Monday, May 19, 2014

The Captain’s Boatswain Call

The Captain’s Boatswain Call
5 Questions with John O’Connor
Captain von Trapp, The Sound of Music
by Alexa Giacomini, Member – Muni Board of Managers
AG: Tell us a little about yourself…
JOC: I've lived in Springfield for 20 years, currently with two dogs, Shadrach and Ginger, a permanent visitor. I'm a news reporter for The Associated Press, writing about government and politics at the Capitol. 
In addition to The Sound of Music this summer, I will reprise my role as the Union Captain in the musical The Civil War outdoors at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in July, and will take on the one-man show Mr. Lincoln at New Salem's Theatre in the Park in August.
AG: What’s your Muni experience?
JOC: The Sound of Music will be my 16th Muni show. On the Muni stage, I've played both Nathan Detroit and Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls, and both Daddy Warbucks and Rooster in Annie. Other favorite roles are Captain Hook in Peter Pan, Adam Pontipee in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and Frank Butler in Annie Get Your Gun.
AG: The Sound of Music is one of theatre's most well-known and loved shows. What do you see as the challenges in taking on the role of the Captain? What are you most looking forward to in portraying this role?
JOC: Captain von Trapp offers one of those complex characters who is both outwardly tough, disciplined and wary of showing emotions, and inwardly loving, caring and sensitive. The challenge of portraying von Trapp is to accurately portray the range of emotions and the transformational arc he must wend through from tough captain to the loving father of seven children whom Maria brings forth.
It is difficult to bring subtlety to the role, for it would be rather two-dimensional to have him go from all-tough-guy to sensitive male.  Obviously, there's a lot of nuance, and some of both sides come out at various times, so that's a challenge. 
And a character such as von Trapp must not only rely on other characters, namely Maria, to help bring that change about, but to also be aware of the role he plays in helping other characters transform throughout the story. That's the beauty of theatre, the interconnectedness – no one exists in a vacuum, just like in life.
AG: What's your personal experience with The Sound of Music?
JOC: When I was a child, and it came on network television, my sister conducted a lottery to determine who in the family would get the best seats in the den, where the television was. It was a huge event for her. I didn't know what all the fuss was about. 
As an adult, and seeing it various places such as at the Muni in 2005, I developed a deep appreciation for the story, for it's far more than just the catchy, unforgettable tunes that Julie Andrews made famous. It's not only based on the true story of Maria and the von Trapps, but occurs during a pivotal time in world history, when people really had to make political choices that could mean life or death.
AG: Why should people come see The Sound of Music?
JOC: It's a show that is not all just happy-go-lucky, boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl predictability. It has some real meat to it. Captain von Trapp is an Austrian at the time of the Nazi annexation of Austria, and this emotional story plays out in front of a hellish time in world history. There's real substance to the story. The subplot – the Nazi takeover of Austria – has to be among the more chilling in musical theatre. And it really happened.
There's also no better place to spend a warm summer evening than at The Muni.  I've participated in 16 shows out there, but have probably attended five dozen more.  I have been amazed at the talent this community produces, and have often sat under the stars and taken it in; The Muni has come to define summer for me in Springfield.

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