Artwork: Courtesy of Keegan Theatre
Artwork: Courtesy of Keegan Theatre

Big Fish: A New Broadway Musical

Have you ever been told a tall tale that had you questioning the sanity of the relative who was telling the story? Perhaps the main character in the story was a giant stomping about or a witch cackling in the forest…or, funnily enough, your dad?

For those who visit home during the holidays, we get a taste of this annually. For Will Bloom, his eccentric and extroverted father Edward’s tall tales were all he knew, and thanks to Keegan Theatre, his larger-than-life stories of magic are coming to the District on August 5.

Big Fish tells the story of Edward, a traveling salesman, who lives life by way of his imagination. His son Will is determined to find the truth behind his father’s tales, and as we watch him grow into a man of his own with a child on the way, he discovers that the extraordinary stories he once dismissed might contain the truth of their relationship – and a secret that Edward never shared.

“It’s a father and son fantasy,” explains Dan Van Why, who plays Edward. “Will wished he had more of a connection with his father, aside from just the tales he told.”

In the midst of growing older (fatherhood, family struggles and other pivotal milestones), Will finally came to understand his father in a way he never knew as a child – that he lives by his imagination and only wants the same for his son.

“His father just wanted [Will] to have a big life,”  Van Why says.

Edward takes his family on grand adventures, with the moral of the stories always coming back to not being afraid to explore your mind.

Codirector and Helen Hayes Award winner Colin Smith adds that the musical is “heartwarming, fun, energetic and a beautiful show surrounded by magic.”

“I love the heart of it,” Smith says.

If the budding relationship of father and son isn’t enough to grab you, maybe the score will. With the opening number “Be the Hero,” and pieces that will tug on your heartstrings like “Stranger,” Big Fish delivers in the musical department, which proved to be the attraction to the show for Van Why. He says the score drew him to the production, as did “working with a terrific company comprised of amazing, hardworking and nurturing people.”

The actor also mentions his connection to his character, saying that he sees himself in Edward when it comes to life throwing things your way and just having to deal – not necessarily seeking adventure, but being sought out by adventure itself. Smith also feels a connection to one of the characters – Will.

“My father passed away when I was in my early 20s, so the idea of a son coming to grips with his father who’s dying is something that’s very personal to me,” he says. I’m from the South, so I feel like I know the [characters] in the show – people who are big, but not cocky. And growing up in a generation without TV and Internet, we used our imaginations. We [still] try to keep what Edward has – imaginative storytelling. It’s a beautiful part of human nature.”

Previous productions of Big Fish have been staged with grand set pieces, elaborate costumes and explosive lighting design, but Keegan Theatre is staying true to the script and keeping the set minimal.

“The set is pretty adaptable – a blank space or abstract if we need it,” Smith says. “We want the audience to come in with a sense of wonder that I think we can often lose [as we age]. We see Edward have it and Will regain it, so we want the atmosphere to have a sense of wonder.”

Van Why encourages local theatergoers to see the play because “we live in a world that’s getting smaller and smaller by the minute, and any opportunity we can take to dream big and look outward, we need.”

Keegan Theatre’s production of Big Fish is sure to reel you in from the opening sequence. With tales of wonder, magic and genuine human connection running rampant throughout the musical, your emotions – and your imagination – will be ignited.

Big Fish runs from August 5 to September 2 at Keegan Theatre. Tickets start at $45. Go to www.keegantheatre.com for more information.

Keegan Theatre: 1742 Church St. NW, DC; 202-265-3767; www.keegantheatre.com

Photo: Courtesy of The Little Theatre of Alexandria
Photo: Courtesy of The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Legally Blonde Comes to The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Are you planning your next date night, girls’ night out, a night out with the family or a special treat for yourself? Look no further because the Little Theatre of Alexandria’s (“LTA”) production of Legally Blonde the Musical is the show you won’t want to miss. Hearts will be warmed on August 1 at 8 p.m. as Morgan Arriviaga takes the stage as Elle Woods, “a fun, fabulous, fashionista who has it all – that is until her boyfriend dumps her to attend Harvard Law School.”

