When I was arts editor and theater critic in Albany, N.Y., at the Times Union newspaper, one of the thrills of being so close to Massachusetts (a 55-minute drive) and some great theater was reviewing Barrington Stage Company. They are known for commissioned plays that have legs way beyond Pittsfield, Mass. create some great works. Here, playwrights in residence created, and workshopped plays, that you would know upon seeing, were bound for Broadway. Barrington was the company responsible, from the ground up, of that hit "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," which later transferred to Broadway.
One of its playwrights' names, which may sound familiar, has the title of Associate Artist there. Mark St. Germain has had nine plays produced by BSC, including the off-Broadway hit, "Freud's Last Session." and St. Germain's "Becoming Dr. Ruth," which also premiered at BSC, and played off-Broadway, was part of South Florida's GableStage's recent season.
Thanks to the creative minds at Zoetic Stage @ZoeticStageMIA, the resident company at the Adrienne Arsht Center, a work that got its start at Barrington, and St. Germain's ninth play for BSC, "Dancing Lessons." opens as a South Florida World Premiere on Thursday, March 8.
miamiartzine.com spoke with Lindsey Corey, who is co-starring in the two-person play along with Caleb Scott, and directed by Stuart Meltzer. The show opens March 9 and runs through March 25 in the Carnival Studio Theater at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. Corey, a native of Chattanooga, Tenn., has a BFA in Musical Theater from from New World School of the Arts and is a member of Actors' Equity Association. Her past roles with Zoetic Stage at the Arsht Center include: Melissa in "The Savannah Disputation," Squeaky Fromme in "Assassins," and "Masha" in Chris Demos-Brown's Stripped, for which she received a Best Actress Carbonell Award. She is also a Digital Production Specialist at Insight for the Blind in Fort Lauderdale, in support of the Library of Congress' Talking Books Program.
miamiartzine.com: Can you tell us a bit about the plot of "Dancing Lessons?"
Lindsey Corey: It takes place mostly in a New York apartment. The character I play is Segna (the name Agnes spelled backwards.) She is a forcibly, retired dancer. She had to retire because of a knee injury. Now, since she's not able to dance, she's struggling to try to navigate her whole life. She's really trying to figure out, well, if there is something that you've done your forver and it ends, what do you do now? She's wallowing in this dark place, when there's a knock on the door. It's a neighbor named Ever, a man with autism. He's come to her door because he needs dance lessons for a function where he's being honored. [Editor's Note: St. Germain was quoted as saying about his character: "He is a professor of Geoscience, and he's never danced before, so he asks the Broadway dancer to teach him to dance just one dance. The problem is, he hates to be touched.] He's trying to get this girl who has no will to live, now that she can't dance, to teach him so that he an navigate his way through this event. In the process they learn a lot about each other, and a lot about themselves.
maz: So how did you bring yourself into the character of Segna? Any role an actor plays has some parts of themselves in it, don't you agree?
LC: Yes, in order for it to ring true to the audience, you have to believe everything you're saying so that they are going to believe you. The idea of loving a career so much, and the idea of it potentially being taken from you, and you have no control over that. If I woke up and couldn't sing, for instance, I would be broken as well. Just the thought of it gets me worked up. I'd have to take a different path. Would I go back to school? Or learn a trade? I can't imagine not being able to do what you love to do. I think that is the biggest connection for me. Also, the fact that she's dealing with a man with autism. I learned about people with autism more through this process, but when I was in Slow Burn Theater's "Tarzan," we did sensory friendly performances for children with autism. I've been through a training course to understand what it is to perform for people with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
maz: How did you get the role? The usual audition process?
LC: I've worked with Stuart (Meltzer) before, and he reached out to me and said, 'I read this play, and I picture you in my mind when I'm reading it. I'd love for you to come in and read for me.' So, it was me and a few other women who read for the part, and, well I got the call, and . . .
maz: What do you think will draw audiences in to this show?
LC: The play is done at Zoetic so that you are immersed in these characters' worlds. You are in it. You are in her apartment. You are there with these people. And that's a unique experience. You go to see shows and they are in proscenium theaters and, as an audience member, you're removed, like there's a divide between "us and them," but here you are feet away from these people, and they are pouring their hearts out. And it feels differently from something you'll see 80 rows back. Seeing this show in this space, it's special.
"Dancing Lessons" plays March 8 – March 25, 2018 in the intimate Carnival Studio Theater (Ziff Ballet Opera House), at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33132. Tickets are $50 and $55; and can be purchased through the Adrienne Arsht Center Box Office by calling (305) 949-6722, or online at www.arshtcenter.org.