BWW Interviews: A Sneak Peak of DOGFIGHT at Street Theatre Company

BWW Interviews: A Sneak Peak of DOGFIGHT at Street Theatre Company

Friday night, Street Theatre Company continues their tradition of bringing edgy and smart musicals to Nashville with the opening of their latest production, Dogfight. Written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the 2012 off-Broadway production won two Lucille Lortel Awards and was nominated for numerous Outer Critics Circle Awards and Drama League Awards.

Based on the 1991 movie of the same name, Dogfight takes place in San Francisco on one night in 1963. It surrounds the story of a group of young Marines the night before they are shipped to Vietnam.

Cathy Street, artistic director of Street Theatre Company, and Taylor Kelly, one of the actors in this production of Dogfight, took some time out of their schedules to answer some questions for us about this amazing production. Kelly is a new addition to the Nashville theatre community, having moved to Nashville right before rehearsals started on this production.

BWW Nashville: How did you first discover Dogfight?

Cathy Street: I found it on MTI's site. They have a great section specifically for shows that are on the edgier side.

BWW Nashville: Was there something specific that made you choose to produce this show at Street Theatre Company?

Cathy Street: I started listening to the music. From the first song, I was completely hooked. The music was just so incredible. Then when I read about the storyline, I was 100% in. It is everything our audience would expect from an STC show. Thought-provoking material in a very modern, accessible, musically interesting package.

BWW Nashville: Had you heard of the show before you auditioned for Street Theatre Company's production?

Taylor Kelly: I heard the music from Dogfight about a year ago and immediately fell in love. The writing is smart, the orchestration is beautiful, and most of these songs are just downright catchy. After listening to the original Off-Broadway cast recording I began frantically searching for a way to watch the whole show. I found a video of it online and was blown away. There is a certain raw honesty to the storytelling in Dogfight and I was immediately drawn to that. Starting about 6 months ago I would check the Music Theater International licensing website once a week to see where the show was being put on and one day I saw that a company in Nashville was doing it this summer. I was beside myself and immediately sent them an email inquiring about auditioning. A lot of things had to fall into place for me to be in this show, but I couldn't be more thankful for the opportunity to help tell this story to the greater Nashville community, especially alongside such an amazing cast and crew. This process has been such an unexpected blessing.

BWW Nashville: Was there something specific that made you choose to produce this show at Street Theatre Company?

Cathy Street: I started listening to the music. From the first song, I was completely hooked. The music was just so incredible. Then when I read about the storyline, I was 100% in. It is everything our audience would expect from an STC show. Thought-provoking material in a very modern, accessible, musically interesting package.

BWW Nashville: Taylor, can you tell us a little bit about Dogfight?

Taylor Kelly: Dogfight is about a group of Marines in 1963 getting ready to be shipped out to Vietnam the next morning. They take part in a tradition, the dogfight, in which they each have a few hours to find the ugliest date possible to bring to a party. All the marines put in some money which goes towards renting a venue, a band, etc. and the rest is prize money for whoever is judged to have brought the ugliest date. Things get complicated when Rose, Eddie Birdlace's date to the dogfight, finds out about what's going on. Eddie is forced to consider what is most important to him: misguided tradition for the sake of "brotherhood" or humbling himself by apologizing to Rose and treating her with the respect she deserves? One one hand, It's a story about the cruelty and selfish ambition of these Marines, but on the other it allows the audience to get a glimpse into just how afraid and emotionally unprepared these guys were to head off to Vietnam. I hope that the audience can see both.

BWW Nashville: What do you feel is the main message of the show?

Taylor Kelly: I think the main message of this show is that outward perception can be deceiving (and yes, I did just try to come up with a less-cliché way to say "you can't judge a book by its cover"). So many of the characters in this show come across in a certain way upfront, whether it be the way they look or the confidence they carry themselves with. Rose seems awkward and insignificant. The Marines seem untouchable and ready for anything. But when everything is stripped away their true colors show and we see them for who they really are: Rose - a beautiful and compassionate woman. The Marines - scared and naïve boys. And that's just to touch on a few of the characters. Our tagline for Dogfight is "Ugly is on the inside" and I believe that this message rings true throughout the show in many ways.

BWW Nashville: Cathy, what do you hope that the audiences gets when they see Dogfight?BWW Interviews: A Sneak Peak of DOGFIGHT at Street Theatre Company

Cathy Street: I hope they leave wanting to talk about the story from all the different angles. What I love about this show is that it isn't wrapped up in a pretty little package. None of these characters are black and white; good or bad. I hope people want to explore all those dimensions.

BWW Nashville: How do you think that a show based in the 60s can relate to the world today?

Cathy Street: My initial response was that we have had a number of stories recently about young men behaving aggressively, which I thought was really interesting and pertinent to this story and the question of WHY they are behaving like that. But also universal is the story of women never feeling like they are enough: not pretty enough, not smart enough, etc. And Rose is someone we can all relate to, but she definitely breaks out of the mold.

Taylor Kelly: I think the beauty of this show is that it simultaneously sheds light on a specific period in the history of our country (the 1960's and Vietnam) and addresses universal themes that are present in every generation, such as pride, cruelty, brotherhood, paying consequences for our actions, and the power of forgiveness and compassion. I have been particularly moved through this process as I consider what it would be like to be drafted into the military as a teenager and to be told that there's nothing to worry about where I'm going and yet to have this underlying fear of what might be waiting for me in a place like Vietnam. For a younger audience who has no framework for the idea of being drafted into the military, I think Dogfight is a powerful and eye-opening show that may allow you to look at military service in ways you never have before. I also think there is much inherent to the writing of the show that will allow audiences of any age to reflect on an era in our country that was charged with so many conflicting messages and agendas. An unlikely love story is told against the backdrop of a time of American turmoil and unrest. No matter what age you are I think Dogfight has something to offer you.

BWW Nashville: Can you our readers what to expect when they see the show...in five words or less?

Cathy Street: Five words can't possibly contain what you will experience when you come to this show!!! Amazing performers, moving story, stellar music! (That's six....) : )

Taylor Kelly: Hmmm.... This is hard. Here's a few different ones that I came up with:

- The power of unexpected compassion

- Raw. Honest. Thought-provoking. Brace yourself.

- Songs that will melt hearts

- Top-notch acting and non-stop energy

Or alternatively

-Handsome marines singing show tunes

I'd like to thank Cathy and Taylor for taking their time to answer our questions. Dogfight opens Friday, June 5th at BAILEY MIDDLE SCHOOL in East Nashville. The show plays through June 21st. In celebration of their 10th anniversary season, all tickets to shows this season at Street Theatre Company are pay-what-you-can. Tickets may be purchased on their website.


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