In Part 3 of our series of interviews with the director and cast of Kensington Arts Theatre’s Spring Awakening, meet Ryan Alan Jones (Melchior).
Joel: Why did you want to appear in Spring Awakening at Kensington Arts Theatre?
Ryan: Melchior is a dream role of mine; I have wanted to play him ever since I saw the tour come through California in 2009. I had onstage tickets, so close to the action onstage that during “Bitch of Living” Otto actually fell into my lap. I sat next to the actor playing Melchior, and we rocked out the whole show. It was awesome, one of those theatre experiences that really shapes who you are and what you want to do as a performer.
Tell me a little bit about Melchior.
Melchior Gabor is that kid that was a mile and a half ahead of everyone in school, that guy everyone envied because he had “figured it out” at a time when everyone is feeling awkward and insecure. Emily and I talk about him being a “Conduit”: someone through whom the universe flows uninhibited. He is an acute observer and sees clearly what is going on around him, especially the hypocrisy of the adults around him and the systems they adhere to. He is loyal, unafraid of putting himself in danger for the sake of his friends, specifically Moritz. He is hungry for knowledge, wants to understand the Truth of his observations.
How is Melchior similar to yourself?
Although I am a very extraverted person, both Melchior and I seek quiet places to be alone. Both Melchior and myself are blessed with keen observational skills and a hunger for new experience.
What has been your greatest challenge in portraying Melchior, and what has helped you overcome these challenges?
Melchior possess a stillness and grounded-ness that I do not come to naturally, so finding that solidity was a challenge. This is the first musical I have performed in since high school and there was some nervousness and fear when we began to learn the music, but I have found my confidence and a good handle on the demands of the script. It helps that I have had four years of excellent training and some fabulous stage experiences in between now and then.
Are there any life experiences you have faced that have helped you prepare for this role?
Going through young adulthood, and being so recently familiar with what it is like to live in your parents house, the structure of school, the sexual frustration of having all of these hormones and not having a good outlet for them, all of that has helped to prepare me for the role.
What is it about Sater and Sheik’s score that most moves you?
The repetition of evocative images revolving around the turn of the seasons, emotional appeals to crippling loss, impending disaster, hope. And how it ends on such a high, beautiful note despite the events of the play
How you have interpreted Emily Zickler’s vision for the show; how has she helped you to develop and mold your performance?
Emily has a wonderful way of seeking the center of the truth of something. She, very early in the process, identified for me some of the tensions I have as an actor and set me on a course to correcting them. In our initial discussions about place and character, we found some lovely, simple seeds that she trusted me to tend and grow into a more fully fledged performance.
What have you learned about yourself as an actor throughout this process?
I am learning more and more to trust in the skills that I have acquired so far, to trust in my preparation, to trust my cast and my director, and to trust in myself. I’ve learned to relinquish my stranglehold on preconceived notions about how a character is or how a scene should go, and instead to listen, to stay in the moment, and to communicate the play to the audience. I have learned to simplify just a little bit and it frees me up to make those discoveries onstage that, hopefully, affect the audience in a meaningful way.
How do you think audiences can relate to the characters onstage?
The audiences will relate to us through the lens of their experiences. Extreme things like sexual and violent abuse, abortion, suicide will shock and sadden, but I think how we really touch people is through the tenderness of the relationships. I hope people will relate to the characters through characters in their own lives, best friends and lovers and oppressive authority figures alike.
What message do you want audiences to take home with them after seeing Spring Awakening at KAT?
Listen to young people, look at systems that frustrate you and ask, “Why,” share intimacy with someone who scares you a little in all the good ways, do something you aren’t supposed to but that feels absolutely right. I would like people to take something home with them that changes, even in a small way, how they act in the world.
Spring Awakening plays from February 21-March 15, 2014 at Kensington Arts Theatre performing at Kensington Town Hall/Town Center (formerly the Armory)-3710 Mitchell Street, in Kensington, MD. For tickets, purchase them at the door, or online.
New Whisperings: Meet KAT’s Director and Cast of ‘Spring Awakening’: Part 1: Joanna Frezzo (Ilse).
New Whisperings: Meet KAT’s Director and Cast of ‘Spring Awakening’: Part 2: Catherine Callahan (Martha).
New Whisperings: Meet KAT’s Director and Cast of ‘Spring Awakening’: Part 4: Harrison Smith (Moritz).