Doorstep Arts’ production of Dogfight opens at Chapel Off Chapel this evening. We were fortunate enough to catch up with Alex Woodward, who is gearing up to play Eddie Birdlace, to chat all about his journey and this heartfelt production.
How did you first develop an interest in theatre?
Funnily, it’s kind of weird. When I was younger I was playing in bands and stuff, loving live music and I always thought music theatre was a bit passé. A bit cheesy, bit lame. Then I went to visit my brother who was living in London and my Mum and Dad took me to see a show on the West End, and it’s a cheesy show but we went and saw Wicked. It was the first time I had seen a show and I was like, ‘wow this is amazing!’ The production value was fantastic, the cast were flawless, there just wasn’t a thing out of place. It was all just super incredible and I remember coming back from that trip going, ‘wow, I would love to explore that’ because I had always loved acting and I had a real passion for music. So I moved to Melbourne and did this little part-time course for three months, and from there I kind of fluked my way into a show called Spring Awakening with Sydney Theatre Company after like no training. It was the first show I had ever done and I’d somehow managed to get into a professional show which was pretty crazy. It’s funny because I met Olivia who is playing Rose [in Dogfight] there. After that show, I had always kept playing music on the side and my band had been signed so I took three years off to pursue that. But I just really missed acting and singing and stories so I went and did the Bachelor of Music Theatre at the Conservatorium in Brisbane and from there I just found a real passion for acting and telling important stories again.
What was your experience at the Conservatorium like?
I suppose for me, because I am a bit older, the first year was really, really hard. I had to learn a lot about myself. It was hard for me on a personal level because I was 24, 25 and everyone else was 18 or 19. But then second year, once we started doing shows, it was really incredible, and third year, we were working with all these amazing people and everyone had honed their talent and craft so much. It didn’t feel like a university by third year, it felt like this really professional experience and I’m so lucky. I had such good roles in every production and such fantastic teachers. It’s a very professional course and I got a lot out of it.
Tell us about you came to be in this production of Dogfight.
This show I have always loved. I love the music of Pasek and Paul, they are some of my favourite contemporary music theatre writers. So, when the opportunity came up to do it I was like, I just gotta. I auditioned and boom, happy days. Here I am.
Can you tell us about your character Eddie?
Eddie is a very complex character because he’s this guy who’s come from a broken home. His father’s left and he’s come to join the army to make something of himself, to create family and to create brotherhood, things he didn’t have as a kid. And, it’s about the idea that when they joined the Marines they were promised all this stuff and that they’d come back as heroes, but with Vietnam they came back and it wasn’t like that. They were disrespected, spat on and they had no idea what was going to go on before they left. They end up having the Dogfight and that’s a real turning point for him. The story isn’t necessarily about the Dogfight but people changing each other in unexpected circumstances.
What do you think audiences will take from this production at Chapel Off Chapel?
I think the book has been so well written, it’s a great script. The music is fantastic. I love hearing groups of guys sing in harmony, it just sounds so awesome. I think [audiences] are going to walk away with a real experience and an idea of what it was like for these guys coming back from Vietnam. I think people will walk away feeling a bit confronted. Even though the show is called Dogfight, it’s built on that premise the strongest characters in the show are the women, like Rose. Even though she is shy and awkward, she is the only person who stands up to Eddie. She preaches what she believes in. I think people will question things about Vietnam and hopefully want to learn more about it. It’s exciting, fun, serious and moving.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
I need time for me. I need a moment to connect with my scene partner, so in this show that’s Olivia, who is such a beautiful actress and it’s so great to get to do another show with her. I usually like to put my earphones in and listen to some music, something that helps me focus. I like to use images as well, so I have a lot of photos from my own personal life that I’ve kind of related to characters. So I’ll look at them, listen to music and just take time to be in my space.
Do you have any dream roles?
Dream roles, well there are shows I’d love to be in. I’d love to be in Jersey Boys. It’s so god damn good. It’s super cliché but I’d love to be in Hamilton. I’d love to do Book of Mormon, Rent and Hair. I’d love to do any good contemporary modern musicals that tell real stories. Good stories.
You can keep up with Alex by following Instagram @alexwoodward or by checking out his website http://www.mralexwoodward.com
Dogfight plays at Chapel Off Chapel from the 5th to the 15th of May. For further details head to http://www.chapeloffchapel.com.au
Images: Jenna Ramondo
Written by Jackie Turner