Glyndon Area Players’ ‘Les Misérables’: An Interview with Dawn O’Croinin (Fantine), Tom Zepp (Jean Valjean), and Cameron Casey (Javert)

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Glyndon Area Players prides itself providing its community with the gift of high-quality musicals while on a community theater budget, and utilizing a cast of volunteers from the surrounding neighborhoods. Parents, students, retirees, and professionals in a variety of fields come together from June to August for Saturday set building, late night rehearsals, and a priceless experience of bonding and friendship. Thanks to the incredible organization of GAP’s core production crew, the support of the parish and school of Sacred Heart, and the creative vision of the director, each year the bar raises and this year’s show is shaping up to be remarkable.

Director and Founder Homero Bayarena has committed himself to bringing the excitement of a live orchestra, elaborate sets, and strong talent to this production of Les Misérables. My family is fortunate enough to live just around the corner from GAP’s theater in residence and we look forward all year to donating our time and efforts to GAP’s special mission. Bayarena likes to say that every year new people come expecting to see a standard “church production” and it delights him to see their reactions to the caliber of GAP’s shows. Three talented members of this year’s cast share with readers, their insight to GAP’s Les Misérables.

Teresa: Where have local audiences seen you on the stage before?

Dawn: My first musical was 42nd Street, with a summer stock company in NJ when I was 14 years old. Since that time, I’ve performed in over 40 shows, mostly musicals, ranging from dance-based shows like A Chorus Line and West Side Story to Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. Although I enjoyed performing, I always wanted to be a lawyer. I currently work as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Maryland after spending over a decade in private litigation practice.

Tom: I have been studying music since I was in high school and continued to study music at Towson University where I earned my Bachelors degree in Music Education. Currently I work as a personal trainer for Merritt Athletic Clubs, and am the bass section leader for Christ First Lutheran Church in Baltimore. I have not performed on stage since high school where I played Harry from Once Upon a Mattress and Lord Capulet in Romeo and Juliet.

Cameron: I teach mathematics and coach soccer at Gerstell Academy and live in Westminster, MD with my wife and two children. I had done skits and things early on, but I didn’t discover ‘theatre’ until high school. Since then, I did some community theatre while teaching in the Connecticut area, and have helped out with productions at school as a faculty member.

Why did you want to play these roles?

Dawn: I really enjoy playing Fantine because it gives me an opportunity to do a dramatic role after years of ingenues and comedy. When the show first opened on Broadway, I loved Fantine, but I was so young that I couldn’t envision myself ever playing that part.  Once I became a mother myself, that shifted for me. I started to appreciate the love and light within the character that persists even as she loses everything around her and succumbs to her disease. My biggest dislike of the way the character is portrayed in the musical revolves around the lyrics to “I Dreamed a Dream.” In the novel, the relationship between Fantine and her older, wealthy lover lasts for several years. The lyrics to the song indicate that it was a summer fling, more or less, implying that she gave herself too quickly to the man.

Tom: I was very surprised [to land the lead role]. I went to audition on a whim because I had been encouraged by several people involved in GAP, but had the intention of auditioning for Javert or Marius. I was then called back for auditions again to sing for Jean Valjean and when offered the role I couldn’t help but say yes, especially because it was my first leading role ever.

Cameron: Les Miserables has always been on my to-do list, so when I learned through a student what GAP had planned, I jumped at the chance. While this is an amazing show, and I would have thrown myself into any role, I have dreamed of portraying Javert for the better part of 20 years.

Auditions were really competitive this year for GAP, but it was very evident early on that you, Tom and Cameron, had an electric chemistry together and intensity. Am I right? Has that intensity grown?

Tom: This was something that we knew from the start had to be absolutely set in place. Cameron is an amazing person and we are friends offstage, but as soon as we hop on the stage he turns into the person I hate the most. My favorite scene happens just after Fantine passes and Javert and Jean Valjean have a small encounter. Since we started practicing the scene, the intensity between Javert and I has been increasing steadily to the point where we fuel each other through a shouting match and a physical altercation.

Cameron: I find that the intensity is already built in to the show. The lyrics convey each character’s thoughts and motivations, and the music dictates the mood. Homero, our director, gave us some excellent blocking that allows the audience to “see” the moral wrestling match the characters are engaged in. Tom and I just have to stare each other down like a pair of rival alpha-dogs, and the rest falls into place.

Teresa: Dawn, do you see Les Miserables as a commentary on women’s and human rights? Is Fantine a victim of her time?

Dawn: I view Les Misérables as a lesson in ethics and morality.  The path that Jean Valjean travels after his release from prison is very similar to the path Fantine takes after she loses her job.  Everyone who Valjean encounters pushes him away, regardless of his eagerness to work, without an open heart and mind to allowing him to make a fresh start. That is, of course, until he reaches the Bishop of Digne. Without that intervention and willingness to look beyond the past and show kindness to another, Valjean would have returned to prison. Despite the fact that Fantine ends up in the streets, sick and without hope, Jean Valjean pays it forward, so to speak, and that encounter and willingness to intervene and assist allows Fantine to die in peace, and she gives him a further purpose and mission in his own life. This is all in stark contrast to the very black and white world of Javert. Fantine’s options were extremely limited as a function of the time in which she lived. Certainly there are more options for women these days. That being said, in times of financial uncertainty, support for women and children, and other vulnerable populations, dwindles. I think we all have to ask ourselves, even if we cannot give financially, what can we do to make a difference in our communities?

Cameron, how do you relate to the character of Javert? What do want audiences to take away with them about your character after seeing your performance?

Cameron: I can definitely relate to Javert and the conflict he experiences, and I hope the audience will come to see his inner turmoil, as well. As a citizen, a parent, and a teacher, I recognize that all rules exist to either prevent or allow certain outcomes. Once you start making exceptions, chaos often ensues.  What the dear inspector doesn’t know is that it’s rarely as simple as ‘Good vs Evil.’ At the risk of getting political, I have learned that not all laws are good laws: some deny us certain rights in the interest of the greater good, while others may have unintended consequences that outweigh the original concern. If everyone could just learn to treat others as they would like to be treated, and to accept responsibility for their mistakes, there would be no need for the Javerts of the world.

Tom, how do you feel about Jean Valjean’s view of justice and morality having grey areas as opposed to Javert’s black and white?

I respect Javert’s view of justice and morality as black and white but just as Jean Valjean shows, sometimes wrong things have to be done to help others. There is no perfect black and white in life.

Dawn, why should audiences choose to see Glyndon Area Players’ production of Les Misérables?

Dawn: Everyone involved with this production went into it fully invested in it. There’s a level of passion and dedication present in this group which stems from everyone’s love for this show that spilled over into everything we do – we really built the barricade, we really do care for one another, and that tangible connection translates into the performances as well.

Tom, Jean Valjean is a particularly demanding role. How have you been preparing vocally and physically? What are you most looking forward to as the show opens?

I train vocally and physically every day to ensure I am going to be in the right place when the show starts. I do get tired and sweaty but I am loving every second of it!

I am just excited to put on a great show with an absolutely wonderful group of people. The past couple months have been a blur of rehearsals and set builds that have tested everyone but now that we are here we can’t wait to show everyone what we got.

Les Misérables opens tomorrow,  Friday, August 8th and plays through August 17, 2014 at Sacred Heart Auditorium-63 Sacred Heart Lane, in Glyndon, Maryland. For tickets, order them online, or purchase them at the door.

LINKS

Glyndon Area Players’ Les Misérables: An Interview with Henry Cyr (Marius).

Here is the cast of Les Misérables.

Post by Ava Ertel.