Inside the World of THE DRAWER BOY...
We are just one week away from opening night of Michael Healey's The Drawer Boy! Although the actors have a tight schedule preparing for September 20, I was fortunate enough to be able to discuss The Drawer Boy with them in a much more intimate way. Below, they will share their thoughts on the play and the rehearsal process, as well as provide details about themselves and their characters.
Casey: Please provide our readers with a brief description of your theatrical experience and tell us who you play in The Drawer Boy.
Tom Bickert: I’ve enjoyed working in community and professional theater for more than 30 years, and every stage experience brings a new level of appreciation and understanding for the craft. Earlier this summer, I played the role of The Chairman in The Mystery of Edwin Drood with the Center Theatre Players, and that production was completely different from this--a large-cast musical with lots of singing and dancing, and audience interaction. This show is very intimate and strikes at establishing characters that the audience can react to. They are two very different shows in very different settings, but both brought challenges that make theater so exciting. I play Morgan in The Drawer Boy, and was last seen onstage with the Bobcat Players in the 2016 production of 12 Angry Men.
Ryan Wagner: I graduated from Robert Morris University in 2016 with a degree in Communication/Theatre, and have always loved doing theatre and being a part of shows. I currently work for Strayer University, but I will always find time to do theatre in the evenings. I'm making my debut with the Bobcat Players as Miles.
Keith Zagorski: I play Angus in this production, and am an original member of the Bobcat Players. I've actually been the President for the past 12 years. I acted in high school (Beaver) & college (Penn), but didn’t continue until Frank Myers started the Bobcat Players in 2002. I love working in small cast shows, especially when it’s a good script and there is chemistry among the actors. We have that in spades with the show and the team. Tom and Ryan are both strong, but also have low-key, easy going personalities, which makes it very easy to interact with them. In fact, the whole team, including Josh and Valerie, make the environment pretty easy and fun to rehearse. I worked with Tom in 2003 when he had the lead as El Gallo in our production of The Fantasticks and again in 2007 in Wait Until Dark; I've really enjoyed the chance to work with him again.
Casey: Keith, you mentioned chemistry, which was actually what I was going to ask you all about next! Tell me a little bit about finding that chemistry, which is so vital to this show, and also how it feels to be working with an all-male cast.
Ryan: Finding chemistry for any show is very important, but it is really crucial with such a small show like this. The three of us must be in sync with one another throughout each scene, because we have to be able to play off of each other and build on what the other one is doing. The fact that this is an all-male cast never really occurred to me, because I just saw it as three actors all working in unison to share this incredibly touching story. I think some of the emotions in this show really hit hard, and maybe that might surprise some people because of this being an all-male cast.
Tom: I’ve done small-cast shows before--and shows with all-male casts before--but the one common factor in all of them is a feeling of trust. Some like to call it chemistry, but make no mistake that it is really about trust. You establish a trust with the two or three other actors on stage with you and build on that trust with every rehearsal and performance.
Casey: The Drawer Boy is such a beautifully written play. What was your initial opinion reading it and how has that changed as you've put it onstage?
Keith: This is a show I loved as soon as I read it. We’ve discussed performing it for 2 or 3 years. It’s atypical from what we normally do, but the show has a lot of humor as well as themes of loss, friendship, discovery, and forgiveness in a very compact script. While it’s not a rip-roaring comedy, I am confident the audience will easily connect with the characters and story. Truthfully, when I read the script, I was actually drawn to performing the role of Morgan. However, I am really glad I was cast as Angus, because it’s given me a different perspective on the script and the characters. Plus, Tom Bickert is a natural as Morgan.
Tom: When I first read it, I remember thinking how the ending brought me to a place I wasn’t really expecting and how it told me so much more about the two central characters. I’m not sure my opinion has changed all that much, but I’m hoping we take audiences along with us on a very human journey.
Ryan: I absolutely loved The Drawer Boy after I read it for the first time, and my love for the show has only grown more and more as we work through it. Seeing Morgan and Angus brought to life by Tom and Keith is phenomenal, and I love just watching them and seeing all the choices they make to give their characters incredible depth. There's so much detail in this show that I didn't pick up on the first time I read it, and I'm still finding little moments and details as we continue to work through the play.
Casey: So what do you each like most about your character and what do you find most challenging about him?
Ryan: Miles in a very fun character to play; he's a naive city boy who has no idea what he is getting into. What I like most about him is his drive and persistence; he really wants to gather information to put into his play, even though he is completely out of his element. He is constantly learning and asking questions to figure out the information he wants, and sometimes he oversteps his boundaries. I think the most challenging part of Miles is finding the right balance of being clueless, but then physically seeing him put the pieces of the puzzle together. He isn't dumb by any stretch-- he just is learning a whole new set of skills in a place he isn't familiar with at all.
Tom: From the very first rehearsal, Josh asked me to think about the weight of the past that Morgan carries and how that has affected him. What is most challenging about Morgan’s character is that he comes across at first as your somewhat stereotypical farmer--making fun of the young actor who knows nothing about farm life, railing at how farmers get little credit (or compensation) for their efforts, and accepting the routine of daily physical labor. It’s only when we begin to piece together stories of the past that we see how complex his character really is. He’s committed to caring for a friend, yet burdened by memories of a very different life that could have been his.
Keith: I think the thing that I like best about Angus is the change and growth his character takes from the opening until the end of the show. Let’s just say his view of the world is kind of flipped on its head by the end of the show. That’s both exciting and scary, because you want to make the character as real as possible. However, it’s also been a fun challenge trying to understand and convey a character whose memory is, at best, faulty. Hopefully, his journey in the story will be believable to the audience.
Casey: I know that it will be. After watching only 10 minutes of rehearsal in August, I just knew how special this show would be for the Bobcat Players. What would you say to encourage audiences to attend this show and why do you think it is so important and/or relevant?
Tom: I think the themes of friendship, loyalty and commitment are the keys to the show and really bring home the reminder that you never really know what someone else is going through in their life, or what burdens they carry.
Keith: I echo Tom's thoughts on the theme of friendship, but would also add love as a theme. And I think both of those themes are exemplified in many different ways throughout the play. The story shows the lengths people will go and the things they’ll do and say to protect those most important to them. People are human, though, and sometimes the best choice is not overly protecting the ones you love, but letting them live their lives and come to grips with their faults in order to learn and grow. This script is one of the most beautifully written shows I have read or performed. Art is about giving a view of reality, creating an emotional impact and discovery. I guarantee that everyone who sees the show will connect to some part of it. It’s our 2018 “special show” for a reason!
Ryan: I agree that the show emphasizes that you never know what someone else has gone through, or is currently going through. Sometimes the things we think are really important are nothing compared to what someone has to deal with everyday. It's really cool to see the focus shift from the beginning to the end of the play, and I think it will really surprise the audience in such a heavy way.
If all of this hasn't enticed you, I'm not really sure what will. I cannot overstate the beauty within this production. The Drawer Boy is truly a piece of art and I am so proud to see the Bobcat Players bring to life on our stage. This special show runs for one weekend only: September 20, 21, 22, and 23. All performances begin at 7:30 pm with the exception of the Sunday matinee, which begins at 3:00 pm. Tickets are an incredible bargain at only $10 and you can order them online here. You can also reserve with our box office by calling (724) 494-1680 or purchase in person at the Hostess Gift Shoppe. You won't be sorry you did.