By Kaitlin Phelan (Dramaturg for Flora, The Red Menace)
My name is Kaitlin Phelan and I am the Dramaturg for Flora, The Red Menace. Recently, I was able to chat with actress Ariana George, playing spunky fashion illustrator Flora Meszaros, about what the rehearsal process was like and why you should come see the show!
KP: What has become one of your favorite moments of working on this show?
AG: Getting to know the amazing cast and crew has really helped me grow as a person and a performer. I have especially enjoyed the freedom that our incredible director, Larry Sousa, has given us to explore the show and its themes. He was always willing to listen and helped flesh out the discoveries I made in the rehearsal process. A specific example of this is when we were discussing the meaning behind the apples that were constantly appearing in the show. Patrick Agonito, who plays Harry, and I were in rehearsal blocking the musical number “Not Every Day of the Week”. It is an endearing moment in the show where Flora and Harry are just getting to know each other. In previous revivals of the show, it was commonly choreographed as a dance number. Through further discussions with Larry, however, we recognized how premature an intimate dance number between the two characters would be given the early stages of their relationship, and began to play around with the object of apples in regards to their budding relationship instead. The parallels we discovered between the reoccuring apples and their relationship resulted in the number becoming more playful and flirty, as the couple gradually begins to discover their affections for one another. It is when Harry gives Flora the last apple of the show that the audience is left to wonder whether or not Flora is willing to face reality.
KP: What qualities/character traits to do admire most about your character, Flora?
AG: Flora is a go-getter, there’s no doubt about that. Living in New York during The Great Depression and searching for work as a fashion illustrator is no easy feat. I admire that even though everything in her environment is simply telling her to do whatever it takes to survive, she continues to follow her passion. When she sees something that she wants, she doesn’t allow herself to be deterred. Flora also embraces her individuality; she comes to understand what makes her who she is and what she truly values in her life. She puts everything she has on the line because she believes in what’s right. Flora’s journey shows us that we don’t have to change who we truly are to become the best version of ourselves.
KP: Why do you think this show is relevant today?
AG: I didn’t quite realize how relevant the message of Flora, The Red Menace was until during the table read after the first week of rehearsals. In the number “The Joke”, Harry and the rest of the cast call the citizens of New York to go on strike. While the show speaks to the terrors of The Great Depression, it also mirrors so much of what’s going on in our world today. There are over half a million people in America without homes and many more who are struggling to make ends meet. The show strives to tell us that we must love and care for one another, yet not compromise our morals in order to do so. The solution isn’t always the most obvious answer: it’s found in self-sacrifice, love, and a willingness to look out for one another.
Flora the Red Menace runs from October 31 to November 3. Tickets are $12 to the general public and $8 with an Emerson ID at bit.ly/flora-the-red-menace. We hope to see you there!