BWW Interview: Seven Questions with Dawn Thomas Reidy of THE FEW
Reidy -- whose whose credits include Taffety Punk, Forum Theatre, Washington Stage Guild, Unexpected Stage Company, Brown County Playhouse and more -- plays QZ, a vulnerable force to be reckoned with left to hold down the fort at a newspaper for truckers ever since her partner Bryan left town four years ago without a word. Now he's back, and QZ struggles with how to reconnect with someone who's abandoned her and their paper.
Reidy took a moment between rehearsals to tell Broadway World how she's managing motherhood with the stage, and why QZ is one of her greatest acting challenges yet.
Let's talk about your experience in the Washington D.C. theatre scene and with Unexpected Stage Company. What keeps you working in this environment?
I'm originally from Fort Washington, Maryland and D.C was always home to me. It's ripe with theatre! There's so much work here! But after I had my son, I took a bit of a break from it all. Trying to balance childcare with an artist's schedule can be very hard. My son also has special needs, and though he's high functioning, I needed time to get to know him.
But I've been with Unexpected Stage since the very beginning. It's easier to count shows I've not been in with them, than the ones I have! I'm even on the board here, and it's because Chris [Goodrich] creates a warm and collaborative environment and has for the past 10 years. So, after [my son was born], coming back to Unexpected Stage just felt like a good return.
What drew you to QZ? How is this character complex?
In life, you get to a certain age and you've been in relationships and you know what a certain hurt feels like. QZ is a challenge because that history with love and loneliness can come off scream-y and bitchy. But I've really tried to live through her from the heart. I know she loves Bryan -- the man who left her -- but that what she needs is to find a sense of peace without him giving her anything. That's been a challenge in the arc: Where does that decision come from? What leads her to that moment?
Ultimately, I think the audience may be on my side when they hear Bryan and QZ's love story, but there's only so much that can carry the play when I'm just yelling at Bryan for leaving QZ. That's my actor challenge, to dig into that hurt and find that vulnerability and not this volatile, angry hurt.
This work is partly a meditation on loneliness and our desire to connect and reconnect. How are those themes resonate today?
This play examines loneliness and that disconnection as something we can't name until it becomes way too late. That can really affect what you do to yourself and what you do to other people. We're all hoping for connection, that's part of why we have social media, we're looking for a way into other's lives and way to let others in our lives. Yet I find it funny, and it may be cliche, but through social media and our desire to connect is a real loneliness. [Social media] is not the same as sitting with a person and talking to them and telling them what's in your heart.
What's interesting for QZ and Bryan is that they recognize that. They recognize the need for a real social anchor. That's what made them feel human. That's still very resonate. So many people feel so very alone. People seem okay, but have we reached out to them in a meaningful way? How guilty can you feel for other people's loneliness?
What has been your biggest challenge bringing QZ to life?
My biggest challenge with QZ is whether I feel grounded enough to play her. Do I feel like I fit her? I play this mind game with every show I do about whether the audience will accept me as this character. It's this case of imposter syndrome. I keep going to my actor journals to allow myself to figure QZ out the only way Dawn can do it like -- to make her make sense to me fire..
Also with QZ, I've been asking the question: How guilty does she feel losing a friend? Has she given up? How does she not live in anger? There's just so many philosophical questions with QZ.
How has Director and Unexpected Stage Company Co-founder Chris Goodrich influenced your performance?
Chris and I have worked together for so long, and we're friends outside the rehearsal room. Because we're close we're not worried about hurt feelings, we can try things. Chris is the type of director who will use bits of improv in the rehearsal process. He encourages us to remember our muscle memory when something feels right to help us get more of the story. He's flexible and playful like that. He is game for pretty much anything and I really appreciate that about him.
What do you most want audiences to remember from The Few?
Love. Someone you've been thinking about, do more than just think about. Reach out. Ask the hard questions when you're sad, because they may need someone to ask those questions for them -- to name it and speak into consciousness.
What advice do you have for any actor in any stage of their career?
Audition like crazy. I hate the audition process, it's scary, but I think embracing that scary feeling and bringing your best self to it is key. If you're not working, try taking a class if you can. Acting muscles can atrophy if not used.
Also, when you're working, some people are introverted, but still try to make connections. I can't tell you how often I've been called into something because my name came up in casual conversation. Doesn't matter where you are. It's a small world.
"The Few" is written and produced by MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant recipient Samuel D. Hunter (A Bright New Boise). The production will run July 11 to August 4 in the Fireside Room, an intimate 38-seat venue at the River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation Building, located at 6301 River Road in Bethesda.