The musical originally opened on Broadway in 2007, and is based on the 2001 book by Amanda Brown and the movie of the same name. Ten years after its Broadway debut, the show has wowed audiences around the world – performing two U.S. tours, and a year in both London and Australia. Legally Blonde has earned seven Tony Award nominations and won many domestic and international honors.

To be honest, this show is one for the women. Female empowerment can be found in every aspect of this production. In fact, the female synergy is even behind the scenes. With Mary Beth Smith Toomey at the helm as co-producer, patrons are in the most qualified hands. Toomey has produced 56 musicals with the Little Theatre of Alexandria. She loves working with the theater, and attributes its success to high-quality professional performers and a supportive environment.

According to their website, “LTA is the oldest award-winning theater in the Washington metro area and one of the few community theaters in the country with its own building and an ambitious seven-show season.” Proud of its rich heritage, LTA is excited about its future and their production of Legally Blonde.

“This musical is so much fun!” says Arriviaga, as she sits in the elegant Green Room at 600 Wolfe St. She explains that while this show is fun and full of laughs, it “may not be what you expect it to be…this show has an [essential] message.”

While preparing for rehearsal, Arriviaga recalls the lessons learned from playing Elle as they relate to the everyday experiences lived by most women. The inappropriate and unwarranted sexual advances and the assumptions of career advancements deriving from “consensual” sex are fundamental themes in Legally Blonde. One may think this could put a damper on the fun, but the fine attention to social issues in the inspiring, cheerful and comical musical selections makes this show one worth seeing.

Tuesday, August 1 at 8 p.m. is a special performance night, where all proceeds will go to nonprofit organization LANCAR Ink and its 2017 journalism interns. The play runs through August 12.

The Little Theatre of Alexandria: 600 Wolfe St. Alexandria, VA; 703-683-5778; www.thelittletheatre.com

Photo: Ryan Hill
Photo: Ryan Hill

Christopher Nolan Returns with Historically Significant Dunkirk

The National Air and Space Museum hosted a special screening of Dunkirk on Wednesday with director Christopher Nolan in attendance.

“It took me a long time to be ready to make this film as a craftsman; I didn’t want to take it on until I had a lot of experience,” Nolan said, answering a question from moderator Jake Tapper, a CNN correspondent.

Nolan’s harrowing retelling of the Battle of Dunkirk is his most mature film. The normal dramatic, emotional overtones and unbridled patriotism that go hand in hand in other war films are stripped away.

Dunkirk doesn’t noticeably attempt to sway your feelings in one direction about the transpiring events; it’s far from heavy handed. And though Hans Zimmer’s score occasionally rings a triumphant tone during high points, it’s best use is to punctuate visceral action scenes on ground, at sea and in air.

In Nolan’s traditional nonlinear style, we get a story from each of these perspectives during the film. All take place during a different time span on the battlefield: one week, one day and one hour, respectively.

When climactic moments from each vignette come to a crescendo, they’re edited closely together to reiterate that the miraculous evacuation at Dunkirk was not the doing of one person, one unit or even one moment, but a culmination of smaller efforts by people working together in the face of insurmountable odds. Although the characters in the film are entirely fictitious, they are based on firsthand accounts of survivors – real experiences from the battle.

Another impressive element of the film was how little CGI was used – something modern audiences aren’t used to seeing.

“There’s almost nothing in the film that’s completely CGI,” Nolan stated. “In fact, there’s nothing in the film that’s completely CGI.”

Even though they used thousands of extras, there’s still a sense of scale conveyed; and instead of CGI, matte painting backdrops were used. This, and elongated sequences with little to no dialogue, reinforce a “silent era” feel. As a result, Dunkirk is more experience and story-driven than character-driven.

