October 18, 2010

Connection Rather Than Catharsis: Gregory Pember

For our third entry in the Shirley, VT Young Artist Blogs, Body Awareness actor Gregory Pember continues his character research on a visit to the Asperger's Association of New England, and also shares with us his new rehearsal mantra.

Rehearsals are well on their way and every day is a whole new learning experience. Today was exceptionally eye-opening as our awesome Stage Manager (Victoria Coady) and I made a trip over to the Asperger's Association of New England where we were graciously given the opportunity to meet and talk with some men around my age who have been diagnosed with Aspergers. This opportunity was generously offered to SpeakEasy by Dania Jekel. They were all really great guys and I am so lucky to have had this resource and to hear first-hand what it is like to live a life with Aspergers! I talked with eight guys about what it was like to grow up with AS, the process that they each went through as they were being diagnosed, how life pre-diagnosis differed from post-diagnosis, the frustrations that they face day to day as well as their individual, specific strengths. Much like Jared’s autodidactic knowledge of the origins and histories of words, each person I got the chance to talk to had one very personalized strength or all-encompassing knowledge of a very specific subject of interest. One of the guys quoted Stephen Shore (author of Beyond the Wall: Personal Experiences with Autism and Aspergers Syndrome) saying: “If you’ve met one person with [Aspergers] — you’ve met one person with [Aspergers].” One point that they were all very adamant about me understanding was that no two people with Aspergers are ever the same and that the symptoms can manifest themselves in a wide variety of ways, differing from case to case. What I found the most beneficial as an actor developing a character with Aspergers was hearing their various thought processes when they have to face overwhelming situations and how they have had to teach themselves how to handle certain adversities. It was also fascinating to just observe their physicality and how they communicated within the group setting. Taking stock of what I observed this evening at AANE has now given me some ideas of what to draw upon when playing Jared and I can not thank these eight guys and Dania enough for being so accommodating and generous of not only their time, but of their stories and experiences.

As we begin our final weekend of rehearsals before we go into Tech rehearsals next week, the 4 of us in the cast along with Paul Daigneault (our fantastic Director) have developed a rehearsal mantra: “Connection rather than catharsis!” All of the characters in Body Awareness are desperately searching for ways to connect with the other characters. From an acting standpoint, it is so important for us to flesh out why and how we are trying to connect with each other in order to specify our actions onstage and thus staying away from the trap of being cathartic with what Annie Baker has given us. I love the show and the part more and more everyday. The challenges that we face with this show are being bravely tackled by the cast as an ensemble, working together to bring this story to life!

— Gregory Pember

Gregory PemberGregory Pember (Jared) is thrilled and honored to be making his SpeakEasy debut. A native of Vancouver, British Columbia, Gregory recently graduated from The Boston Conservatory with a BFA in Musical Theatre. At TBC, Gregory played such roles as Romeo (Romeo & Juliet), Young Ben (Follies), John Wilkes Booth (Assassins) and Mark (Rent, the latter under the direction of Paul Daigneault. Other professional credits include Rolf (The Sound of Music), Will Parker (Oklahoma!), Man 1 (I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change) and Jack (Into the Woods). Thanks to Mom, Dad and Bob for their unconditional love and support, and to Paul Daigneault for his guidance and this amazing opportunity.

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