by Ron Todorowski
I’ve always looked for jobs where I can grow the most artistically. With age that has evolved into something deeper. I meditate every morning for a half an hour and in that quiet, still space I connect to what I really want for myself and for others. I could go on and on about that, but I’ll say with work, it’s about being a part of projects that truly make a difference, rather than what my role is. Less ego, more spirit. My experience with Angels in America fits that perfectly.
It is my 9th Broadway show and first play. My first play and it’s this beautiful, iconic, brilliantly epic, Pulitzer Prize-winning piece written by Tony Kushner, directed by two-time Tony Award winner Marianne Elliott and an extraordinary creative/design team. The cast is spectacular! I’ve learned a great deal from these remarkable artists and have been absorbing as much as I can of what it takes to put on a courageous production like this.
When I originally received the breakdown for the audition from my agent, I honestly thought it wasn’t for me. I was in Cats at the time and had just worked on Christopher Wheeldon’s production of Brigadoon at City Center. The choreography was so beautiful and satisfying. I thought perhaps I should seek more material like this. However, after reading the breakdown again, I decided that it was too cool to pass up. They were seeking five Angel "Shadows" for the upcoming Broadway revival. The creative team was attached, including Finn Caldwell as the puppetry/movement director and Steven Hoggett as the movement consultant. I’ve been a huge fan of Steven Hoggett’s for years. It also explained that the role of the Angel would be flanked by these "shadows" who manipulate her movement and her wings and appear on stage throughout the play.
The auditions lasted about a week with final callbacks on a Saturday. They held two-hour sessions every day and I was at the Tuesday call. There were so many brilliant artists from many different backgrounds. I honestly felt like they could’ve hired anyone in my group, but you simply never know what a team is looking for. My intuition told me the job would require people who collaborate and communicate well. We were given a bunch of group exercises that included movement improvisation, partnering, and puppetry. A few hours later after the Saturday callback, I received an email from my agent saying that I had booked the job.
The first week of rehearsals was just the shadows and angels. We explored different ways of moving as one unit, created various lifts in different shapes and heights and even played games to loosen us up and get to know one another. We all had to make ourselves vulnerable and open to try new things. As a result, we became close rather quickly. In the second week, the rest of the cast and creative team joined us. Day one of that week was press day, which is always exciting, particularly for the creative presentations, which included the costume and set designs. It was all simply incredible.
When press and production left, we dove right in. The show is in two parts: Millenium Approaches and Perestroika. The Angels and Shadows started working on our two big scenes in Perestroika, “Anti-Migratory Epistle” and “Wrestling the Angel." The scenes are between the Angel played by Amanda Lawrence or Beth Malone and Prior played by Andrew Garfield. Watching these actors find their truths in this beautiful, yet complicated language has been so inspiring. Three of us shadows are responsible for most of the partnering and two others on the Angel wings. We had to come up with lifts and movement that made sense to what the Angel was saying and feeling in every moment of the dialogue. The wings had to be worked out separately at times to match her physicality and emotion. Slowly, we would come together and become one. It's certainly getting better and better, but will continue to be a work in progress. We all have to be on the exact same page at all times, a true cohesive unit or else it will come across disjointed and false.
The shadows are also responsible for about 90 percent of the set moves done in Perestroika. For this, we had to come up with movement vocabulary as these dark entities while troubleshooting how to get sometimes enormous props on and off stage efficiently and artistically. Not an easy feat, but we’re doing it. I’ve certainly never had to do this before in any show. It’s still quite nerve racking having the task of moving an actor on a bed, chair or desk to an exact spike mark on a raked stage (did I mention the stage is severely raked?) and get off in time so you’re not caught in the lighting cue. BUT, as tedious as this can be, it is certainly teaching me a lot about staging and transitions and it’s valuable knowledge for my next career chapter, which is choreography. It’s also been wonderful working so closely with our amazing crew. The backstage choreography for Angels In America is a show in itself. This team of stage management and crew is truly extraordinary.
We’re in previews now and the audience response has been absolutely exhilarating!! The fact that I’m a part of this show in ANY WAY makes it so clear to me that what I’m putting out into the universe is coming back to me. This show will make such an impact on everyone who sees it. Its relevance in our current political climate and message of humanity in all of its complexity, struggle, self realization and so on will undoubtedly make an impact. Thanks for reading and do your spirit good by coming to Angels in America on Broadway. You have until July 15.