Dancing Lessons, at its core, is about finding courage: to connect, to change, to relate, to explore, to touch, to try—and yes—to dance.
What role do you play, and how do they fit into the story?
I play Ever Montgomery, an award-winning geoscientist and professor at the New York Institute of Technology. Ever is on the autism spectrum, but is high-functioning. The premise of the play revolves around his desire to learn a few simple dance steps for an upcoming event celebrating his professional achievement.
What are some of your character’s strengths and weaknesses?
In a discussion I had prior to rehearsals, an autism expert at the Howard Center said about autistics, "If you've met one autistic person, you've met... one autistic person." I love that. Autism's idiopathic and completely unique to the individual. This is just as true for Ever. Defining his personal characteristics as being strengths or weaknesses is to do him a disservice; His eccentricities express the delightful dichotomy in his life-perspective. Ever sees things as right or wrong, black or white; there is no gray area, and he therefore struggles to pick up on social cues or understand nuance in conversational intention and subtext. And so, in an effort to fit in, he has made a life-long passion of studying the physical facial traits associated with human emotion, and tries hard to apply his understanding to his personal interactions. Ever doesn't want to be "neurotypical", but he tries hard to be what neurotypicals expect.
What do you find most challenging about your character?
At the most basic level, acting for theatre is the sending and receiving of energy. Actors spend years training their minds and bodies to learn how to send energy with intention, be affected by the energy that is sent to them, then convert the energy into a new intention and send it back. It is this exchange, simple on surface, complicated in practice, that fuels my creative process as an actor.
Ever Montgomery's given circumstances, however, have thrown all that understanding to the wind; Because Ever clearly does not pick-up on social cues or subtext in voice, he most always misunderstands the intentions/emotions of the energy being sent to him and is not affected in a "neurotypical" way. His reactions are literal, surprising, and unexpected. Sourcing these reactions from an authentic place is a unique challenge.
What line in the pay means the most to you?
"How can you be certain of that when I'm equally certain you're wrong?" - Revealing the confusion that naturally exists within two individual's perspectives on the same situation, this line is a moment of painful longing for Ever. He struggles mightily when he senses his assumed truths may not be reciprocated.
What makes Dancing Lessons challenging/exciting/interesting to you?
I'm excited to be working on a play with so much heart. It truly is a feel-good play.
Why do you believe theatre is important?
Theatre is important because it provides a safe environment for observing unfamiliar cultures, exploring fragile social issues, and initiating discussions that are difficult to speak about. Theatre brings communities together to encourage a deeper sense of place and self-identity. It is through the lens of theatre that audiences experience empathy.