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Interview: Jason Gotay

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The Anthem has been described as a sci-fi musical inspired by Ayn Rand's novella Anthem. The production features a book by Gary Morgenstein, music by Jonnie Rockwell, and lyrics by Erik Ransom. One of the stars of the off-broadway musical is Jason Gotay. His credits include Fking Up Everything, Bring It On: The Musical and Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark. The Anthem will start its run on May 20th at the Lynn Redgrave Theatre.

In The Anthem, Jason’s character Prometheus fights to overthrow the State and pursue his love of science. Fans who attend the musical will definitely be in for one heck of a ride with The Anthem. Jason sat down with us to talk about his new musical, his process for preparing for a role and advice to any up and coming actor who is looking to work on Broadway.

Pop Culture Principle – You have a new exciting new project called The Anthem. Can you tell us what attracted you to the project?

Jason Gotay – If I’m being completely honest, I had worked with our director Rachel Klein on a reading of another rock musical a little over a year ago. I knew she was attached to this project and she called me and had me in mind for this role. The idea of working with her was really exciting to me because I am a huge fan of her work, not only working with her in the past, but also seeing other full productions that she has worked on. She is very creative, innovate, smart and really funny. She sent me a copy of the script and when I read The Anthem for the first time, I was really drawn to the character of Prometheus. He goes through a huge journey in the show and he gets to show a lot of colors which is always really exciting for an actor. Also, once I found out who else was involved and the other amazing people I would get to work with, I was really excited to jump on board.

Pop Culture Principle – Can you tell us what The Anthem is about?

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Jason Gotay – The Anthem centers on a futuristic, diskotopian society. It’s about a young man who rebels against the State in the quest for individual thinking and independent thoughts and ideas. In this futuristic state, independence is outlawed and my character Prometheus fights to overthrow the State and pursue his love of science. He leads a rebel clan to overthrow the state and fight for individualism. It’s really exciting stuff!

Pop Culture Principle – The musical is inspired by the classic Ayn Rand Novella, "Anthem", with a book by Gary Morgenstein. What kind of preparation did you do for your role?

Jason Gotay – One of the first things I did was read the book Anthem by Ayn Rand. I absolutely fell in love with the book and thought it was a beautiful story. I wasn’t that familiar with her work, but I definitely wanted to read the source material. Working with Rachel, she gave us some pop culture references since the world of The Anthem is very action and adventure driven. We talked about some Bruce Willis, Die Hard moments that I could reference in order to get my bad ass on. Rachel is great about really supplying us with material to reference. So, reading the book, watching some movies and some of Gary’s science fiction stuff kind of put me in the world of the show.

Pop Culture Principle – You are currently in the middle of rehearsals for The Anthem? How are you enjoying that experience?

Jason Gotay – Rehearsals are amazing! I have never been a part of a process like this. I’ve done a lot of new work, but The Anthem is so new and fresh off the page. It’s the first production of The Anthem that has ever happened anywhere, so it’s been a huge challenge and a joy for us to find the show. It has changed dramatically from the first day to where we are now. We start performances in a few days and of course we are much closer to where we would like to be. Being a part of the process building a show from the ground up has been very exciting. A lot of things have changed and it’s been really cool to be working with the creative team on editing as we go.

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Pop Culture Principle – The musical has been described as "'Hunger Games' meets Ayn Rand in a far off future world. Would you agree with that?

Jason Gotay – I would definitely agree with that and I think anyone who comes to the show will be able to see why we are kind of pitching it that way. It’s a crazy, futuristic world. There is action, adventure, war and a lot of it takes place in a forest. So, in that way, I definitely see the Hunger Games parallel which I think is really exciting because that is so popular right now; that kind of adventure, science fiction, suspense, survival of the fittest theme is really at the forefront of our society and the arts, so it’s really cool to do a show that focuses on things like that.

Pop Culture Principle – When you are getting into character for a performance, do you have a particular process for each role or is it the same process every time?

Jason Gotay – It’s definitely different for everything that I work on because a lot of my process is determined by the people that I am working with. What we do is such a collaborative art form that I don’t think it’s possible to have a single process or approach for any number of projects you will do. Different directors work differently and a lot of my work depends on the other actors that I am working with, so it definitely changes. For me, the most exciting thing is seeing what other people bring to the table and being able to brainstorm and collaborate with other artists; that’s kind of where the magic happens. So, the process is very different for me depending on what I am working on.

