By Alistair Sewell (Anthony in I and You)
Centering the play around a school project, an examination of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass provides our two characters with the vehicle for processing emotions, and some of the bigger issues of life.
In preparation for the role, I explored Walt Whitman and Song of Myself. It took me a while to get into as I’m not terribly familiar with poetry, but after living with the piece for a few months, his work grew on me. During my discussions with others about Whitman and reading criticisms on Song of Myself (the work), I noted that a common thread amongst his readers was the timelessness and ghostly nature of his work. What I enjoyed about Whitman was the witnessing of broad experience, particularly in the last scene when a passage is quoted on how one should live.
I feel a kinship with Anthony, unlike former roles which I focused on “inventing” a character, but I have to admit that Anthony’s character is rather aligned with my own (minus the Pop-Tart obsession).
Talking about the play is difficult without giving out spoilers, but I can dance around it.
The rehearsal process so far has challenged me to peel away sentiment while preserving imperfect sentiments* of a teenager. The writing is brilliant and with natural clumsy stops and starts.
Anthony is rooting for Caroline, but their discussions are honest and sometimes delivered in that seventeen year-old, slightly off-handed, but comically abusive way. Caroline is seriously ill, which leads the conversation down paths it might not go otherwise. Her discussion of life and death is filtered through the lens of a teenager who is still dreaming of a future and how to process what lies before her.
Working with a small cast has certainly been a subject of discovery for me and the first two weeks of rehearsals have flown by. It is a privilege to work with Chantae Miller. Her delivery and timing is a joy to work with, and the fresh direction Jen throws at us during rehearsal allows for much discovery.
With the walls of the play put up, as Jen put it, I am eager to dive into the last week of rehearsals and look forward to the run ahead.