next on the stage?
If a local theatre company puts up Parade, I will be at auditions.
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing Next to Normal at MCP?
MCP’s Next to Normal will leave audiences excited, perhaps exhausted and certainly contemplating the nature of love and commitment and if there is a “too far” when it comes the nature of that love.
Next to Normal plays February 1-16, 2013, at The McLean Community Players at The Alden Theatre -1234 Ingleside Avenue, in McLean, VA. For tickets, purchase them online. Tickets may be also be purchased at the Box Office, by calling OvationTix at (866) 811-4111, or calling the Alden Theatre box office at (703) 790-9223. Box Office hours are: Wed & Thur: 5-9 pm Fri & Sat: noon-9 pm.
Part One of ‘Putting Normal Together’ at McLean Community Players’ by Lisa Anne Bailey.