BWW Interview: FUN HOME's Abby Corrigan on Trust, Travel and 'Changing My Major'

BWW Interview: FUN HOME's Abby Corrigan on Trust, Travel and 'Changing My Major'
Abby Corrigan (right) with Karen Eilbacher in FUN HOME.
Photo by Joan Marcus.

The three Alisons of FUN HOME will take the Hobby Center stage next week as Theatre Under the Stars brings the Tony-winning musical to Houston. Based on Alison Bechdel's graphic-novel autobiography of the same name, the musical follows Alison from childhood to college to adulthood as she comes to terms with her own sexual identity and her relationship with her father, himself a closeted gay man.

Today we catch up with the college-aged Medium Alison, Abby Corrigan, to talk about trust, travel and the showstopper "Changing My Major," soon to be added to your Broadway playlist (if it's not there already).

I have to say, we are all really excited for FUN HOME to stop in Houston next month. It has already had such a successful run - including picking up a Tony for best musical, of course. Why do you think it's resonating so strongly with audiences?

Abby Corrigan: FUN HOME is about everyone - the script and score zoom in on intimate relationships with parents and children, which resonates in everyone's heads, no matter if you are gay or not. I also think it echoes afterwards because the words that we say are just like regular conversation, there is nothing overwhelmingly profound about them, but when you put it all together, it hits you hard - just like life.

What was your first impression of the show?

Abby Corrigan: The producers offered me tickets after my first audition, and my first thought was "I have to be a part of this." I knew it was something I could dig my teeth into. And I'm still digging. There is always more to discover with FUN HOME, and I can honestly say I'm always excited to go to work.

I can't think of very many productions that have one character share the stage with other versions of themselves at different points in their life. As Medium Alison, does seeing where you're coming from (Small Alison) and where you're going (Alison) on stage affect your approach to your character?

Abby Corrigan: Not really, no. Of course, as an actor, it is very helpful to have that information to store and think on, but I think everyone on earth is an example of the fact that we all change as we grow up, and so we are all different Alisons in a way. In rehearsal it was fun to watch them, and I'm sure my subconscious picked up on some of their physicality, but onstage I never see them. And the audience believes we are the same because we are all being honest.

"Changing My Major" is maybe the biggest moment in the production for Medium Alison, and your performance of the song has received glowing reviews. And don't be modest, I know you know! What is it about that number and what's happening in that scene that makes "Changing My Major" so effective?

Abby Corrigan: This song is probably the easiest and the hardest song I've ever had to sing. I believe I am just starting to understand truly how to translate it now, and I'm sure that will change as I discover new things doing the show again and again. But, of course, I cannot give all the credit to myself. The production team and I have worked tirelessly to get to the core of "Changing My Major". At the beginning, I was always so worried I wasn't giving enough of my energy to that portion of the show. Portia [Krieger], our assistant director, told me: "Trust yourself and sing the song. Stop working so hard." I've had to learn how to trust myself onstage and know that I've done my work on Alison. There are some nights when trusting it is harder to do than other nights, and I'm sure there will always be nights like that. When you let go of yourself onstage and listen intently with curiosity you are forcing yourself to be honest and that is what I strive to do each night and that's probably why it reads well. This cast is always working towards honesty and making sure the text stays fresh, which is why we succeed as a whole. If we aren't listening, the audience won't either.

I believe you'll be touring with FUN HOME until November. Is the life of a traveling actor as exciting as it seems?

Abby Corrigan: It can be! I had to get used to being alone and that was hard, but now I love it. I've learned more about myself on tour than anywhere else in the world. Traveling opens you up to change, and that was hard for me before now. And constantly seeing new things keeps your mind fresh and curious.

And finally, what is the best advice anyone has ever given you?

Abby Corrigan: My father always told me as a child when I would sing out the backseat window, or even before a show, to "let it fly!" And those three words together are really what it's all about.

FUN HOME opens May 16 and runs through May 28 at The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby. For more information, call 713-315-2525 or visit $38.50 to $116.

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