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BWW Blog: Clarissa Moon - Talking with Whitney Morse from THE LAST 5 YEARS at The Studio Theatre 

BWW Blog: Clarissa Moon - Talking with Whitney Morse from THE LAST 5 YEARS at The Studio Theatre 

The Studio Theatre continues its inaugural season with Jason Robert Brown's THE LAST 5 YEARS. The musical follows the five-year relationship between Cathy and Jamie, from their first date to their divorce. I talked with Whitney Morse (Cathy) about the rehearsal process, her inspiration, and the challenges of telling a story backwards.

BWW: What was your rehearsal process like, since you and Brian Zealand (Jamie) only have one number together?

Whitney: Well, at first we didn't rehearse together much as we were learning the music. Since Brian was still performing in Private Lives, he would usually be called first then we would overlap for an hour or so to work on the sections we sing together, like "The Next Ten Minutes" and "Goodbye Until Tomorrow/I Could Never Rescue You." Then, as we moved into blocking and more staging, we were both called all the time. Our director Trevin Cooper had a vision of us never leaving the stage, so we were both actually in all the numbers. We perform it in an ally configuration, so we each inhabit one end of the playing space, so while one of us is singing, the other is hanging out in their own space on their side of the set. It's a pretty cool concept, I think.

BWW: Did you draw inspiration from any past relationships?

W: In a way, yes. I am married, but I have never been divorced, so I had to do some imagination work there. I have, of course, experienced break ups in my life and could definitely draw from them, but since I have been with my husband for 10 years, they all seemed a bit too distant to be helpful. So, to make that first song ("Still Hurting") more immediate for myself, I use a more "what if" approach. I make it about me right now. I tell myself, my husband has just packed up all of his things and left his wedding ring on the table. If I imagine it to be right now it helps me drop into the reality and the immense hurt of that first moment. As my story continues forward, or in actuality, backwards, I continue to do similar work. It just has different given circumstances for each song. What is nice about the structure of the show is after each song I have a few minutes to reset, and remind myself of what is happening and what I want going into the next scene. And because my story moves backwards chronologically, I find that to be very helpful since I don't get to rely on the arc of the show to propel me through the story. I have to really flex my imagination muscles to remind myself of where I am at the top of each song.

BWW: Have you found any similarities between yourself and your character?

W: Oh my goodness yes. Cathy and I have many things in common. We are both actors of course, and we are both fiercely loyal and a bit wacky.

BWW: What are the challenges of having to tell the story backwards? Did you at any point do your songs in chronological order?

W: Doing a show backwards is something with which I had zero experience. When I first began working on the piece, that was my first hurdle: unpacking the timeline. While we didn't ever do the show chronologically in rehearsal, I did spend a large portion of my preparation time laying out how the songs fit together in time and what happened in what order. I did spend a lot of time with a playlist I made of the original cast recording that I had reorganized in chronological order.

BWW: What message do you hope the audience takes away from this show?

W: I hope that it helps people examine how they relate to each other romantically. The show is ultimately about the romantic missed connection, the things you didn't handle well that caused the two parties to just totally miss each other. It is even in the staging and structure of the piece--we are both always there in each other's space but we are never actually talking to each other. And even when we are, it is only for a passing moment in the aptly named "The Next Ten Minutes." That is about as long as the two parties actually communicate. Working on it has taught me how to truly listen to my partner, and what not to do. I hope other people find something similar in it.

THE LAST 5 YEARS at the Studio Theatre is already sold out! The production closes March 19. The theater's next production, PROOF, begins previews April 3. For more information, visit thesharonstudio.com.

Photo courtesy of The Studio Theatre

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Clarissa Moon Clarissa Moon is currently a dual enrollment student at West Orange High School and Valencia College. She has performed professionally in Central Florida at theaters (read more...)

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