An Extraordinary Cast of ‘Ordinary Days’ at Round House Theatre: Meet Janine DiVita

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Here is the second interview with the extraordinary cast of Round House Theatre’s Ordinary Days. In Part 2: Meet Janine DiVita.

Joel: Where have local theatregoers seen you perform this year?

Janine: I was brought in from NYC to do Ordinary Days. This is my third project in the DC area: Sophisticated Ladies at the Arena Stage (2010), The Break at the Signature Theatre (2012), and now this.  I really love it here!

Why did you want to be part of this cast of Ordinary Days? Had you seen the show before you were cast in this production?

First and foremost, the music spoke to me. I loved that it was contemporary. Don’t get me wrong, I love the classics and have done a lot of them, but the immediateness of this show really spoke to me. I had not seen the show before, but was familiar with Adam’s work and thought very highly of him. I also love Matthew Gardiner, our director, so that helped me decide to do the show too.

How would you describe Adam Gwon’s score and how would you describe an Adam Gwon song?

Adam’s score is food for the soul. It allows you to express the character in such a specific and deep way both musically and lyrically. Adam’s songs in this show are each a journey in and of themselves. What always makes a song a delight to sing, as an actor, is when a song has a discovery that serves the story, and then all the songs add up to the whole at the end. In addition to character development within the songs, the musicality is lovely. The melodic, legato lines he writes with a hint of off-ness at times inform the tone of the show. The piano truly is a character in and of itself. To me, it’s the spirit and magic of NYC. The piano sometimes sweeps you off your feet, and sometimes it’s just so complicated that you just want to cry at the fact that we’ll never truly understand the meaning of it all.  It’s similar to the way NYC can feel. Sometimes the city is invigorating.  Sometimes it’s depressing. It’s hopeful, fun, frustrating, wild, historic, smelly, calm, busy, exciting, and scary. Sometimes all at once. I think that the music really captures that, and you get swept up in it. It’s honest and human. I keep saying that I want just an instrumental/piano recording of the music to be done. It would be a beautiful piano concerto! Wouldn’t that be lovely?

What influences of other composers to you hear in his score and where do you hear it?

I hear a lot of Sondheim. I don’t hear it to the point where you would confuse the two because Adam definitely has his own contemporary sound, but it’s clear that Adam has studied the intricacies of character development and circumstance through song and Mr. Sondheim is the ultimate master! I especially hear similarities in the more recitative/spoken moments of the show.

 Introduce us to the character you play in the show. What do you admire about her and how is your character like you? How do you relate to her?

I play Claire. She’s a wonderful enigma who I have the pleasure of becoming each night. I so admire her strength and courage, but also her vulnerability. She experienced a huge tragedy years prior to when the show takes place, and her way of dealing with grief was to just move on. As I was studying this character, I researched the stages of grief, and specifically, women who had been through this same tragedy. Everyone deals with things differently, but one common thread was the despair in not knowing exactly happened during the last moments of life. There was no closure. The loss was abrupt and horrible. Claire never had closure, but because she a woman with a strong sense of self and a “pick yourself up” attitude, she moved on. She focused on her career, she dated, she didn’t lose her adventurous spirit or sense of humor. That’s not to say she didn’t think of the loss, but she compartmentalized. She did all of this to the point of thinking she is “fine.” It’s like all of us: we think we are fine, we create illusions to convince ourselves of our “fineness,” but when you peel back the layers, maybe we are damaged. Maybe the world has made us weary. And that is totally OK. It’s about being honest with ourselves, forgiving ourselves, and looking for betterment through expression, interaction, and finding unconventional beauty in unexpected and perhaps tragic moments. It’s all part of the human experience and letting go, and that is what Claire discovers.

How does your character change during the course of the show and through the songs you sing?

Claire opens up throughout the show. In the beginning, her defense mechanism under pressure is to close off. She goes through the motions of moving a relationship forward, but as the show progresses, she realizes that she’s not quite ready. She’s afraid to trust. By the end of the show, she learns to trust and let go. She blossoms into the honest, open, vulnerable person she was all along.

