BWW Blog: The Trojan Players' NEXT TO NORMAL - Just Another Day

Meet Kate Kowalski and Chris Miller, who are playing the roles of Diana and Dan in Next to Normal. Hear from them about what's exciting, what's daunting, and what the process has been like so far!

Kate Kowalski:

In eighth grade, I saw "Next to Normal" on Broadway. It was the first play I had seen that hit me like lightning, ~electrified~ me if you will. Which is what theatre is supposed to do. It's supposed to shake you up, give you a new perspective, make you want to go out and really say something to the rest of the world. If it didn't do that, there would be no theaters and everyone would be sitting at home on the couch watching Days of our Lives. "Next to Normal" is so raw and visceral. Watching it emotionally guts you. I was all fizzed up like a Coke can after I saw it on Broadway. My eighth grade, fizzed-up self ran to the stage door (like any good fan-boy or girl should do) and got every autograph. I even talked to Alice Ripley for an extended period of time (aka longer than 10 seconds) and of course, made a fool of myself. I didn't care though. I was totally freaking starstruck.

Of course, Alice Ripley IS Diana. Seriously, you don't need to compare my performance to hers because I pretty much do that myself every second. Alice Ripley is one of my idols. She totally consumes her art - body, mind, and soul. Plus, she can probably go a whole day without blinking. To say the least, it's terrifying to step into this role. There's not really much I can do to stop freaking out, so I'm just working on transferring that nervous/nauseous energy into hard work and concentration. I am not Alice Ripley. First of all, I'm only 18. Second of all, I'm not perfect/a queen. So I'm creating my own Diana. I see this woman who is broken in so many ways, but there's more to her than that. There are so many choices I can make and so many roads to explore. I'm going to throw myself into research and work, actual work. There's much more to do than just memorize your lines and wait for the character to show up on opening night. My friends Stanislavsky and Meisner will be helping me.

Let me say this and have you not judge me for a good five seconds: both of my parents are psychiatrists. Ok... NOW you can go ahead and let the judgements overfloweth. Yes, they psychoanalyze me. All the time. Yes, there is a copy of the DSM in my house. Yes, my knowledge of prescription medications would make a lot of dealers shrink in their seats. And yes, this helps me a great deal with this show. I live in this world. Though of course, I see a different side to it. In Hollywood, mental illness and its treatment isn't always given a warm light. Either the doctors are sociopathic British villains, or the patients are out-of-control animals in a cage. "Next to Normal" is a truly fair story of doctor and patient. It's a human approach. Both sides make mistakes, both sides learn from their mistakes. The medicine works, the medicine doesn't work. Stories like "Next to Normal" help let people see mental illness without the stigma.

I'm so happy and excited to be involved in this project!

Chris Miller:

Hana (our beautifully talented director) actually approached me about Next to Normal in the spring of my junior year. Specifically, she texted me something along the lines of "Hey, you should look up 'Next to Normal' and the part of Dan." So, I listened to "I've Been" once on YouTube, thought it was a nice song, and then forgot all about it. This year, however, Hana approached me again, saying that she was putting together a production of N2N as her senior project, asking me to be a part of it. I accepted. And that was pretty much it for me. Later, I was put in a tastefully secretive Facebook group consisting of Hana, the actors portraying the members of the Goodman family, and our Dr. Madden. Hana explained that the main roles of the show had been precast, and we would be holding auditions for the remaining roles later in the year. We held the auditions, Hana cast our Henry and Dr. Fine, and now we have a show!

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Guest Blogger: NEXT TO NORMAL The Trojan Players are the group of talented, high-school actors who perform under the umbrella of Trinity Valley School. However, this marks the first time (since Gene Sessa’s arrival as resident director) that the Trojan Players will put on a musical production with only students performing and directing. This small cast, rock musical is the perfect outlet for senior Hana Smith to produce astounding theatre and blaze the trail for future student-led productions. Not only are these students putting on a difficult show, but they are also directing and producing it entirely on their own. Follow this talented group as they embark on the journey that is “Next to Normal”.

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