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foundation to work from, but it also allowed me the freedom to make it my own. I think one of the biggest lessons I've learned while creating new theatre is to come in with an open mind and a willingness to play. I'm still working on bringing as many options as I can to the table; not being afraid to try new things on a daily basis. It can be frustrating at times, but always so rewarding when things finally come together.


TS: What do you think the musical Scotland, PA is about? I realize the rehearsal process hasn’t begun yet, but can you share some of your initial thoughts about who these characters are? RM: Scotland, PA is Macbeth. It’s about power, it’s about greed, and it’s about what happens when that devilish and divisive cocktail of the two is poured haphazardly down the throat of someone totally unequipped to deal with its corrupting influence. Mac is a modernized Macbeth. A stoner, a wannabe. He’s a dreamer with no real grasp on making his dreams a reality. By a combination of magic and circumstance, he finds himself the king of his own empire; and, in full Shakespearean-tragedy form, climbs higher than he could ever imagine, only to fall over a precipice of his own making. TJ: Scotland, PA is about people wanting more out of life and going to extremes to get it. Pat and I are both driven. I know what it means to want to leave your small town. I would argue she's a little braver than I am, and I've actually found some of my own strength through her. Her willingness to do anything for those she loves reminds me of my mother. I'm looking forward to exploring her dynamics and seeing what happens when certain opportunities present themselves that lead to her wild decisions.


TS: Taylor, will you talk about your current understanding of the relationship between Mac and Pat? TJ: Pat and Mac's partnership is so important. They truly love each other, which drives them to make very unique decisions. I think it's really interesting to watch characters who seem to be on solid ground get pushed beyond their normal behavior. In this case, they have each other to lean on and go places they've never been before.


TS: Ryan, how do you understand the connection between Mac and his “voices”? RM: A modernized Macbeth must realize a modernized relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (in our case, Mac and Pat). In the Shakespearean text, Lady Macbeth is a villain, and Macbeth is the victim of her influence. For the purposes of our updated narrative, Mac and Pat become co-conspirators. In it together, they dig a hole too deep, precipitated in part by the “voices” Mac starts hearing in his head. These voices, representing Shakespeare’s common Witch/ Seer trope, are responsible for prophesying a destiny of great fame and fortune, but of great peril as well. Mac only listens to the first half of these visions, and together with his wife, walks down a dangerous road.


TS: What do you look for from a director, choreographer, and music director when you are collaborating on a role in a new musical? RM: I look for guidance, vision, and the guts to do something new, daring, and unexpected. Equally important to those big ideas is a willingness to listen to fellow collaborators on the other side of the table. When the leadership of a project grants the freedom for everyone in the room to express their opinions on the piece, the nexus of the best ideas creates the most thrilling artistic expression every time. TJ: I learn a lot about myself when creating new work. You have to go outside of your comfort zone. I enjoy working with people who make that zone feel safe. Lonny is an incredible director who trusts his actors and helps them expand that trust within themselves. Every person on our creative team is open to ideas, but they also have very specific points of view, which tells me they care. At the end of the day, it's a team effort and everyone wants what's best for the whole. It's awesome to look around in admiration of everyone around you, not only on the creative team but in this amazing cast as well.


SCOTLAND, PA UPSTAGE GUIDE 15


TS: What keeps you inspired as an artist? RM: This is probably not the most profound answer, but art inspires me the most. A perfectly crafted novel, a brilliantly engineered song, an insurmountably moving play. Any time I experience art in its natural habitat, I can’t help but go home and make my own. I am proud to have many artistically inclined friends through whom I experience a wide gamut of artistic exploration. I would be remiss not to mention my sister Alison, who inspires me daily and deeply and has taught me everything I know onstage and off. TJ: My family has always supported me, so I'm on a mission to make them proud. I am so lucky to spend my life with the most creative and empathetic people. Through performance, I am able to express and learn about myself and the world around me. Selfishly, I just love it and have so much fun doing it. Theatre is a very intimate and vulnerable enterprise. You can't hide from the audience, the audience can't hide from you, or each other.


TS: Students will read this interview and will want to know what it takes to be a successful actor—what advice can you give young people who say they want to sing, dance, and act in the musical theatre? RM: I have spent a long time thinking about this question over the past almost two decades that I’ve been acting professionally. I’ve been so fortunate to work with many amazing and awe-inspiring talents, and they all have key factors about their artistry and personality in common. The biggest thing I notice in people is their burning passion for what they’re doing. It’s all they care about. Because it’s more important to have passion rather than a plan. Where young people (myself included, for a time) get bogged down is where the devil is: IN THE DETAILS. Who cares? My father always told me, “If you want to make God laugh, make a plan.” There is so little in this life we actually have control over. There are many paths up the mountain, but only one mountain top. Don’t worry about the forks in the road, or which paths seem like they’ll get you there faster. Just fix your gaze on the summit of your desires, and climb! TJ: Get ready for hard work! Musical theatre is hard. From the moment you wake up, everything you put into your body and what you do with your body affects how your performances go that day. If you're doing it professionally, then you need to be your own biggest cheerleader and your own biggest critic. Know your weaknesses, so that you continue to work on improving them, and know your strengths so that you can celebrate and use them to your advantage. Always remember that there is only one of you, you are more than enough and deserving of any role.•


Ryan McCartan and Taylor Iman Jones


in rehearsal for Scotland, PA Photo by Jeremy Daniels


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