In Part Seven of a series of interviews with cast members of Cohesion Theatre Company’s Neverwhere, meet Melanie Glickman.
Patricia: Please introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you on local stages and some roles you have played.
Mel: I’m Mel Glickman. If you’ve seen anything Cohesion’s done this season, you’ve seen me in some capacity (unless you only saw Force Continuum). I most recently co-directed Aphorisms on Gender with Caitlin Carbone. I played God in A Little Bit Not Normal, Malvolio in Twelfth Night, and Laertes in Hamlet; and I performed in The Complete Deaths of William Shakespeare over at Baltimore Shakespeare Factory. This time last year, I was in Spotlighters’ Dog Sees God as Tricia.
Why did you want to become a member of the cast of Neverwhere?
I love love love stage adaptations of novels. It’s fascinating to see how the words on the page translate to something visual – what gets blown up to fit the stage, what remains intimate. I’m also just a huge nerd, so I jumped at the chance of working on anything related to Gaiman.
Had you read Neverwhere prior to being cast in this play? Had you seen the BBC series?
Neverwhere was somehow one of the only Gaiman novels I hadn’t read. At the very least, working on this show gave me the excuse to read it. And I still haven’t seen the series yet, but watching it sounds like a good cool-down for after this show closes.
Briefly describe your character for those who may be unfamiliar with the story (no spoilers!).
The main character I play is The Angel Islington. It is the guardian of London Below, and its ultimate purpose is to protect the city the only way it knows how (no spoilers). Besides Islington, I also play Gary (Richard Mayhew’s goofy officemate), The Fop with No Name (a pretentious French bodyguard), and The Lord Rat-Speaker (a crazed rat-boy).
In one season, I’ve seen you cast as both God and an angel. What’s the scoop? Have you just been otherworldly good in your auditions?
Ha, I hope my audition was that good. I actually wasn’t cast in Neverwhere at the start – Islington was going to be played by the lovely and talented Sean Coe. But Sean had to drop out, so Brad offered me the role. My having played God was, I think, some sort of impetus for casting me, but I don’t know the details. That’s a question for Brad.
Does Islington have any of your personality or character traits?
Islington and I are pretty different. The biggest similarity between us is our desire to appear calm and in control as much as possible, and to bottle up our anger until we are physically unable to hold it in anymore. As a mortal, I know neither of those things are the most healthy; but with Islington, it’s a different story.
On the lighter side of things, we both enjoy hanging out with small groups of people while drinking wine.
You played a total of 4 very different characters in this show. Was it difficult to move between all the roles throughout the play?
It actually hasn’t been too hard moving between all the characters. The quick-changes are the hardest part, but everything else (physicality, voice, motivation) sort of clicks in when I transition to a different character. The only thing I wish is that I had a little more time onstage with each character to play around with them.
Your character The Fop with No Name does a bit of fighting. Did you have previous stage combat training? Did you spend a lot of time working on fight choreography for Neverwhere?
I started stage combat training in college in 2010, and I’ve been fight choreographing since 2012, I think? I was also in a New York-based stage combat company, Fight Theatre, from 2010-2013. Stage combat and stuntwork are some of my favorite things to do in the whole world.
We spent a good chunk of time working on the fights for Neverwhere – Jon was working with us and making sure the choreography worked with the theater’s sightlines all the way up to opening night. This kind of show calls for a delicate balance between showy and gritty violence, and I think Jon really hit the nail on the head.
What were some of the challenges you faced while learning your role and how did you work through them?
Islington was absolutely the hardest character to make sense of. First and foremost, I wanted Islington to be recognizable as inhuman, but not as a cliché angel. I went through a couple different iterations of Islington as this quiet and aloof being who, ultimately, was pretty boring and unpleasant to play. I realized that the key to Islington is that, in order to be seen as trustworthy, you must exhibit some sort of humanity (particularly warmth). And Islington’s M.O. is to be seen as trustworthy at all costs.
The other tough nut to crack was Islington’s voice: What accent do angels have? I played around with a Hebrew accent for a little bit, giving Islington more Talmudic, ancient roots, but it felt a bit too on-the-nose. When I finally landed on a British accent, it wasn’t because Islington had a British accent – it was because the whole of England adopted Islington’s accent.
