A group of journalists were invited to meet director Michael Arden and the cast of The Pride at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. I learned from Artistic Director Paul Crewes that previews begin on June 8 and Opening Night is June 14.
What’s unique about The Pride is that it takes place in both 1958 and 2008, as it examines the changing attitudes of sexuality over a period of 50 years. Sitting on stools, Arden and actors Neil Bledsoe, Augustus Prew, Jessica Collins and Matthew Wilkas shared with us their introduction to The Pride, the casting and rehearsal process. Here’s what I learned:
When Was Your First Encounter With The Play:
Augustus: I saw this play in London and it was a kismet experience for me. I went to a nearby bar about one hour before seeing The Pride. I started talking to someone at the bar who turned out to be playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell. Then I saw the play and it put all of my feelings about being gay into perspective. Nuisances whispered in my ear as a I watched the play unfold. Now I have a new appreciation of the play and want to give those whispers back to others.
Neil: I heard about The Pride while in New York and had friends tell me, “This one thing happens…” yet no one would tell me what it was. I didn’t get to see the beauty and power of the play in New York, yet when I read the script in LA, I said “Wow, I get it.” I really wanted to do this play.
Jessica: It’s wonderful to be the only lady in the play.
What do you hope the audience gets from the play, especially during PRIDE Month:
Jessica: This play offers universal appeal with its writing. It’s so human and moving. I hope it creates more empathy to homosexuals.
Augustus: This play is a coming to terms with oneself. It’s about the restrictions we place on ourselves and the prejudice we feel. I feel its personally enriching and helps one have the courage to stand up and be who you are.
Wilkas: When the play was in New York, critics said, “Beautiful, well written, yet not relevant.” This play is so ahead of its time. It’s poignant, relatable and people will be moved by it.
How is this play different than the London production?
Paul: It’s the second production Michael has directed this season at The Wallis, his first was the successful Merrily We Roll Along. When I programmed this into the Wallis 2017 schedule, I phoned Michael Arden in Soho to direct this piece. I was fascinated with the time lapse of the 50s and what has changed since it debuted in London and what still needs to be changed. A lot has progressed, but some hasn’t yet.
Michael: Prejudice is related to fear and we are living in a fearful time. This play is different because it’s an American cast and done in the round. This is the first time I have done a show in the round. The last few productions I have directed were visually enormous. In the round, the physical elements come from the actors and what they bring to the play. Everything vanishes, except the people. It allows actors to look at each other and gives the cast more freedom. I feel like an actors manager encouraging them in the process.
Augustus: Michael directs this in a synchronistic way. He adds moments that give a unique tone. What you think the play is about isn’t…What it is about, more than any play is the dialogue. My character offers two different worlds. Decoding his thoughts has been amazing, overwhelming and not easy.
Neil: This play was written before the recession. Each character wears a specific mask that challenges the mind and vulnerability. In 2008 the masks are more open than in the 50s.
Jessica: My character has a mouthful of British language that is challenging. She takes sharp turns, morphing, and evolving. A scene is just not 3 notes, but 30. I play different characters in each time period. Each offer hope, empathy and certain qualities in both time periods.
What does The Pride mean?
Michael: The Pride of oneself. The honesty of what The Pride is for you. Each character examines their Pride.
Tickets are available for $40 to $75. Visit The Wallis or call (310)746-4000.
The Wallis is located at 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd. Beverly Hills, CA 90210.