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Hey consumer! Hey controversy expert, gossiper, human being, emotionally stunted,
emotionally vulnerable, ego teaser, internet clown, internet ghost! Come one, come all to Matt
Lyle’s “Big Scary Animals” and soak in the uncomfortable, the awkward, the hilarious, the
political present, and the crushingly lonely. Whoever you are, you will surely see yourself in one
of the two families you will spend time with this evening. The cast consists of Bradley Atuba as
Marcus, Chad Cline as Clark, Bob Reed as Don, Charlotte Akin as Rhonda, and Monica Jones as
Sophia. My name is Brady White and I play the role of Ronnie in “Big, Scary Animals” at
Theater Three, currently in the middle of a run that ends on September 25th (SO GET THOSE
“Big Scary Animals” finds two couples from opposite sides of the political spectrum in
the midst of a dinner party gone terribly awkward. Marcus and Clark are two gay men living in
the Dallas gayborhood who decide to invite the recently moved in older straight white couple,
Don and Rhonda, to a dinner party at their place. But there’s only a million problems. Don and
Rhonda just can’t understand what makes these two gay men tick and can’t leave there often
ignorant perceived curiosity to rest, and Marcus and Clark just can’t stop poking fun at that.
Marcus is a gay black man who Don and Rhonda desperately want to figure out, but don’t have
the social intelligence or knowledge to not come off as ignorant as the racists they grew up
around. Race and sexual preference can’t be set aside for these two couples no matter how hard
they try to seem like it can be. What follows is a whirlwind collision of the hot button social
issues that our real world is very much currently locked into. Meanwhile, we see the effects
these two couples have on their children Sophia and Ronnie as they meet each other next door.
As Sophia tries to pull him out of his shell, we can see the influences each teens parents has
transferred to them. The result is a fascinating look into what ideas and perceptions of other
people we pass down from generation to generation.
On the first day of rehearsal, our fearless director Becki McDonald made it clear that to
fully dive into this play as an ensemble, judgment of each character had to go out the window.
We had to fully not be afraid of what each character perception can be for the audience. Becki
was a complete expert in creating an environment where each actor was comfortable sharing
their ideas about certain moments in the script and also taking care of each actor as certain
emotionally straining moments pop up in the play. The N word is thrown with great anger on two
occasions in the script and Becki was able to take care of these moments with grace and empathy
for the actors involved. By fostering an open and creative environment for the actors to dig into
what makes these characters so broken but so very human, we were able to bring the audience
into the world of this play that runs very much parallel to the one we live in.
Rehearsal for “Big Scary Animals” was very much about finding a pace the show could
fall into that served the quick flow of the script. As the actors, we couldn’t be worried about pace
as this takes you out of what’s happening in the moment. For the character of Ronnie, I
translated this into how he has to fill all silence because silence for him with a stranger is equal
to embarrassment, and embarrassment for Ronnie is the ultimate nightmare. It was a blast
working on this with the incredible Monica Jones. The scene we share together in the script is
one that requires a great deal of trust in each other on stage. Our intimacy choreographer,
Danielle Georgiou, was a huge help in choreographing moments of intimacy so that we didn’t
have to worry about it. This script very much lives in a constant state of embarrassment for one
character or another and practicing what that looked like was a huge help in finding what the
core of the show is.
All of these characters bring prior perceptions of what the other person’s life is like to this
dinner party and the results are anything but comfortable for both them and the audience. What
makes this play so interesting to watch is that we’ve all met these people at some point in our
lives. Whether they be our own family or the people we grew up with, we all know the old
reclusive spitting the same ideas about life that their parents told them in the characters of Don
and Rhonda. We can all see how this affects Marcus and Clark, who can’t go a day without being
reminded that there are people out there that have a problem with them just because of there
sexual preference or color of there skin. However, whether you identify with one couple over the
other, we can all recognize bits of ourselves in every single one of these characters. Their
judgment, their vices, the way in which they move through the world. This creates a certain
wonderful dissonance in how the audience engages with the play each night. Your opinions of
each character are right on the surface of how YOU the audience member reacts to the play. The
way you engage with this play will make you learn a bit about yourself.
It’s a pleasure to work on my first professional production with this ensemble, Directing team Becki and Zetra, designers, and crew. We hope
you come out and laugh and think a bit as well as start a conversation with those you come with!