Michael Wing, Camelot Theatre’s resident musical director, is acting in the musical “1776,” directed by Artistic Director Livia Genise and playing through July 22 in Talent. Wing plays Stephen Hopkins, a member of the Second Continental Congress, the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Wing and I met to chat about music, theater, “1776” and the founding fathers.
MW: “1776” plays to the brilliance of these men to come up with the Declaration of Independence. There was such a compromise that had to be done (with the whole issue of slavery) for them to agree that they would stand together, fight Great Britain and seek their independence.
The Constitution would not have had a leg to stand on, had there not been a well-written declaration that explained what we were as a nation. Later they added the Bill of Rights. In years since, they have added 27 amendments; that’s not many. The fact is that this is a darn good piece of work because people have been able to respond to it and make it work as the blueprint for government.
We can thank Adams, Jefferson and the rest for what they were able to do. There were men of many faiths represented, yet we can hear, in the dialogue, references to the divine.
EH: What makes a play a success?
MW: A successful play is one where the components work together to be able to bring the audience in and have the audience member experience what the playwright intended. With the best play, the cast is there to help the connection with the character. Then all of those other things — sets, costumes and music — enhance it. What we succeed in doing is creating an environment where the audience member can connect with the characters, empathize and get into the play.
I’ve been very impressed with Livia Genise. To say she brings a wealth of knowledge is an understatement, with her experience and all that. My being impressed with her goes beyond that, in that she is a genuinely warm person. The warmth allows her to communicate with her actors. Because she has that genuineness, sincerity and honesty, we can feel confident that her vision is going to work.
EH: What is the difference between listening to music and experiencing theater?
MW: To me it’s like going into a gallery, and seeing two different media of art, and still being moved by both.
If an audience member goes to experience the theater, what the producer, director and the actors are trying to do is to appeal to all of the senses and to get the audience members to empathize. What we want the audience member to encounter is hearing and seeing, in a holistic way, dozens of important facets that have to be knit together toward the goal of an empathetic response from a theatergoer. That’s when a play will move somebody, whether it’s funny or whether it’s tragic, whether it’s got music or doesn’t have music. To me, that’s the deal; as a producer, that’s what I would want to go for.
In a concert, as a director and singer, I would hope to let the music speak to the people, and that the concertgoer would be moved by the music.
The different media appeal to different parts of the brain that can hopefully accomplish the same kinds of things. In all of it, it has to do with how humans can put something together and relate it to the audience member, who can then relate back and identify with it.
For more information on “1776” and reservations, call 541-535-5250 or visit www.camelottheatre.org.
Evalyn Hansen is a writer and director living in Ashland. She trained as an actor at the American Conservatory Theatre and is a founding member of San Francisco’s Magic Theatre.