In Part 4 of a series of interviews with the cast of the new Tom Kitt/Brian Yorkey musical If/Then, which is about to open at The National Theatre on November 5th, Jerry Dixon introduces us to the character he plays, and the song that have been written for his character.
Joel: How did you first get involved in If Then, and why did you want to be part of this production?
Jerry: I was invited to see a reading, in New York. Because of a prior engagement, I was only able to see the first act. I was quite intrigued. Having been directing for several years – I wasn’t thinking of becoming part of the project. But, then, the opportunity presented itself. With it being a completely new work, by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, directed by Michael Greif, it was also already filled with actors, designers, musicians, I know, and respect. On top of which, most of the aforementioned were long-time friends (not just colleagues): real friends. I had to say yes!
Introduce us to your characters and how you relate to him.
I play Stephen (director of city planning); perhaps is not like me on paper. However, I recognized traits in him that I could latch on to. Among them, his tenacity, humor, artful use of power.
What is If/Then about from the point of view of Stephen?
I celebrate the fact that Stephen is quite adept at gathering exactly the right people (including wife and family) he feels will fulfill his own dreams.
What song have Tom and Brian written for you and what do we learn about Stephen when you sing this song?
I was introduced to the show when Stephen sang something called “One Among The Millions.” I did a lab shortly after I joined the company with an entirely new song, called “Your Own New York.” I am not sure if that was written specifically for me. However, once we began rehearsals for D.C. – Tom and Brian promised me a new song would be arriving soon. Around week three, Tom sat at the piano to sing the new song, called “Map of New York” – which I should really call a piece. The entire company was instantly in love with it. This one was written for my voice. And let me tell you – there is nothing like that feeling.
How would you describe Tom and Brian’s score and lyrics?
Insistent, focused, lush.
What are some of the challenges you have had and are facing learning your roles and how has Director Michael Greif helped you to solve these challenges?
Because of the complexity of the kind of show If/Then is – time is the the best thing, to bring clarity and understanding. Michael is patient, while waiting for me to find out what I need to know. But, also, ready to help when my brain cells fail me.
When did you begin rehearsals and what has surprised you or impressed you the most during rehearsals?
We started early August. On day one our producer, David Stone, had everyone (and I mean everyone), collect, in the rehearsal studio. It was an awesome sight to see how many folks it would take to make it all happen. Which was exactly his point for gathering us all.
What other roles that you have played before remind you of your character and other characters in the show that you are not playing?
I am reminded more of real-life people I know than characters I’ve played before. I’ve been truly fortunate to play quite a few roles that look very much like the life I’m presently living. It’s the circumstances, written by different writers, that change.
Why do you think National Theatre and DC are a great venue and theatre town to premiere If/Then?
I played Ford’s Theatre some thirty years ago. Then, as now, DC is always full of bright enthusiastic people, who love supporting theatre. Until I arrived at the National, two weeks ago, I could not have spoken on this, in a personal way. Now, I can. The staff and crew are not only outstanding – they are truly good folk. And I’m not holding any office – I just play someone who does.
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing If/Then at National Theatre?
I only ask that audiences bring exactly who they are, to the theatre. What they leave with is particular, personal, and entirely up to them.
JERRY DIXON (Stephen) has appeared in the Broadway and off-Broadway original casts of Once on This Island; Five Guys Named Moe; Bright Lights, Big City; The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin; tick, tick… BOOM!; newyorkers; and Romantic Poetry. His television and film credits include Law & Order, Everwood, Peace Maker, As The World Turns, and Guiding Light. Regionally, he has been seen in Ragtime (Coalhouse) at White Plains Performing Arts Center, Dreamgirls (Curtis) at Long Beach Civic Light Opera, and Thunder Knocking On The Door (Jaguar) at Yale Rep. Jerry has been a soloist with the Belgian National, Kalamazoo, Tawain, and Singapore symphony orchestras. He has directed productions of Show Boat; tick, tick… BOOM!; Barnstormer; Bernarda Alba; Crowns; Ain’t Misbehavin’; and LaChanze in Concert (Lincoln Center). He has written for CBS, VH-1, Comedy Central (Guess Who’s Coming for Chitlins?), and composed original music for Laugh Whore on Broadway and Showtime.
Jerry Dixon’s website.
Introducing the Cast of ‘If/Then’ at The National Theatre–Part 1: Jason Tam by Joel Markowitz.
Jason Tam’s website.
Introducing the Cast of ‘If/Then’ at The National Theatre–Part 2: Jenn Colella by Joel Markowitz.
Jenn Colella’s website.
Introducing the Cast of ‘If/Then’ at The National Theatre–Part 3: James Snyder by Joel Markowitz.
James Snyder’s website.
New Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’s ‘If/Then’ with Idina Menzel to Stop at National Theatre on DCMetroTheaterArts.
‘If/Then’ Video Released-Begins at National Theatre on November 5th on DCMetroTheaterArts.
DCMetroTheaterArts coverage of If/Then.