Pop Culture Principle – The musical features an expansive aerial and circus environment, how involved were you with that aspect of the show?

Jason Gotay – My aerial experience is extremely limited, so I leave that to the pros. I am pretty much on the ground the entire time, but there are a few moments where I climb things or swing on a couple of ropes. I have to say that the aerialists we are working with in the show are just incredible and what they are able to do is just astounding. What’s so exciting about our show in particular is that because we are in a smaller, more intimate theater, a lot of these aerial stunts are happening right in front of you. It’s not a Cirque du Soleil show in a huge theater or at Radio City Music Hall where you are watching it from far away. You are really in the action here and it just adds to the excitement of the show.

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Pop Culture Principle – What can everyone expect when they come to see The Anthem?

Jason Gotay – I hate to say it because it sounds so cliché, but you can really expect a little bit of everything and I really mean that. It is a big splashy musical comedy, but you can also expect some really beautiful storytelling. You can expect a little bit of drama, a lot of comedy, some incredible singing, amazing dancing and aerial circus stunts. This show really runs the gamut from A to Z, so I think anyone will be able to find something to enjoy in the show. It’s visually spectacular and we are telling a really interesting, thought provoking story, so I think there is something for everyone. Whatever you think you are expecting, just be ready because it’s a wild ride!

Pop Culture Principle – Do you still get butterflies when you walk out on stage?

Jason Gotay – That’s a great question. I think it depends on what I am doing. There are certain shows that I do that I feel are really in my comfort zone where I feel really at home and other shows that really push me and challenge me and in those moments, I definitely feel the nerves come back a little bit. When I worked on Spiderman, it was such a huge undertaking that I definitely felt nervous and a little bit terrified quite honestly the first time I did the show in front of an audience. I don’t know how I will feel at our first performance. I think that I do a lot in the show and I am a little nervous about making sure that everything comes together on my end and everyone else’s end, but I really trust the people that I am working with on this show, so I am not too nervous about this one.

Pop Culture Principle – What keeps you inspired and keeps the light burning for the work you do?

Jason Gotay – That’s a great question. There are two things that really keep me inspired. The first is seeing other shows which is really interesting for actors. Some actors like to see a lot of theater and some actors prefer not to see any at all. For me, seeing other amazing work really inspires me and inspires me to be better. There are times I walk out of a Broadway play or musical having seen an amazing performance and it will just raise the bar for me. It will just make me that more excited to get started on my next project because I also want to produce great work.

Second, I do some theater and musical theater teaching on the side at a community theater in Brooklyn where I am from. Working with those guys really inspires me and really brings back my love for what I do. Watching them learn on their feet and explore how to do this, seeing their excitement and passion for it really reignites the fire. So, having those two things in my life really keeps me going for sure.

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Pop Culture Principle – Any advice for young artists looking to hit the Broadway stage?

Jason Gotay – These are great questions! First, keep performing anywhere and everywhere that you can. Take advantage of all the opportunities you can, especially when you are younger because I think getting up on stage and doing it will make you more comfortable with performing and make you more comfortable with yourself and having that hands on experience is really important.

I would also say trust yourself and trust what makes you unique or special. I think this industry spends a lot of time forcing people to fit into certain boxes or categorizing people and we are seeing a really exciting change in the last five to ten years. Musical theater in particular is embracing different types of people, different singers and different artists. I also think it’s important to really take hold of what makes you different or special and once you identify what that is then hold on to it; it can really help set you apart.

Pop Culture Principle – Any other upcoming projects you can tell us about?

Jason Gotay – Right after The Anthem closes, I’ll actually already be in rehearsal for a new musical in the NYMF, the New York Theater Music Festival, which is a huge festival that happens every summer in New York City that produces a bunch of new musicals, readings and workshops of new musicals. A dear friend of mine Allen Oyen has asked me to take part in his new musical called A Night Like This. It’s a musical about three best friends who confront each other after a long absence. They haven’t spoken in four years and they reunite on the night of a good friend’s funeral. That’s a brand new musical that will also be getting its first production in July and I will be diving right into that after The Anthem.

For more information about The Anthem and where you can buy tickets, visit their official website The Anthem Musical.
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