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BWW Interviews: BIRDS OF PARADISE to Premiere at Being Revived

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Birds of Paradise, a rarely performed musical featuring actors portraying community theater actors, will premiere this weekend as one of the 2015 productions in the Being Revived theatrical season at the Performing Arts Factory.

Directed by David Norman and musically directed by Jonas Dawson, Birds of Paradise is a musical about a group of community theater actors whose lives are changed when an out-of-work professional actor decides to direct and star in their musical version of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull. Throughout rehearsals, the actors' egos and choices begin to imitate the characters they play. As a little-known musical, Birds of Paradise is a natural production choice for Being Revived, a theater company which focuses on performing rarely-produced, unknown or "flop" musicals.

"Being Revived brings to life the shows you might have missed. We dust off scripts that few people have heard of, and offer a wide variety of new experiences for both audiences and actors alike" said Annelyse Santos, who plays Hope. "Performing in a Being Revived show is having the opportunity to work with new material that didn't see the light of day when initially opened. You get to bring a unique perspective to a show that likely does not have a standard or uniform performance style. There is no creative ceiling or restraint being placed on how far we can explore the show artistically " said Steve Custer, who portrays Homer.

"The show itself is obviously the biggest unique factor, since it's one with which most people will not be familiar, but the philosophy of the company makes it a unique experience as well. You really get to focus on bringing a show to life and working with material that might have flaws but is worth doing anyway. No show is perfect and acknowledging that out of the gate and working with it rather than against it is one of the things that makes Being Revived a different experience" said Will Heyser, who plays Dave.

The cast enjoyed the challenge of working on new show with no previous performance traditions.

"People have no expectations as they might if they had seen the show before, so you can really make the show your own without worrying about whether you're being either too derivative or too divergent from the norm. The challenge is that audiences aren't familiar with the show, so we have to work extra hard to make sure that they're getting the plot, the lyrics, the lines, and so forth, because, unlike well-known shows, there's no general knowledge of the basic plot and character structure" said Heyser

"The best part of working on a show that is unfamiliar is the freedom to create a character that is uniquely my own. The audience doesn't walk in expecting to see the same production they've seen a million times, and I don't have those preconceived notions clouding my own character development either" said Santos.

As a show which focuses on life imitating art, character development for the local actors actually portraying actors was extremely important.

"My favorite part of playing this character, Homer, is that I get to channel some of my own approaches to acting in the rehearsal process. At the same time, there is a distinct pleasure in watching a collaboration of artists who are playing actors within a show; these characters are struggling to find their identity in the human puzzle, so we get a really raw feeling watching these individuals bare themselves for theatre" said Custer

"My character, Hope, is a woman who is pretty rough around the edges. I am having a great time exploring how to play all of that grit while helping her to develop a real softness as the play goes on" said Santos

"You can really make a role your own. You have no frame of reference. Is this the way the character was meant to be played? Am I off the mark? Would the originator of the role come in and wonder what I'm doing? You have to kind of embrace the unknown. Stella is an enigma. It was frustrating at first, but I think I've finally got a handle on her. Playing a community theatre actor, you have to wonder how good or bad she might be. I hate to underestimate her talent, but I don't think she's all that great onstage. She does this for fun, she has no ambitions of anything more. It's her outlet. That said, playing someone who isn't all that great onstage is very freeing and very fun" said Karen Paone on playing Stella.

"I play a character who provides a certain amount of the comic relief, so that's always fun, but I also get to be a character and not just a clown. My character, Dave, is easy to identify with: he's constantly frustrated but keeps trying. Being an actor playing an actor is an exercise in different layers" said Heyser

Like in any theatrical production, the cast is eager to add the all important final element: the audience

"We live in a world where community is constantly blossoming and fading, it's scary and it's exciting, and we are all trying to find our place in it. This performance about a community theatre production of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull will be one for an audience to contemplate their respective place in their proverbial community theatre" said Custer

"It is rewarding to work on these shows because it gives me a better appreciation for musicals I have never heard of. It is sometime challenging because if people have not heard of a show, it is harder to get them interested. There are so many wonderful shows out there, and we want to make everyone more aware while entertaining them" said Jeanine Collins-Evans, who plays Marjorie.

"Anyone with an appreciation of theatre should see this show. In the most heartfelt way, it gives great insight into all of the passion and work that helps to bring a show to life. If you have never been on stage, you may find a new appreciation for the heart and dedication of community theatre. If you are a seasoned theatre vet, this show is like the best inside joke ever!" said Santos. "This show really has some beautiful moments and some fabulous music. It's a true ensemble piece. Theatre people, especially, will really connect to it. The cast is amazing and David Norman's direction is heartfelt and impeccable" added Paone

"I think the show will really speak to audiences, particularly in this area, who have experiences with all sorts of different levels of theater and 'art'. The characters are people you've probably met before and their struggles and triumphs are ones you may have experienced in your own life. Plus, the music is beautiful, the jokes are funny, and there are singing penguins!" added Heyser

Birds of Paradise also features Steve Barney as Andy, Andrew Baughman as Lawrence Wood and Samantha Eyler as Julia. Birds of Paradise runs April 10, 11, 17 and 18 at 8:00 PM. Performances are located at the Performing Arts Factory, 244 South Jefferson St. in Frederick, Maryland. Tickets are $15 for all performances. For more information, please visit http://www.beingrevived.com

Photo Credit: Being Revived Theater Company


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