In Part 1 of a series of interviews with the cast of McLean Community Players’ 1776, meet Brent Stone.
Please introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you perform on local stages and what roles you have played.
My name is Brent Stone. Most recently, I appeared as Jim in Port Tobacco Players’ Black Hole, Dan in McLean Community Players’ Next to Normal and Fredrik Egerman in The Arlington Players’ A Little Night Music.
Why did you want to be part of McLean Community Players’ 1776?
I love this musical and wanted to be a part of bringing it to life once again. I had the good fortune to appear in 1776 once before and knew that thirteen years between respective productions was enough.
Who do you play in the show, and how do you relate to your character? Does this character have any of your personality or character traits?
I play John Adams, the prickly and acerbic leader of the movement for Independence. While, in the end, his efforts bear fruit, his uncompromising nature is at odds to my tendency to reach for consensus within a group. Perhaps that voice crying in the wilderness was exactly what was needed in the day … and may well be so today as well. Yet I am driven away from those on the extremes and find their uncompromising nature to be repellent. So, to a point, playing Adams with all his inflexibility is a challenge.
What have you learned about your character that you didn’t know before you were cast in this production?
Near the end of the production, Adams laments that he “reeks of discontentment.” Earlier in the process, I had seen this simply as an elevation of Adams’ anger which is often, apparently, simmering just below the surface. But, with the benefit of time, I have come to understand this moment to be closer to a crisis of faith in himself. That adjustment will, I hope, lead to a more well-rounded figure in the production.
What is your favorite song in the show that you sing and that someone else sings and why?
I really enjoy the song “But Mr. Adams” as it reviews the machinations that might have taken place to select the draftee of the Declaration of Independence. And like the production as a whole, it highlights that the men who drove this amazing process forward were very much flesh and blood, with strengths and weaknesses like all of us know so well.
I also enjoy “Cool Considerate Men” as it is the production’s single piece that takes advantage of the wealth of strong cast voices. Whereas many of the pieces tell wonderful stories, this piece is simply a show stopper when it comes to vocal power and choral blend.
What have been some of the challenges you have had during rehearsals, and how did Director Annie Galvin help you with these challenges?
Annie has brought a clear vision to this production along with a thorough knowledge of the historical piece. It has been a pleasure bringing the show to life within her guidance.
What has impressed you most about your fellow cast members?
In addition to enjoying with the group as a whole, it has been a unique pleasure to work with Jeff Westlake again. We last appeared together in TAP’s The Man Who Came to Dinner some ten years ago and seeing him bring Ben Franklin to life so vividly has been a joy. The fact that Franklin and Adams are two inseparable comrades means I get to work with Jeff extensively on stage—an added plus. I also have enjoyed seeing Shawn Cox appear on local stages and looked forward to working with him for the first time. 1776 provides just that opportunity.
Why do you think 1776 is still so popular after so many decades and what does it have to say to today’s theatergoers?
1776 appeals to folks in so many ways. On the political spectrum, we all draw our lineage to this group of Founding Fathers and the message appeals to both those on the left as well as the right. The radical nature of these men and the personal risks they were willing to take to establish this nation has a special appeal to some.
For the more traditional, 1776 is a living testament to the foundation on which this nation is based. And no matter on what side folks may be, 1776 speaks to the need for compromise—a need that is very much in short supply today — as well as frustration with congressional inaction. It would seem that, no matter era, we continue to battle some of the very same issues.
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing you perform in 1776?
That an individual, or a small group of individuals, can make a very large difference in the world. When we feel that the efforts of one person are insignificant, we need to simply look at the work of the John Adamses of the world, the Ben Franklins and Thomas Jeffersons to know that the striving of the one can indeed have immense repercussions.
1776 is playing from February 5-21, 2016 at McLean Community Players performing at The Alden Theatre – 1234 Ingleside Avenue, in McLean, VA. For tickets, purchase them at the box office, call (866) 811-4111, or purchase them online.