An unsurprising standout is Nolan regular Tom Hardy, who delivers an almost entirely mute performance as a spitfire pilot. The spectacular air battle sequences are woven throughout, and may be some of the most incredible in cinema to date.

These particular moments are where the 70mm IMAX format clearly shines. Close up shots from the side of the wing, Hardy’s face, the controls and distant shots of Nazi fighter silhouettes give audiences a sense of claustrophobia and dread.

Nolan made a distinctive choice, which he reiterated in the Q&A after the showing, to not show Nazis; the film hardly even refers to them in passing. As a result, it becomes more about instinct and survival, and the Axis Powers are the subtle looming threat or force of nature, rather than sneering villains.

Historically, these troops did not encounter them face-to-face during this battle, so the point of view is accurate. The story of Dunkirk is something many Americans are unfamiliar with, and bringing this story to life for modern audiences was a goal of Nolan’s.

“It’s really about what we refer to as the Dunkirk spirit,” Nolan said. “It’s about community. We live in a time right now that perhaps prizes individuality at the expense of what we can achieve together.”

Dunkirk opens today.

Photo: Addie Juell
Photo: Addie Juell

Andrew Bird Set to Perform at Merriweather

Andrew Bird is coming to Merriweather Post Pavilion at the end of the month. You haven’t bought tickets yet? Then you’re wasting precious time, my friends.

Bird’s performing with not one, but two, critically acclaimed bands – Belle and Sebastian and Spoon – as well as DC natives Ex Hex, on Sunday, July 30. Each band has a stellar musical lineup planned, featuring songs from new albums and old-school classics.

“I’m pretty psyched to be playing with them,” Bird says.

He’s set to play tunes from Are You Serious, his newest album and twelfth full-length LP. The record is ambitious, featuring emotionally complex and hauntingly intimate subject matter. For instance, the song “Valley of the Young” encapsulates the record’s tone, as Bird explores the divide between youth and maturity, comparing young, single people’s lives to those who are raising families.

“It’s difficult to write songs like these – ones that are lyrical and poetic, but also universal,” he says.

“Valley of the Young” also reflects his mission as an artist; Bird strives to create layered, nuanced music that listeners can contemplate.

“I try to make records people can chew on for a long time.”

His Merriweather show promises the same depth of experience. Bird describes his set as “varied and dynamic”– an engaging performance meant to inspire and excite. His passion for music is evident, as he’s deeply committed to the processes of performing and creating music.

“I really enjoy grabbing ideas out of the ether and putting them into song form. I’m in the midst of writing now, and never get tired of it.”

His melodies generally begin as sensory experiences, like a smell conjuring childhood nostalgia or the screeching sounds of a garbage truck breaking, he says. If the tune sticks with him long enough, he’ll put words to it and eventually add additional instrumentation. For Bird, this cycle is both creative and exhilarating – an outward expression of his inner world.

Merriweather’s show will give attendees a sample of his artistry. It’s an event you won’t want to skip out on – especially if you’re a fan of the other famed groups sharing the stage.

Andrew Bird will be at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Sunday, July 30. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. and the show starts at 6 p.m. Tickets are $45-$55. Learn more here.

Merriweather Post Pavilion: 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia, MD; 410-715-5550; www.merriweathermusic.com

Manna Nichols and Kavin Panmeechao / Photo: Matthew Murphy
Manna Nichols and Kavin Panmeechao / Photo: Matthew Murphy

Getting to Know The King and I’s Tuptim

It was 66 years ago that Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I first graced the Broadway stage, and the classic musical has been beloved by theatergoers ever since. Lincoln Center Theater’s 2015 production won four Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical, and the acclaimed production, directed by Tony winner Bartlett Sher, is now touring nationally.

The tour recently set up shop at the Kennedy Center Opera House, and opens to DC audiences tonight. We caught up with actress Manna Nichols, who plays Tuptim, the King of Siam’s reluctant junior wife, to talk about the show’s legacy and why she feels this is an important musical for women.

