The Academy of Performing Arts Playhouse’s recent production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! Featured some familiar faces from the Cape Abilities community: staff member Lizzy Smythe and individual Justin McGee! Playing the roles of Ethel Skidmore and Chuck Moore, Lizzy and Justin lit up the Orleans stage from June 15th-July 9th.
Lizzy is a seasoned actor, who has been cast in several plays throughout Cape Cod’s theaters. For Justin, this play was an exciting opportunity to try something new, and sparked a new passion! We sat down with the actors for a reflection on the experience, the importance of trying new things, and the impact of inclusion.
Tell us about how you first got involved in the play Oklahoma!
Lizzy: I had auditioned in January, and I was cast in the ensemble. We started rehearsals in April.
Justin: Lizzy had asked me if I wanted to audition and be part of the ensemble as well. I said, “Yeah, sure!” So I was cast in the ensemble as well, and I also had a few speaking roles in the play.
Have you been interested in getting involved in theater in the past?
Justin: I told my mom that I wanted to do something like theater. She said, “Try it out!” She always knew I wanted to be in plays and stuff like that, ever since I was younger. And so here I am!
Did you two have a lot of opportunities during the play to work together?
Lizzy: Absolutely. It was kind of a multi-generational cast, which worked well for this particular type of show. Justin got involved because they needed more men for the ensemble. Terry Brady (the director) understands the need to be more inclusive of people with developmental disabilities, to be more integrated into theaters on the Cape that involve everyone in the community. I think getting Justin in there was a good step in the right direction.
Justin: I feel more confident in myself in being who I am, and how nobody can change who I am. I also said to Terry, the director, that if nobody likes it, it’s on them. A couple of people hugged me.
Lizzy: I actually have seen a positive change in Justin. He’s more outgoing, he’s more confident, he’s more sure of himself.
What was it about the experience that gives you confidence?
Justin: Meeting people that aren’t disabled who are accepting of who I am. Being given the opportunity to work with people who aren’t disabled. Understanding me, mostly.
Was being in front of a big crown nerve-wracking at all?
Lizzy: No! It was great. I actually love it when it’s a big audience because it fuels the actors. You can feel the energy from the audience.
What are some of the takeaways from this experience?
Lizzy: My takeaway is that I made some new friends, and I also worked with a director I haven’t worked with before. It was a good experience. I love performing for a large crowd, and apparently, the show sold out more than it ever has since 2014!
Justin: I had quite a few people in the cast say that they enjoyed having me with them. It was a good experience.
What would you say to someone who was thinking about getting involved in theater?
Justin: I would say, come check it out and audition. If you don’t like it, maybe you could try it again another time.
Lizzy: They could also do stage crew. Some people don’t like being in front of a crowd so they could also learn how to do lights and sound, maybe be a stage hand, or help with props and costumes.
Are you interested in doing more plays in the future?
Justin: Yep! I’m definitely going to do it.
You can see Lizzy in her next play, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes at the Chatham Drama Guild from August 9th – September 3rd.