Guest artists Caitlin Mesiano plays Kate McGowan, a third-class passenger with plans, and Patrick Dunn plays Frederick Barrett, a ship stoker, in Titanic, the winner of five Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Score, on stage March 14–16 at Rodeheaver Auditorium.
Krystal Allweil (BJUtoday): Hi, everyone. Today we’re on the set of Titanic and I have with me Caitlin Mesiano and Patrick Dunn, who are playing Kate McGowan and Fred Barrett in Titanic. You’ve both been here before and performed in Little Women in which you played Jo March and Laurie, and what is it like performing in other venues and then coming here and performing at Bob Jones?
Caitlin Mesiano: I played Jo March, a famous literary character from everybody’s favorite Little Women, that was made into a musical and it was pretty historic for Bob Jones; I believe it was the first time there was a musical done in this guest artist slot. So that was pretty special. No pressure making history. It was a really wonderful experience. Dr. Lawson was a wonderful leader and welcomed us with open arms. Getting to work with the students is a really unique experience. After touring and working regionally in a professional setting, it’s nice to kind of get back to the basics and work together as a team and help each other figure this out and make the art happen.
Patrick Dunn: In general, it’s as close as you can get to working in a professional environment. This is a professional environment. When we came in, we weren’t really sure what we were getting into because we didn’t know anything about it. We were kind of breaking ground as well as Dr. Lawson and the students doing a musical. So, when we got here we were pleasantly surprised with the level that everyone was bringing to the table. As far as even the space, the backstage crew, the sets and the quality of the orchestra it was as professional a production as you could find almost anywhere that we’ve worked before. So getting the see the students’ fire and their passion, and then the teaming with Dr. Lawson and the entire faculty and staff was incredible to come in and have everybody on the same team. Because coming from New York City, it’s such a cutthroat environment and there is such competition just to work that here it was this lovely, nurturing and obviously educational environment that we were so excited to be a part of. And then, when Dr. Lawson asked us to come back and he said they were doing Titanic, both Caitlin and I told him we’re clearing our schedules, let us know when it’s going to be, we’re going to be there. We have to be there.
Allweil: We’re excited to have you come back. What are your favorite parts; you kind of touch on them, but what are your favorite parts about being back at Bob Jones?
Mesiano: Really, the collaboration with the students. I remember being in school and studying theater and just wanting so much to work with people who were in the industry and learning so much just from watching them. But I’m learning a lot from the students, too. It takes me back, like I said, back to the basics and just making sure I’m on my game, so that I can be a good example for them.
Dunn: I think the biggest thing for me is coming in back to Bob Jones is what Dr. Lawson really focuses on is the process and not the product, which is a really big difference from in a New York City rehearsal setting. The show I’m doing now I finished rehearsing in three days. That was it because it costs a lot of money to rehearse. And here, what the students get to focus on is the process rather than worry about the product because if you focus on the process the product will come. So, as we’re plugging through the show we just did a third last night, we’re going to do a third tonight and then another third tomorrow and be ready to start running and then finessing and working, and the students have put it into such good shape already that they can really fine-tune a lot of the smaller moments, especially the bigger moments, and tell the story.
Allweil: So, you are playing Fred, a fireman, a stoker, on Titanic.
Dunn: I’m stoked. I’ve been saving that for years.
Allweil: Can you tell us a little about your character?
Dunn: Yeah, he’s great. Frederick Barrett, he reminds me of myself; it’s not too much of a stretch. He’s kind of this angsty, fiery Irishman who has dreams of grandeur and a better life and providing for his new fiancee and has a real soft spot for romance. So he has this kind of bigger tune where you see the harsh side of him and the tougher side where he’s gritty and sweaty and dirty and later on in the play you’ll see him literally serenade a photo of his fiancee who’s back in England that he needs to get back to. And, obviously, he may or may not have a bit of a tough time getting back to her, unfortunately.
Allweil: And you’re playing Kate McGowan. Can you tell us a little about that role?
Mesiano: Sure. She’s an Irish immigrant. She is a woman with a plan. Like a lot of the immigrants that were on the Titanic and making their way to America, she has dreams and aspirations of what she can become and leaving behind her old life in Ireland and just looking for a fresh start. And she has her sights set on someone she meets on the ship. It’s not this guy. Not this time. So some romance comes her way and I think that that relationship is actually pretty high stakes as a woman coming by herself to America looking for a fresh start it was going to be pretty necessary in her situation to meet a man that could help provide for her here.
Allweil: Before we started filming, did I hear you have personal ties to this story?
Mesiano: I do a bit. I had some relatives on my mother’s side—I’m Irish, obviously—I don’t think you could tell. I’m Irish and I had some relatives on my mother’s side who emigrated to America as young girls and they came here with a similar hope to start fresh and have some opportunities as opposed to none.
Allweil: That’s really neat; a little personal connection with your character. That’s really cool. So, can we expect to laugh during Titanic or maybe cry or maybe both?
Dunn: I think you can buckle up and be prepared to run the gamut of emotions. Dr. Lawson has crafted, as you can see just by the set alone, the massive scope of the entire production and the students themselves and the faculty that are also involved. It’s got just about everything in there and a grand score that Dr. Moore has the orchestra already well in tune with that they get to keep working on for another two weeks as well before we get some audiences in here. So, bring a box of tissues. If we do our job right, you’ll need it.
Allweil: Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today. And thank you everyone for watching. Be sure to check out our other articles about the BJU production of Titanic.
Dunn: Come see us, please.
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