On Tap: Tuptim is a role you’ve played twice before (at Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia and North Shore Music Theatre in Boston). What is it about the character that keeps you returning to the role?
Manna Nichols: I love that she is a strong female character. I love that she is an ingénue and she’s doing all these love ballads and is a love interest in the story, but I also love that she is a very three-dimensional, realistic human being. She’s very brave and forward-thinking, and I think she’s very relatable to where we are in history. She’s exciting for me to play.

OT: The King and I is one of those classic musicals that anyone who is interested in theatre probably learned about very young. Do you remember your earliest association with the show?
MN: I didn’t see a lot of live theatre when I was growing up, but I used to watch the movie all the time when I was little with my cousins and siblings at my grandparents’ house. We would sing all the songs and act at the movie and dance around. As a kid, I loved watching the “March of the Royal Children” with my brothers, because these kids looked like us. I remember asking my mom to skip to the part with the girl who looks like me; I wanted to see Tuptim, and I could identify with her. It was cool to see a role model who looked like me doing what I wanted to do.

OT: What do you enjoy most about being in the show?
MN: I really love the music; I love the entire score, especially all the songs that my character gets to sing. I also really love the Act II ballet. Tuptim is inspired by the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and writes this artistic ballet, narrates it, and it’s basically her being inspired by what happens to Eliza in the story.

OT: This is a musical that attracts a lot of young audience members. Do you get to meet them after the show and talk to them about the performance?
MN: Some of my favorite people I meet at the stage door are the students who tell me they want to do this for a living, and I tell them they absolutely can. That was me, and I remember being on the other side of that door. I was so shy and I wouldn’t talk to any of them or ask for their autograph or take a picture. I just wanted to see what they looked like. It’s fun to flip the mirror and talk with them all.

OT: What set you on your road to a career in theatre?
MN: I was initially accepted into school as a biology major, premed, and I just did theatre for fun. It wasn’t really a practical career choice for my family. At the last minute, I changed my mind and realized I didn’t want it to be just a hobby; I wanted to find a way to make music my full-time job. I switched my major to musical education and eventually musical theatre. I wanted to do what made me happy.

OT: Since this is your third time in the role, how does the show stay fresh for you?
MN: This production is different. Bart won the Tony Award, and the amount of detail and attention that he put into our table work is unlike anything I had ever done before. That was so beneficial because when we started blocking, we didn’t have a million questions, and that informed the way we [thought] and acted.

OT: What do you hope people talk about as they leave the Kennedy Center?
MN: One of the strong messages that people can walk away with from this production is the idea that modernization while still giving honor to your own culture and traditions is possible. People call our king in the show a barbarian, but when you get to know your neighbors or know other people that you’ve been afraid of that you’ve previously judged, you find out you’re a lot more similar than different. The show also brings out the idea of strong women and education. You watch the three lead women in our show stand up for what they believe in in very different ways. There’s a woman who fights the system, a woman who works within the system and a women who completely rebels. Then there are women who accept where they are. Watching the different kinds of strength these women show really speaks incredibly well to our political situation today.

The King and I runs at the Kennedy Center Opera House through August 20. Tickets start at $49. Visit www.kennedy-center.org to learn more.

The Kennedy Center: 2700 F St. NW, DC; 202-467-4600; www.kennedy-center.org

Photo: Courtesy of Clicquot on the Creek
Photo: Courtesy of Clicquot on the Creek

Enjoy All Things Champagne at Clicquot on the Creek

The historic Charles Carroll House and Garden lawn will play host to a spectacular summer fête on Saturday, July 29. Take a day trip to Annapolis and spend the afternoon with friends, picnicking and sipping the delicious champagnes of Veuve Clicquot while enjoying music, lawn games and other surprise entertainment.

This inaugural event on the banks of Spa Creek will benefit two local charities: Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and Annapolis Green. VIP and general admission tickets, champagne bottles and picnic packages are available online, and tickets and refreshments will not be sold at the door.

