Hello, Again! John Dossett and Michele Pawk Share Another Stage in Giant

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04 Dec 2012

Dossett in Giant.
Photo by Joan Marcus

What's it like working with LaChiusa again? Do you have an ongoing relationship with him?

JD: It's just so comfortable. It just fits. He just speaks to us. His work is like Sondheim the way it hits you emotionally. We saw First Lady Suite here at the Public in 1993.
MP: I've worked with him three times. He's so actor-driven. Some people say it and don't really mean it, but he really does. He'll say, "Forget about the note, forget about that, do it that way, I want to hear that," and then he makes adjustments accordingly. I think largely one of the things I really love about the Giant cast is that every single person on that stage is great actor. A great actor. They all happen to have these amazing vocal instruments, but they're really great actors. And that doesn't always happen in a musical. So, you're honored to be up there.
JD: I've been lucky to do a lot of good shows over the years, but I really believe this is the best thing I've ever been a part of. I just feel like there's greatness in this. To me it's a new American classic.

It's not too often you get to share a stage together. Does it feel pressurized for you, or is it a treat?

JD: It's great.
MP: We come to work to see each other, really! [Laughs]. This has been nice. What's gonna happen when you go back to Newsies? We'll never see each other again. We had to do a show to see each other!

Brian d'Arcy James in Giant.
photo by Joan Marcus

Giant is a really powerful piece. It makes theatregoers flex their muscles, too. Unfortunately, producers don't always see shows like this as commercially viable. Non-profit theatres are really the perfect homes for new works like this. For LaChiusa, Lincoln Center Theater and the Public have really been integral in his development. It allows audiences and writers to grow together. Is this an environment that drives you as an actor, too?

MP: I only want to be in those rooms. I want to be in the room with collaborative, creative people who inspire me to be better. That's really all I want to do. I might have said something different when I was younger. But to nurture new work, it's all there is for me. We are so grateful to the Public for not only nurturing the piece, but for doing it right. Going the extra mile and producing it in such a class-A production: All of those glorious musicians — and our conductor Chris Fenwick, who is like Giant personified! Where would the musical theatre be without the Public, LCT, and Ted and Mary Jo Shen [of The Ted and Mary Jo Shen Charitable Fund]? They are people who take the risk and believe in it.

I didn't realize how politically relevant Giant is, especially in light of recent politics and the election. I was unaware of the Mexican-American racism that was so prevalent in Texas culture.

MP: That's what, to me, is revelatory about the novel. I just read it for the first time this summer. I kept calling John and saying, "This could have been written today." It's about greed, about love of the land and sacrifice, about politics, about race, about immigration. Here we are in Arizona having the same discussion. It's profound. That's what is so interesting: this novel that was written in 1951 is still so relevant. Here we are looking at ourselves again.

The opening sequence made me fall in love with Texas, a state I don't always consider beautiful. You've both been to Texas; John did Giant at Dallas Theater Center.

MP: We've seen skies in that state that rival anything I've ever seen.
JD: and this sunset, the sky is so open that it took up the horizon. It was just magnificent.

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Brian d'Arcy James and Kate Baldwin
Photo by Joan Marcus

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