Tuesday, April 2, 2013

An interview with Norman Moses

A veteran of the Milwaukee theatre scene for over 30 years, Norman Moses returns to MCT after performing as multiple roles in AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, Graham in TALKING HEADS, Gabe in DINNER WITH FRIENDS and Nick in WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF among many others.

You play two roles in JEEVES IN BLOOM, Tom Travers and Chef Anatole. Tell us a little
about your characters. What is it like playing two roles?

Tom Travers is the owner of Brinkley Court, a rather lavish estate in England. He is married to Dahlia Travers, who’s nephew, Bertie Wooster, is the source of much of his personal distress (and his acute dyspepsia). Chef Anatole is the French, personal chef for the Travers household whose tempestuous temperament is almost as renowned as his amazing culinary achievements. These two roles were written to be performed by one actor, so it does present some unique challenges. The British and French dialects became a big focus of my initial preparation. I recently met with a native speaking French teacher at the Alliance Fran├žaise and recorded him reading my Anatole lines, to hear an authentic dialect. I have found this to be an extremely effective tool in getting an accurate sound. The key for me is to say the lines enough times so that I don’t have to think about the dialect, and it just flows naturally. At the same time I focus on the character and the story telling. I also try to develop physicality for each of the characters, and then build upon that to tell the story of each character as determined by the plot and dialogue.

What are some of the benefits and challenges of performing in such a comedic play?

Of course, the benefits are getting laughs. There’s nothing like the feeling you get when you lay a line out there and it lands perfectly making the audience laugh spontaneously.
L-R: Norman Moses, Matt Daniels and Chris Klopatek
On the other hand, when you toss a line out and it lands like pennies in the mud, there’s nothing worse. The last words of Edmund Keen, the great British Tragedian of the 19th century, are alleged to have been “Dying is easy, comedy is hard,” and truer words were never spoken. There’s an old saying that you need to ask for the cup of tea and not ask for the laugh. If you play the scene and make the characters needs clear and just play the action and not some shtick, then that is when comedy is most satisfying. Having said that, shtick can be fun on occasion, too. Not that I ever stoop to such things.

What are some of your favorite moments in theatre that made you who you are today?

One of the greatest experiences in comedy I have ever had was doing BEYOND THE FRINGE
L-R: Montgomery Davis, Norman Moses, Colin Cabot
and Bill Leach in BEYOND THE FRINGE
with the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre back in the 80's. Mostly, it was due to getting the privilege of watching Bill Leach and Monty Davis in rehearsal and performance. They taught me so much about comedy and character in that production. I was fairly fresh out of graduate school and thought I knew an awful lot about a lot of things. Oh, how wrong I was. They were both so good at letting the language work for them. They weren’t beyond a bit of shtick or two, but they knew when, where and how to use it. Their timing was impeccable, and I studied them intensely. I have missed them both terribly since they have passed. There aren’t many comic actors of their caliber around these days. I have tried my best to emulate them, and every once in a while I feel like I am getting close to what they were able to achieve. Not often, but every now and then.

What do you like about being a theatre artist in Milwaukee?

We are probably the nicest group of actors you’ll ever want to meet. There is very little of the fierce competition that one sees in other towns. We all want to work, but if we don’t get the job, we go out and support the other actor who got it. It’s pretty unique and rare, and I think it makes one a better performer, knowing there is this community of like-minded people rooting one on.

Thanks Norman! We can't wait to see you as Tom & Chef Anatole, April 11-28!

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