VIP ($75 per person)

  • Access to seating, lawn games and entertainment
  • Complimentary nibbles
  • Raffle ticket for Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2006
  • Three tickets for three tastings of Veuve Clicquot Brut Rosé and Veuve Clicquot Demi-Sec in the Veuve Clicquot Tasting Tent

General admission ($40 per person)

  • First-come, first-served open lawn seating
  • Bring your picnic blanket
  • Three tickets for three tastings of Veuve Clicquot Brut Rosé and Veuve Clicquot Demi-Sec in the Veuve Clicquot Tasting Tent
  • Access to lawn games and entertainment

Tickets to Clicquot on the Creek are available here.

Charles Carroll House and Garden: 107 Duke of Gloucester St. Annapolis, MD; 410-269-1737; www.clicquotonthecreek.com

Photo: Kayla Marsh
Photo: Kayla Marsh

Roti Modern Mediterranean Brings Healthy Eats to Capitol Riverfront

Roti Modern Mediterranean just opened a location in Ballpark Square at the end of June, and we didn’t hesitate to check it out right away. The new Capitol Riverfront spot near Nationals Park features a modern exterior, complementing the casual yet sophisticated décor found inside. In addition to the simple, trendy color scheme of the space, the rustic-chic wall signage reads, “Food that loves you back.”

Roti’s menu, and order method, resembles Chipotle and Cava, where you pick the base (laffa wrap, pita sandwich or salad), protein (chicken, steak, chicken kabob, falafel or salmon), and pile on wholesome vegetables, sauces and toppings.

We went with the rice plate, featuring a non-GMO basmati and wild rice blend, and piled it high with salmon kabob, hummus, tomato and cucumber – all that, plus additional couscous, red cabbage, romaine lettuce, dill, yogurt and cucumber sauce (Roti’s take on tzatziki). I never miss out on bread, so I fully accepted the offer of warm pita.

Not only was this a generous portion of healthy food, the Mediterranean flavors were explosive from the first to last bite, with the organic hummus standing out in the best way. Roti incorporates a tremendous balance of garlic and lemon juice in most of its add-ons, which allows for a consistently fresh taste.

This fast-casual restaurant is one of the few places in DC where you can grab a low-calorie, high-quality meal that leaves you feeling satisfied and refueled. Anyone who stops in, whether it’s after work, during a lunch break or before a ball game, can agree that Roti creates an enjoyable, healthy way of eating for city folks always on the go.

Roti Modern Mediterranean: 1251 First St. SE, DC; 202-747-2636; www.roti.com

Photo: Rachel Ellis
Photo: Rachel Ellis

Unexpected Stage Company’s Oblivion Tackles the Nature of Belief

What happens when you take a laid-back approach to parenting and, out of the blue, your child decides to become a Christian? What do you do? What do you say? These questions and more are investigated in Unexpected Stage Company’s rendition of Oblivion (from writer Carly Mensch of Orange is the New Black, GLOW and Weeds fame), coming to Bethesda this Thursday.

The story follows Pam and Dixon, a couple whose 16-year-old daughter Julie decides to become a Christian, causing some discomfort in their “secular, philosophical approach to parenting.” On Tap had the chance to speak with Chris Goodrich and Rachel Stroud-Goodrich, the married duo behind the company, and Mindy Shaw, who plays Pam, about the upcoming production.

On Tap: What drew you and Chris to Oblivion?
Rachel Stroud-Goodrich: Part of our mission is to represent underrepresented voices in theater. Participating in the 2015 Women’s Voices Theater Festival served to heighten this awareness, and it is something we kept in mind as we were planning for this summer’s show. But ultimately, you must fall in love with a script. After reading script after script, and still not having a play to announce, we read Carly Mensch’s piece and fell for it within the first scene.

