Blake Price started performing when he realized that becoming a professional athlete might not be the best way to go. He went on to act in his first feature film during his junior year of high school, and is now developing one himself. This winter, Blake is bringing his storytelling savvy to Sarasota in FST’s production of Bright Star.
Blake plays Jimmy Ray, the quick-witted, flirtatious son of the Mayor of Zebulon, North Carolina. He falls in love with Alice Murphy (played by Meredith Jones), a carefree, spirited young woman with a passion for the written word. His father forbids them from being together due to the economic status of Alice’s family. When Alice gets pregnant, Jimmy Ray’s father takes things into his own hands.
We sat down with Blake to discuss the different dimensions of his character, Jimmy Ray, his history of playing romantic leads in musicals, and why Bright Star has a little something for everyone.
Describe your character, Jimmy Ray. How are you two similar? How are you different?
There’s something VERY familiar to me about Jimmy Ray.
He has a familiar brash romanticism about him that I can relate to. Like Jimmy Ray, I come from a Southern background, and we both weave the sarcasm into almost every discussion – even the serious ones! And Jimmy – like me – doesn’t shy away from an intellectual battle. He even invites it with Alice any chance he has.
Meredith Jones and Blake Price in Bright Star. Photo by Matthew Holler.
The story of Bright Star spans about 20 years. How does Jimmy Ray change over that time?
Jimmy Ray is one of the most dynamic characters I’ve ever played because one simple interaction changes the entire course of his life. Jimmy Ray experiences some very tragic – yet relatable – things that he has to work through. He is forced to grow up quickly and he lives up to that challenge, until his world crumbles around him. He’s a man who makes mistakes and has to face the world and his loved ones with humility in order to find his purpose in the world.
What is your favorite song to perform in Bright Star?
“Woah, Mama” is probably my favorite. It’s so high energy and has a rough, rock star gravitas to it that gives Jimmy Ray plenty of confidence (which hopefully makes him even more appealing to Alice and the audience alike). Not to mention, the lyrics are so clever!
You have a very emotional solo, “Heartbreaker.” What are some of the challenges of performing that song?
When the Director, Kate Alexander, and I were working through the song, she gave me a lot of time and support to make discoveries as we went along. When there’s so much emotional growth for a given character in one song, it takes time to balance the character’s emotional reality of the present moment with how it can be most effectively translated for the audience.
It took some time to really set “Heartbreaker.” Even now it’s never exactly the same from performance to performance.
During that song, Jimmy Ray is immensely vulnerable. The father he loves just gave him news that completely shatters his world and purpose in life, which can be traumatic and emotionally damaging. At that moment, he’s feeling so much conflict about following both his head and his heart.
You’re no stranger to romantic leads in musicals—you’ve played Curly in Oklahoma! and Monty Navarro in Gentleman’s Guide. How have those experiences helped prepare you to play Jimmy Ray?
There were a couple times early on when Kate, our Director, gave me notes to not be too much like Billy Bigelow from Carousel – who I’ve also played. Quick witted characters like Jimmy Ray can easily come off as cold or dismissive, so I had to make it very clear how much I enjoy sparring with Alice. Even though many of these character are the “romantic leads” of the show, they’re incredibly well written, so they are multi-dimensional men who struggle with their own manhood and insecurities.
Why should people come and see Bright Star?
Are you a human? Do you love love? Do you have parents? Have you ever been a child or had a child?
Are you a laugher? A crier? A lover?
If you are one or all of these things, Bright Star will pull at your emotional heart strings and remind you how simple and dynamic life can be, especially when it’s at its most fragile.
Bright Star played from November 6, 2019, to January 17, 2020, in FST's Gompertz Theatre.