Meet the Cast of Unexpected Stage Company’s ‘Dani Girl’: Caroline Wolfson, Joshua Simon, Maggie Robertson, and Zach Brewster-Geisz

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Meet the cast of Unexpected Stage Company’s Dani Girl.

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Caroline Wolfson (Dani)

CarolineWolfsonHeadshot

Joel: Where did you get your training and where have local theatregoers seen you perform?

Caroline: I’m a Maryland native and I graduated from Syracuse University with a BFA in Musical Theatre. I’ve been performing in the DC area for the last two years. I have worked at The Keegan Theatre, Signature Theatre, Imagination Stage, Scena Theater, Red Branch Theatre Company and a few other companies since graduating.

Who do you play in the show and how do you relate to her?

I play Dani. Getting into the mindset of this character has been a lot of looking back and recalling memories of what it’s like to be a kid. Oddly enough I have very specific memories about being 8 and being 10 but I guess my 9-year-old past escaped me. I do relate to her through her vivid imagination. I always took myself on wild adventures in my backyard. What has been interesting to recall is how as a child you are so open to things. You are completely fine going up to people you don’t know and saying hi and asking if they want to play. It’s rather sad how quickly that quality gets squished out of us. And she is so open and wants to know everything and experience everything and even in the face of this disease she doesn’t let it get the best of her. She isn’t even scared of it. She just looks at everything through this big lens of curiosity and that is one of those qualities that I definitely used to have as a kid, but I think the older you get the more you get set in your ways. So I am trying to open up the wonderful world of possibilities again, in order to explore this character.

What have rehearsals been like and what advice has Director Christopher Goodrich given you about playing Dani?

Our director, Christopher Goodrich, has given us an atmosphere of play and games. We start out every rehearsal with a quick warm up or game and it brings us into our world. Chris mentioned that there is no feeling sorry for Dani. She doesn’t feel sorry for herself and if that was all the show was then it wouldn’t be a great story.

 Caroline Wolfson as Dani in Unexpected Stage's production of 'Dani Girl.' Photo by Kate Erin Gibson.
Caroline Wolfson as Dani. Photo by Kate Erin Gibson.

Why did you want to play Dani?

I thought this was such an interesting musical. It’s not an easy topic to do a show about. It’s challenging and a little scary and pretty devastating but the goal is to find the beauty in that. Also the music is fantastic, as is the script. It’s not, “This is what I think a 9 year old would say” – it’s, “This is a 9 year old speaking.” I really enjoy pieces that are about kids but don’t coddle the children or make them seem like they can’t take on their own problems — think Roald Dahl or Lemony Snicket. I like to take on shows that have an element in them that scares me a bit, because I want to see if I can push myself to go there and not fall apart. This is definitely one of those shows.

What are your favorite songs in the show?

I think all of Dani’s songs especially are just fantastic. There is so much to love. Raph is one of my favorite characters and Joshua Simon is going to be amazing and hilarious. “The Game of Life” is one of the first songs in the show and Dani and Raph really get to play around and it is the most fun.

What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing Dani Girl?

I try not to hope the audience will get this or that from a show — I want them to have their own experience.

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Joshua Simon (Raph)

Joshua Simon

Joel: Where did you get your training and where have local theatregoers seen you perform?

Josh: Quite some time ago, during my high school days, I was chosen by none other than Joel Markowitz himself as a “performer of the year” for DC Theatre Scene. I am thrilled to be making my return to Maryland theatre, this time professionally, in Unexpected Stage’s Dani Girl. And to be interviewed now for Joel’s own website… DCMetroTheaterArts, I feel like things have come full- circle and ‘leveled-up’ at the same time.

I’ve been in New York for quite some time, earning my drama degree from NYU, performing in diverse shows as Sweeney Todd, The Laramie Project, and Ragtime, and at diverse venues as The Drilling Company, Upright Citizens Brigade, and Radio City Music Hall.

Who are you playing in the show and how do you relate to him?

I am playing Raph in the show. He’s Dani’s imaginary companion as she struggles with her illness. But he has some secrets and flaws of his own. He tends to use tough love and sarcasm as his best defenses. That’s how he and I clicked right away. Despite the heavy subject matter, Raph tries to make light. And I have always said, if you can’t laugh at everything, you can’t laugh at anything. Raph is also somewhat of a shapeshifter, a Zelig who molds himself to suit Dani’s imagination. I’ve always loved the challenge of playing multiple characters, giving each one a specific voice, a specific body. These are all things that drew me to the show and to Raph especially.

What have rehearsals been like and what advice has Director Christopher Goodrich given you about playing Raph?

Our director Chris has been so great in guiding me through each metamorphosis. He allows me to have fun, to find all the different physicalities and voices between characters, but making sure I stay grounded, keeping Raph and his particular goals in mind. Without Chris I would easily lose focus with each new persona.

What are your favorite songs and scenes in the show?