OT: How do you divide responsibilities between the two of you?
Chris Goodrich: Rachel and I have divided responsibilities, but we are both artistic directors. And as such, [we] both have input on the creative choices of a production or season. I tend to direct the shows and Rachel, to her vast credit, tends to manage the company. She is so good at it!

OT: Have you experienced any challenges in bringing this script to life?
CG: Bringing this script to life has been a delight and a joy. We want to make sure that we are getting it right, that we are serving the play. So it can be challenging to figure out what the playwright’s intentions are at times. But these actors and designers are so creative and so professional, it has been a joy to watch their creative spirits unfold.

OT: What’s it like working with Unexpected Stage Company’s husband-wife team?
Mindy Shaw: I’ve never worked with a company that’s had that exact dynamic, and it is phenomenal. They are conscientious and patient, and just lovely human beings who are wonderfully professional at the same time, which is a rare mix.

OT: What can audiences expect from Oblivion?
MS: It will leave you thinking about marital relationships, parent-child relationships, teenage growing pains and certainly religion.

OT: What do you think will surprise people?
CG: An exposed family being tender with each other, attempting to learn [about] each other, [and] attempting to value who they are and what they discover about the other. Hopefully, this is reflection of us.
RSG: The show is very honest. No one is supposed to be a role model. They are flawed but lovable, relatable human characters. No one is completely right or wrong. I think this is something we are used to in theater, but it doesn’t often extend to honest talks about religion and atheism.

Oblivion runs from July 13 to August 6 at the River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation Building. General admission tickets start at $18.

River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation Building – Fireside Room: 6301 River Rd. Bethesda, MD; 301-337-8290; www.unexpectedstage.org

Photo: Joan Marcus
Photo: Joan Marcus

Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome: Cabaret Comes to Kennedy Center

It’s time to pull out your favorite vampy lipsticks and thigh-highs. This summer, Roundabout Theatre Company transforms the Kennedy Center into the Kit Kat Klub with performances of Cabaret beginning tomorrow.

The beloved musical takes place in a pre-World War II Berlin, at a nightclub filled with performers as sexually fluid as they are glamorous. The glitz and glitter of the Kit Kat Klub is surrounded by a growing Nazi presence, becoming a haven in an increasingly frightening country.

Although the beloved musical has been immortalized through many legendary performances, including a film starring Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles, modern DC audiences will find it more than just fun – they’ll find it relatable. Leigh Anne Larkin, who plays the starring role in the upcoming performance, says there’s never been a time when Cabaret wasn’t relevant.

“I think that the role of theatre [in politics] is showing a reality based in truth, but doing it in a way that is entertaining,” Larkin says. “So not being super over-the-top about it, but holding a mirror up to audience members without, sometimes, them even knowing,”

So it turns out that your Saturday night spot to hit the dance floor and down a drink (or four) has a lot in common with the Kit Kat Club. Relevant as it may be to audiences in the nation’s capital, Cabaret is far from a political diatribe. The show reached its iconic status not through a sermon, but through a delicate balance. Filled with bouncy numbers like “Wilkommen” and “Don’t Tell Mama,” it’s easy to get wrapped up in the intimate nightclub atmosphere and miss the messiness happening right outside the theater doors.

“Without giving away too much, that’s what makes the show so fascinating and compelling to come and watch,” Larkin continues. “How does the theme of the show fit in so seamlessly with the upbeat numbers and the underlying darkness? That’s the magic of Cabaret, really; that’s what is so genius about the script and score.”

In addition to blurring the lines between political commentary and risque musical, Cabaret is also iconic for pushing barriers of sexuality and gender – and going where a lot of mainstream theatre will not. And since it’s frequently touted as one of the sexiest musicals around, the payoff is huge.

“There’s a lot of underlying bisexual, homosexual [and] straight relationships, and they kind of intertwine with each other,” Larkin says. “It’s a very exciting, sexually forward piece.”

The actress brings a spark that’s uniquely hers to the character of Sally. She hasn’t even seen the movie starring Minnelli, which helps her avoid mimicking another actor’s interpretation.