What have you enjoyed most about this experience since beginning rehearsals?
We went into rehearsal every single day wondering what amazing, crazy idea Brad would throw at us next. Giant steel boxes on wheels! A fight with a giant boar puppet! It’s still astounding to me how much we’re able to pull off in this production. And knowing that everyone in that rehearsal room had so much dedication to pulling off that crazy stuff, as well as good senses of humor when the process got stressful, made working on this show all the more exciting.
What has impressed you most about your fellow cast members and/or crew?
I mean, the level of dedication I just mentioned is certainly noteworthy. Every single person working on this show is so talented and badass. I don’t know – I could sing the praises of this group for ages.
I think one of the things that’s most inspiring is how beautifully the cast and crew clicked with this story, if that makes sense. Like, when it comes to fantasy/sci-fi performance, it’s so common to see the artists involved write the story off as silly escapism without any merit. But the Neverwhere team – Brad and the rest of the cast, especially – has such respect for the story and the original text, and they want to tell this story with the precision and care that fans of Gaiman’s novel deserve to see.
You’ve done a lot of work with Cohesion Theatre in the past year. Is there something that particularly attracts you to their productions?
The people at Cohesion are some of the most compassionate, inclusive, fun, and inventive artists I’ve worked with in a long time. The company is already creating high-caliber stuff, and they have so much potential to become bigger and better. I hope so dearly that I’ll be able to come back to Baltimore once and a while to see what cool stuff they’re up to.
Why do you think audiences should come see the show?
Regardless of whether you’re a fan of Neil Gaiman, this show will blow your mind. Every production element of Neverwhere – the performances, the costumes and makeup, the combat, the set, the music, the lights – blend together brilliantly. It’s also so much fun and so invigorating to interact with the audiences during and after the shows, and from what we’ve been able to gather, the feeling’s mutual. We hope as many people as possible can come see this show, because when it’s gone, it’ll be gone for good.
I understand you’re leaving Baltimore after Neverwhere closes. Where will you be going? Is this a temporary or long-term move?
I’m moving to Los Angeles for a number of reasons, the acting scene being one of them. I’m both excited and terrified. If anybody knows anybody who would want to cast me in anything out there, let me know?
If everything goes as planned, this will be a long-term move. However, I am working on coming back to Baltimore briefly in October for Cohesion and Baltimore Shakespeare Factory’s reboot of The Complete Deaths of William Shakespeare, if they’ll have me. Otherwise, I hope to visit as often as I can!
BIO: Melanie Glickman (Islington, The Fop With No Name, Gary, Lord Ratspeaker) is a graduate of New York University with a BFA in Drama and a BA in Mathematics. She has been so stoked to work with Cohesion pretty much non-stop for the past year, appearing in their productions of A Little Bit Not Normal, The Complete Deaths of William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, and Hamlet. She also directed readings of Sagittarius Ponderosa and Ballast for ParityFest, and most recently co-directed Aphorisms on Gender. To Alice, Brad, and everybody at Cohesion – thank you for your creative genius, ridiculous senses of humor, compassion, and friendship. Mel is moving far too far away from Baltimore right after this show closes; so if you want to get a drink or something and hang out before then, let her know. She would very much like to hang out with you, too.
Review of Neverwhere on DCMetroTheaterArts by Patricia Mitchell.
Interviews from London Below: Inside Cohesion Theatre’s ‘Neverwhere’: Part 1: Joseph Coracle.
Interviews from London Below: Inside Cohesion Theatre’s ‘Neverwhere’: Part 2: Cori Dioquino.
Interviews from London Below: Inside Cohesion Theatre’s ‘Neverwhere’: Part 3: Jonas David Grey.
Interviews from London Below: Inside Cohesion Theatre’s ‘Neverwhere’: Part 4: Matthew Lindsay Payne.
Interviews from London Below: Inside Cohesion Theatre’s ‘Neverwhere’: Part 5: Bobby Henneberg.
Interviews from London Below: Inside Cohesion Theatre’s ‘Neverwhere’: Part 6: Cassandra Dutt.
Interviews from London Below: Inside Cohesion Theatre’s ‘Neverwhere’: Part 7: Melanie Glickman.