When Masquerade Theatre closed earlier this year, many Houstonians felt pangs of anguish and hoped for an angel of theatre to bestow upon the organization a grant that would allow them to remain open. Masquerade, as far as we know, is not reopening; however, many of their former cast members have been assembled for Music Box Musicals' inaugural performance of their inaugural season-Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's Tony Award Winning ASSASSINS. As rehearsals were starting to pick up, Founding Artistic Director and Director of the show, Michael Ross invited me to sit down with the cast. We discussed reuniting with the Masquerade family, the show, and its cultural significance in light of tragedies such as September 11th and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
This cast is almost a complete family reunion for the Masquerade Theatre resident company. What is it like performing together again?
FULL CAST: We don't know yet! (Everyone laughs.)
REBEKAH DAHL: We hope it's going to be awesome! (Everyone laughs.)
Michael Ross: I think that it's going to be easy in a lot of ways. A lot of times when you assemble a cast that hasn't worked together, there's a lot of the getting to know you time and learning how people work. For so many of us, we already know that, and I think that makes us get to a better place much more quickly.
Braden Hunt: There's a little bit of a generation gap-different people were at Masquerade at different times. So, I actually haven't worked with Eric or Adam. Or that guy. (Others laugh) What's your name?
ERIC FERGUSON: Eric.
Braden Hunt: Eric.
Michael Ross: So, that's a good point, actually.
Braden Hunt: Yeah, so different generations of Masquerade are here.
John Dunn: I've been to Masquerade once. (Everyone laughs.)
Michael Ross: John Dunn is our one and only that wasn't a part of that.
John Dunn: Am I the only one?
Michael Ross: Yeah.
REBEKAH DAHL: You're alone.
Michael Ross: (Laughs. Addresses John Dunn) But as I've told you already, I saw you in several shows at Theatre LaB and was like, "I like that guy."
John Dunn: Oh
KRISTINA SULLIVAN: (At the same time as John Dunn) Awww.
JOHN GREMILLION: It's true though. There's a kind of energy that comes from working in a rep company that you can't really recreate with people who've just met for the first time in a show. So, it's always better to have people who have worked together before.
ERIC SCHELL: Well, for me, it's cool because I haven't worked with Cay (Taylor), or John (Gremillion), Rebekah (Dahl), Brad (Scarborough) in a while. Like, in a while!
JOHN GREMILLION: A few years.
ERIC SCHELL: Because they left Masquerade before we did.
ASSASSINS is definitely a politically charged show, what do you think audiences will take with them when it opens in October?
Braden Hunt: That depends on how the debates are going. (Several members of the cast laugh.)
KRISTINA SULLIVAN: It's a challenging show. It's thought provoking. It's not necessarily about-you know, we've set it at a time when there is a political energy going on. It goes right up to the election. We open and we lead right up to it-It's not necessarily about politics though or about parties or even necessarily about the American ideal. It's about what can happen, what we can do to the American ideal. It might make people question what can happen in a society where you're told-I mean, the whole thing opens with "Everybody's Got the Right (To Their Dreams)," but what happens when maybe not everybody does achieve their dreams or has the ability to. Personally, I think it's also about some people who regardless of what they were given or their circumstances might have ended up in a dark place anyhow. So, I think there are questions of when you are in a system how much is about the person and how much is about the system. First of all, they'll leave hopefully excited about the energy of the actors and the piece, and a piece that's rarely seen and rarely put on stage and that's a new thing for all of us here in this space, but also with thoughts about the show and questions about the American ideal, about the people in America, about the systems that we kind of take for granted or we live in or live on the outskirts of.