Meredith Jones is no stranger to FST – she charmed audiences as Patsy Cline in last summer’s production of Always…Patsy Cline and brought down the house in Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves. Jones returns to FST to play Alice Murphy, a steely copy editor, in Edie Brickell and Steve Martin’s Broadway musical Bright Star.
We sat down with Meredith to talk about the dramatic range of emotion her character experiences in the show, the challenges of theatrical storytelling, and why she keeps coming back to FST.
Tell us about your character, Alice Murphy.
I personally look up to Alice Murphy. She comes from humble beginnings, but she never lets stereotypes determine who she is, and she defies all the odds that are against her. Alice is resilient and courageous. She uses her intellect to get what she wants and claim her role in society. She is someone who doesn’t let a past of emotional trauma define her, but instead uses it to fuel her success.
Your character has quite an emotional shift as she moves back and forth between “Older Alice” and “Younger Alice.” How do you prepare yourself for these rapid emotional transitions throughout the show? What stays the same?
The transition from “Older Alice” to “Younger Alice” happens so quickly in this show, particularly at the end of Act 1, when we see Alice go through some emotionally traumatic events. As an actress, it has been one of the most challenging and rewarding things I’ve had to work on, and it never gets any easier with repetition. Finding the core of who Alice is became the most important puzzle piece, because, whether she is young or old, she still has the same soul and “inner essence.” Keeping that through-line while also changing her physicality and voice from old to young has been my focus for the quick transitions.
What is your favorite song to perform in Bright Star and why?
My favorite song to perform is “Way Back in the Day.” In this song, you see Alice go from a 39-year-old woman to a teenage girl. It is subtle at first, and then it propels you into her youth in a really beautiful way. I think Kate (our Director) did a wonderful job of helping me finesse the storytelling of this song, and the music’s swell helps move it forward and inspire beautiful emotion.
Do you have any pre-show rituals that you do before every performance?
I always take a hot shower and do a vocal warm-up. This role is very demanding, particularly to my vocal chords. Due to all of the raw emotion in a lot of the songs, I have to be very careful and treat my voice properly. I drink a lot of water and “Throat Coat” tea. I constantly have some sort of moisturizing lozenge in my mouth before the show to remind me to not talk so much. I’m a chatter box, so I have to remind myself to be quiet before the show!
This is your 4th show at FST. What keeps bringing you back to FST?
FST is a theatre company that puts the true art of theatre first. I love coming back to perform here because no matter the show, everything is taken very seriously and nothing is rushed through. The rehearsal process here is fantastic and every director I’ve worked with has been wonderful. I feel like a key part of the process, not a cog in a machine and it’s wonderful!
Bright Star was held over twice and ran from November 6, 2019, to January 17, 2020 in FST’s Gompertz Theatre.