In Part Three of a series of interviews with the cast of Adventure Theatre MTC’s The Emperor’s Nightingale meet Jonathan Frye.
Joel: Please introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you perform on our local stages.
Jonathan: My name is Jonathan Frye. Most recently seen as Oberon and Theseus in Midsummer on a Playground with Pocket Change Theatre Company. I will next be seen as Brad in Meth and Method part of the Source Festival at Constellation Theatre.
Why did you want to become a member of the cast of The Emperor’s Nightingale? What moved you the most when you read the script?
I had wanted to work both with Adventure Theatre and Natsu Onoda Power for some time. I was immediately drawn to the more comical elements of the script.
Who do you play in the show and how do you relate to these characters?
I’ve always liked the villains in shows. There’s so much more freedom to be over the top. I sympathize with Minister Wu’s fascination with western culture and technological innovation. He unfortunately goes about it the wrong way.
For Tiger Head I was very excited to take on the physical challenge of moving, fighting, dancing and singing with the limitations of the costume. I love the puppet head! He’s a definite scene-stealer and what actor doesn’t like that?
What personal experiences did you bring with you that helped you prepare for your roles? Did you base your performances on anyone you know-a friend or family member or someone else?
I lived in Beijing, China for 3 years, so was already somewhat familiar with many of the traditions, language etc that were integrated into the story. Also have experience with martial arts and stage combat which helped for the physical demands of Tiger Head.
For Minister Wu I very much went back into my child hood and pulled from my Disnery villain canon. Jafar from Aladdin was the biggest inspiration.
What lessons can young theatregoers and their parents learn while watching this show.
I think everyone should learn that it is important to keep an open mind and heart. To look to future but never forget that past. It can be dangerous to rush into something without taking a step back and getting perspective.
Parents need to recognize that their children are the future and need proper well rounded education, experience, careful advice and guidance lest they fall prey to bad influences. Like the princes in the play they need space to explore on their own but should not be left alone.
Director Natsu Onoda Power is known for creating stunning visuals in her work.Tell me about how the visuals tell the story and what impresses you most about the look and design of the show?
I think everyone agrees the visuals are wonderful. Hana Kim and Marie Yokoyama have created a beautiful projection and lighting design which not only creates the world of the show but also very literally illustrates parts of it. It is a very dreamy creation which hardens back to traditional Chinese theatrical methods of dressing up sets with physical illustrations and paintings.
How would you describe Natsu’s style of direction and how has she helped you to mold and enrich your performances?
Natsu is always very excited to work. She lends the actor her enthusiasm and energy. She’s very honest but polite. If she doesn’t like something she says it point blank, but works with you to find the right tone, movement etc. As an actor what I like most about her style is that she favors intuition and spontaneity above all.
She lets the actor work in the inner emotions and frames them within a visual/physical construct.
What is your favorite costume of Deb Kim Sivigny’s that you are wearing in the show and what is your favorite that someone else is wearing and why?
My favorite costume that I wear is Tiger Head. Though it’s very hot the jumpsuit is so comfortable and the frills and sparkles just kill me every time I put it on. It’s very Chinese with bright colors and accessories.
My favorite of the other actors’ costumes is the Emperor’s. It’s just very regal and pretty.
How would you describe Stella Choi’s choreography and what were some of the challenges you have had learning it?
Stella’s choreography for this show was much more strong and sharp than I was expecting. I originally thought we would go for something more soft, elegant and dance like, but she brought and asked from us (especially Tiger Head and Tail) more abrupt and staggered, strong movements.
My biggest challenge was trying to find a safe and less strenuous way of moving with the constraints of the Tiger costume but staying in time and respect the intentions of her choreography.
Have you ever played Pong Hau K’i before you got involved in the production, and now that you have had new experience, how would you rate yourself (from 1-5) as a player?
2-fair but nothing to brag about
4-damn good-I challenge you to play with me!
5-Where can I try out for the Pong Hau K’i Olympics?
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing The Emperor’s Nightingale?
That they exit more curious about the author Hans Christian Anderson and the story behind his fairytale. That they go on to learn more about China.
More than anything I hope they leave entertained and knowing that in life knowledge will be their biggest gateway to success.
Running Time: 55 minutes, with no intermission.
The Emperor’s Nightingale plays through May 30, 2016 at Adventure Theatre MTC – 7300 MacArthur Boulevard, in Glen Echo, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 634-2270, or purchase them online.
Kendall Mostafavi’s review of The Emperor’s Nightingale on DCMetroTheaterArts.
Meet the Cast of Adventure Theatre MTC’s ‘The Emperor’s Nightingale’: Part 1: Nadine Rousseau.
Meet the Cast of Adventure Theatre MTC’s ‘The Emperor’s Nightingale’: Part 2: Sue Jin Song.
Meet the Cast of Adventure Theatre MTC’s ‘The Emperor’s Nightingale’: Part 3: Jonathan Frye.