BWW Interview: Marika Aubrey Says COME FROM AWAY at Wharton Center Offers a Huge Dose of Humanity and Kindness
What happens when you cross a tragic event with some of the kindest folk in the universe? You get Come From Away. Making its Michigan debut as the season opener at Wharton Center for Performing Arts in East Lansing from September 10th - 15th, this musical is about the 38 planes that were diverted to Newfoundland on September 11th, 2001.
BWW Detroit got the opportunity to talk with Marika Aubrey, who is currently playing Beverley (and others) on the Come From Away national tour. Having been a standby for the past year on this tour, Aubrey recently became the full-time Beverley (and others). In fact, it was the night before our interview. Check out our conversation below!
BWW Detroit: Can you introduce yourself for BWW readers?
Marika Aubrey: I grew up in Australia, as you can hear from my funny accent. I immigrated to New York a couple years ago. My background there was a real mix of things - TV and theatre and musical theatre, playing Ms. Wormwood in the production of Matilda across Australia before I left. Joining Come From Away is my first American contract. So, I'm very lucky to have joined this particular cast, it's a pretty exciting time of change in my life.
How exciting was becoming the full-time Beverley?
It was pretty amazing. For anyone who's seen the show, there's 12 actors on stage, 100 minutes straight pretty much. It's a lovely feeling of walking through the show, you feel like you're on the world's best sporting team or something because everyone's passing the ball around. It's a lovely team sport in exercising complicity and working together and supporting each other and I certainly felt that last night, and every night, actually. You know we have a tremendous bunch of people working together to tell this story.
It seems like that kind of show.
It really is.
In your own words, how would you briefly describe the story for someone who might not know much about it?
Sure. Well the story starts on the day of 9/11, and it's really about what happens in the days afterwards when a small town in Newfoundland finds itself unexpected custodians of several thousand passengers who are stranded from the airspace being closed down during the very scary days after 9/11 happened. It's a story about generosity in a time where the world was feeling not very kind and not very generous and actually quite scared and vulnerable. It was that week that these beautiful Newfoundlanders opened their hearts and literally their homes to a whole bunch of strangers and made them feel safe and wanted.
Can you tell me a little about the characters you play?
Well all the actors play several different roles and several different accents, we're all switching and changing a lot. I play Beverley, and I also play a local Newfoundland lady named Annette, and then I play a host of other people, other passengers from the plane.
What's it like to play so many different characters in the same show?
We get a really good workout in terms of switching around different physicalities and different accents, which is really fun. When we come out to bow, people often say, "Oh, I thought there were more people in the cast." We don't really do anything much other than change our voice, and it's all done right in front of the audience's eyes, but there's only 12 of us. I think the show has probably an upwards of 80 characters in it, I don't actually know the exact number but I'm pretty sure it's a lot more than 12.
I probably already know the answer, but what's your favorite song you sing, and what's your favorite song you don't sing?
My favorite song that I get to sing is "Me and the Sky." It's the obvious choice, but it's a really special one because I get to tell the story of Beverley Bass. "Me and the Sky" is about Beverley's coming up through the ranks of the aviation industry at a time when (and still now) women are very much outnumbered by men pilots on planes. It's the story of how she got started in that industry and how she became the first female captain of American Airlines, which was a really big deal and still quite and achievement.
Like many of the characters in our show, she's a real life person who went through these events. She's a real embodiment and a real icon of female strength and female equality and working in an industry where equality was not the case. In many cases, females are still fighting to have equality in the workplace. I love that song for everything that it stands for and everything that it means, and I love that young women watch that song and feel really roused to do whatever it is they want to do.
And my favorite song that I don't sing is probably "Prayer." Just because it's a moment where our amazing writers have interwoven several different prayers of different religions together and it's a real moment of peace and unity. I think our world, in all its volatility now, can use unity and compassion as much as possible. I'm not religious, but it does feel like a very, very sacred moment of prayer onstage. It really means that everyone in the audience, no matter their background or their faith, can feel like they can hook into that song and its meaning. It's just a moment of humanity in the show.
What's your memory of 9/11?
Interestingly because of the time difference, 9/11 happened in the evening obviously for Australians. I had gone to sleep very early. I was in drama school, and I had an assessment the next day, but I got woken in the middle of the night because my father was very distressed, particularly because my older brother had been living in New York and he had left three days earlier on the same UA flight. One of [the flights] was the one he was going to connect to then come back to Australia. And so my father had just had a real "Sliding Doors" moment of feeling like oh my goodness, if he'd been on that plane even three days earlier, the fate of what would've happened to our family gave him a real shock, a real jolt. And so, I remember the next day at drama school we had all been up most of the night watching. It was not only huge news in America, it was on every single channel in Australia. It really was worldwide in that way. Our assessment actually got cancelled because we ended up sitting around in a circle and talking because even from so far away it felt so scary and felt like anything could happen.
It's interesting, you know, sometimes we do school matinees with this show. It means that everyone, apart from the teachers, every bottom in every single seat was not alive during 9/11. This show is a very different experience on those days. It still hits home, and we still get to the same place, but there's definitely a different energy in the air because for those kids they don't have a direct personal connection to those events. It's almost a history lesson, and as they realize how recent and how real it was for even their parents...it's quite a revelatory experience for those high school students to come and see.
I wish this show had been around when I was that age.
Yeah, I think they sort of get it too. We're often talking about kids now that they don't know a world where they don't go the airport and have to take off their shoes, or a world without mobile phones. In the show no one had a phone back then, it was very unusual, very rare, it was only just starting to come in that people had their own personal phones. It hits home to kids how different a worldwide catastrophic event feels when you aren't getting contact with your loved ones and you can't reach out to them and say, "I'm okay."
What makes Come From Away so relevant in 2019?
I think what makes Come From Away relevant is it offers a nice 100-minute break from a lot of the despair and the lack of generosity and volatility that's going on in the world today. I think it offers a huge dose of kindness and humanity and generosity and people being really kind to one another. People leave our theatre feeling like they might try and go forth and be a bit kinder the next day. In a really non-preachy way, our show has that kind of effect on people. It shows what's possible when people open their hearts to strangers and just go above and beyond.
Do you have any social media accounts you'd like me to list for the readers?
For more information and tickets, call 1-800-WHARTON, check out Wharton Center online at whartoncenter.com, or visit the Auto-Owners Insurance Ticket Office at Wharton Center.