 What songs that you sing or someone else sings remind you of a similar experience you have gone through in your life?

Claire and I are actually very similar people, so I relate to all of her songs. I have not experienced tragedy to that degree, but I have experienced love, loss, despair, disappointment, feelings of being overwhelmed, confused, etc. What’s great about this show is that you really can draw upon your own parallels to the character since the factors of time and place are not so far removed from reality; especially for me because I live in NYC and that is where the show takes place.

What song or songs were the most challenging for you to learn  and how did Director Matthew Gardiner and Musical Director William Yanesh help you with these challenges? What is the best advice they gave you when you were preparing for your role?

I had the hardest time learning “Gotta Get Out” basically because it’s just so many words! Also, Claire is in a frantic, panicked state of mind, so that doesn’t lend itself well to singing something that’s supposed to be memorized! Matt and Will basically had me do it a ton of times, and we took the tempo down so that I could get out all of the words.  Also, the staging was a challenge because it is set in an imagined taxi cab with an imagined taxi driver, window, rear view mirror, etc. Placing those things with sight lines in mind was a challenge.  But I’m always up for a challenge!

Adam Gwon visited you during rehearsals and saw a performance. What did he say to you after the show? Did he offer any advice or suggestions? Have you ever worked with him before or sung his songs before in your performances?

Because his work is smart, vulnerable, and honest, I sort of expected him to also be that way, and that is exactly the kind of individual he turned out to be!  He was kind and supportive of all of us.  I’ve never worked with him before, but we have a lot of mutual friends in NYC.  I hope to work with him in the future!

Will Gartshore (Jason), and Janine DiVita (Claire). Photo by Danisha Crosby.
Will Gartshore (Jason), and Janine DiVita (Claire). Photo by Danisha Crosby.

This is the first musical in 7 years that has been performed at Round House Theatre. What other musicals would you love them to produce and what role would you like to play in them?

It’s such a great space. I would love for them to bring in new works that are looking for a theatre. There is so much awesome new musical theatre being written right now, and DC audiences are smart and supportive. I think that fostering new works would be a great move that not only gets DC theatregoers in on a new project, but also helps support the future of musical theatre!

Why should local theatregoers come to see this ‘extraordinary’ show?

This show is fun, heartwarming, relatable, and accessible. That being said, you really do have to listen because it is almost entirely sung through. This show challenges the audience to listen closely, and it’s always good to be challenged in a positive way. The message of the show is wonderful too.  It’s about finding the beauty in the ordinary things, unexpected friendships, and self discovery. It’s current and fresh!

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Ordinary Days plays though June 29, 2014 at Round House Theatre -4545 East-West Highway, in Bethesda, MD. For tickets, call (240) 644-1100, or purchase them online.

LINKS
An Extraordinary Cast of ‘Ordinary Days’ at Round House Theatre: Meet Will Gartshore.

Review of Ordinary Days by David Friscic on DCMetroTheaterArts.

Read other local reviews of Ordinary Days in “Other Reviews.’

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Joel Markowitz
Joel Markowitz is the Publisher and Editor of DCMetroTheaterArts. He founded the site with his brother Bruce to help promote the vast riches of theatre and the arts in the DC Metro area that includes Maryland, Virginia, and DC theater and music venues, universities, schools, Children's theaters, professional, and community theatres. Joel is an advocate for promoting the 'stars of the future' in his popular 'Scene Stealers' articles. He wrote a column for 5 years called ‘Theatre Schmooze’ and recorded podcast interviews for DC Theatre Scene. His work can also be seen and read on BroadwayStars. Joel also wrote a monthly preview of what was about to open in DC area theatres for BroadwayWorld. He is an avid film and theater goer, and a suffering Buffalo Bills and Sabres fan. Joel was a regular guest on 'The Lunch and Judy Show' radio program starring Judy Stadt in NYC. Joel founded The Ushers Theatre Going Group in the DC area in 1990, which had a 25-year run when it took its final curtain call last year. Joel is a proud member of The American Critics Association.