As for favorite scenes or moments… All I can say is I have been practicing my jump-splits, and have the rug burns to prove it…

What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing Dani Girl?

I hope theatregoers laugh at this show. I hope they cry at this show. Because really you can’t do one without the other; cheer and sorrow are so deeply coexistent and intertwined. And when life hands you the unexpected (see what I did there, Unexpected Stage?) you tend to focus on the extreme highs or lows of each lot, rather than on the grey area between the extremes. As adults we lose sight of that middle ground, and it might take the imagination of a 9-year-old cancer patient to remind us.

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Zach Brewster-Geisz (Marty):

Zach Brewster-Geisz

Joel: Where did you get your training and where have local theatregoers seen you perform?

Zach: I’ve been working in the DC theater scene since 1995, onstage and off. My first acting gigs in DC, in the late 90s, were with the late Washington Theater Festival. Both as an actor and an occasional playwright, my passion has always been new work. More recently I’ve worked with NextStop Theatre Company, Annapolis Shakespeare Company, Pallas Theatre (where I’m a member of their Artistic Collective), and Source Festival on last year’s breakout hit, Perfect Arrangement, in which I was lucky enough to reprise my role for a reading at Manhattan Theatre Club.

I have a degree in Performing Arts from Colby College and I’m a proud graduate of the National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts here in DC.

Who are you playing in the show and how do you relate to him?

I’m playing Marty, a ten-year old boy with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He’s basically me at ten years old—crazy about Star Wars, Star Trek, and Indiana Jones, a proud geek with a lot of imagination and a bit of difficulty making friends. Marty’s great, and I love his journey from frightened and withdrawn to heroic over the course of the show.

What have rehearsals been like and what advice has Director Christopher Goodrich given you about playing Marty?

Chris has been very clear that we should be real in our portrayals; even given the wonderful fantasy elements of the show, as Dani and Marty quest across time and space, we’re real children with real fears. We’re not trying to be a presentational musical, and he’s asked us to really get at the hearts, hopes, and needs of these kids.

What are some of the challenges you have had preparing for your role and what is most exciting about appearing in Dani Girl?

I hadn’t done a musical for a while, and I’ll jump at any chance to sing. Plus, when I do get to do musicals, I rarely get a part where I get to sing harmony with anyone, and Dani and Marty have a couple of wonderful duets. Really, though, as I said, new work is what turns me on, and this being the first full Washington DC-area production of Dani Girl is exciting. The notion that I’ll be the first Marty most of our audience has seen is fantastic.

What are your favorite songs and scenes in the show?

Even at this early stage in rehearsal, it’s tough to keep my composure as Caroline (who plays Dani) sings a requiem for Dani’s bestest teddy bear, Mr. Fritz. I admit I’m an incurable sentimentalist, but I defy anyone to get through it without tears.

On a happier note, I get to fight off Cancer—with a LIGHTSABER. Come on, how cool is that?

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Maggie Robertson (Mother)

Maggie Robertson (1)

Joel: Where did you get your training and where have local theatregoers seen you perform?

Maggie: My DC acting career is just getting started. I graduated from Muhlenberg College in 2013 where I was nominated for two Irene Ryan Awards for my performances in Orlando and 44 Plays for 44 Presidents. But since then, I was last seen in Compass Rose’s production of Romeo and Juliet, where I had the honor of playing Lady Capulet.

Why did you want to be part of this production?

This is my first musical and I sort of auditioned for it by mistake. I came into the audition intending to be seen for Danny Boy, the other show in Unexpected Stage’s season this year, and then was called back for Mother. However, the second I heard her song “The Sun Still Rose” I knew this was the part for me.

Who is Mother?

Mother is a very complex character in the show. In many ways she is the one that grounds us in reality, reminding us of the stakes, and through her you see the ways in which such a devastating disease affects the whole family. She has already lost so much and yet still has so much more to lose. The show is about cancer, but is also about a family, the bond between a mother and a daughter, and it is fascinating to watch them rebuild a faltering relationship and come to terms with the grief that they have both experienced.

What has impressed you most about Christopher Goodrich’s direction?

Chris has been very giving in his direction of the play, sharing his own stories and experiences and fostering an environment where we feel comfortable doing the same. Dani Girl is a torrent of emotion and in order to reach that level of emotional vulnerability with an audience we need to reach it first with each other. Chris has built a place where we can do just that.

What is your favorite song on the show?

I think my favorite song in the show is Marty’s “Why I Love the Movies.” It is an endearing song for an endearing character as we get to giggle at his dorkiness and laugh at the movie references we all grew up watching. It’s a song that takes us back to being kids, but it also has an amazing poignancy as you watch this 10-year-old boy deal with the reality that he might not make it.

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Dani Girl plays July 17 through August 10, 2014 at Randolph Road Theater-4010 Randolph Road, in Silver Spring, MD. For tickets, call (800) 838-3006, or purchase them online,or purchase them at the door subject to availability.

 

 

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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.