“I think that my Sally is really fun, very vulnerable, heartbreaking, troubled and sassy. She’s a lot of things rolled into one.”

Cabaret runs at the Kennedy Center from July 11 to August 6. Tickets start at $59. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Kennedy Center’s website.

Kennedy Center: 2700 F St. NW, DC; 202-467-4600; www.kennedy-center.org

Photo: Gary W. Sweetman
Photo: Gary W. Sweetman

Talking Controversy with The Originalist’s Jade Wheeler

Enemies of division, rejoice. Award-winning political drama The Originalist is returning to Arena Stage tonight. The provocative play tells the story of a liberal law clerk, Cat (Jade Wheeler), who is hired by the late Justice Antonin Scalia (Edward Gero.) At a time of little political middle ground, their relationship turns into one of fierce political sparring and admiration.

Wheeler, lead actress and former DC local, told us her thoughts on today’s political division, how she prepped for a legalese-heavy, explosive drama and how her own politics affect her role as Cat. Her resume includes local performances in venues like the Kennedy Center, Woolly Mammoth and Shakespeare Theatre Company. And when it came to talking controversy – which the play, like its late subject, embraces – Wheeler didn’t shy away.

On Tap: Antonin Scalia ruffled a lot of feathers, to put it mildly. Why should people come see a play about him? What do we gain from dramatizing the life of such a controversial figure?
Jade Wheeler: There have been many plays written about controversial figures, so I hope the subject won’t deter people. [Playwright] John Strand was aware of the tense sociopolitical climate when he wrote this play. He begs the question, “How can we listen to, and not demonize, someone we disagree with?” He added, “There’s a lot of humanity that gets overlooked.”

OT: Why should people on the left come see this? And people on the right?
JW: People should come see this. Period. The divisiveness is poisonous and steering us away from progress. Strand employs the characters Scalia and Cat to broach the wider issue of how we engage in a dialectic – especially with someone who doesn’t share the same point of view.

OT: How do your personal politics come into play as you prepare for the role?
JW: Overall, I try to keep my beliefs out of it. If I have opinions that align with Cat’s and feed the truth of the moment, cool. But if something doesn’t serve her journey, then I leave it at the door.

OT: What do you hope the audience will take from this performance? In a politically fraught time, what should this play do for people?
JW: Nowadays, we are so quick to unfriend, unfollow or block people for thinking differently from us. There’s a hypocrisy that needs to be addressed because, at the end of the day, most of us are seeking truth. Percy Shelley wrote, “I always find the bottom of the well, and they say truth lies there.”

OT: Tell me a little about your creative process. How are you prepping for this role?
JW: My initial prep included a lot of index cards – there was so much to research. Finding Cat’s voice and her physical life was a priority. But the craftwork and relationships get deeper when working with castmates Edward Gero and Brett Mack. This is our third time performing this piece together; I am extremely humbled and honored.

OT: What’s the role of performance art in politics, and vice versa?
JW: The arts and politics have a long and complicated history. My short answer is that performance art is often used to bring awareness to the masses. Politics and economics, however, do have a major role regarding issues such as censorship and funding of the arts.

OT: And finally, slightly unrelated to the play but as a fellow George Mason Patriot alum, I have to ask: where do you stand on the highly-protested renaming of Mason’s law school after Scalia?
JW: I think I’d have to defer to the students and faculty of the law school on this one. I will say that our country has more than a few institutions with names on them that could or should be reconsidered.

Whether you appreciated Scalia’s legal aptitude or loathed his influence, The Originalist tells a humanizing story about breaching political divides with a can’t-miss cast. Catch The Originalist at Arena Stage from July 7 to July 30. Tickets are $40-$90 and can be purchased from www.arenastage.org.

Kreeger Theater at Arena Stage: 1101 6th St. SW, DC; 202-554-9066; www.arenastage.org