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Guest Blogger: Introducing Melia Person, A Noise Within’s Marketing Intern

By A Noise Within
October 12, 2023

Hello theatre lovers! My name is Melia Person, the marketing intern here at A Noise Within and I’m absolutely thrilled to be the guest blogger this month. When I embarked on this internship journey through the Los Angeles County Arts and Culture program, the inner workings of repertory theatre were a mystery to me. Despite this, my passion for the arts and theatre has always been my North Star.  When I started my internship, The Bluest Eye was in the middle of its run, and I dove in, eagerly devouring the reviews and comments. When I finally saw the performance, I was transported to Lorain, Ohio circa 1940, completely mesmerized by the actor’s performances. Alex Morris’ execution of Soaphead Church left me with goosebumps. He captured every aspect of Soaphead: his intensity, his misanthropic personality, and his God complex—all with astonishing precision. Alex is gracing our stage once again as Peter Quince in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was a joy to interview Alex during rehearsals for Midsummer and I’m thrilled to be able to share some of our conversation in this post.

Meeting Alex Morris 

Alex Morris is an extraordinarily optimistic actor. His vivacious personality, and his dedication to his craft, make him a standout in the theatre world. When I first encountered him moments before a rehearsal for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, his response to the simple question, “How are you doing today?” was atypical. With sincerity, he boomed, “Outstanding!”   It’s a rare response in a world full of “ok” and “fine,” but for Alex, it reflects his deep passion for acting. “Honey, I have the greatest job in the world,” he tells me, his voice just a few octaves below a stage whisper.

Alex Morris in The Bluest Eye. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Lifetime in the Theatre 

Hailing from Chicago, Alex Morris left a lasting effect on stage and screen. On the A Noise Within stage he has performed in the critically acclaimed plays Gem of the Ocean, Radio Golf, The Book of Will and most recently The Bluest Eye. Morris embarked on his incredible journey over three decades ago, in one of the original productions of the “Chitlin’ Circuit” classic, The Diary of Black Men. His dedication to the craft led him to become an integral member of the Ensemble Theatre in Houston, Texas, the largest and oldest African American theatre company in the American Southwest. Later, he would become the first African American company member of the iconic Alley Theatre. Throughout his spectacular career, Morris has brought life to roles in over 60 stage productions and over 40 on screen roles including recurring roles on Malcom in the Middle, City Guys, and Baskets. In recognition of his impressive contributions to the world of theatre, Morris has earned the prestigious NAACP Image Award four times and has been a recipient of an Ovation Award, cementing his legacy as an icon in the industry.

Embracing Characters Shrouded in Complexity 

Soaphead Church nee Elihue Micah Whitcomb, a man who throughout his life felt a greater affection for things than people, openly admits to finding humanity utterly repulsive. Soaphead is the town’s “reader, advisor and interpreter of dreams.” He takes pity on a pregnant, downtrodden Pecola, barely even an adolescent, and he agrees to “grant” her desperate wish for blue eyes—though the requirements to complete the “miracle” were notably sinister. When Pecola’s wish is fulfilled Soaphead begins to feel— perhaps an undue—sense of superiority to God himself. Unfortunately, Soaphead’s actions lead directly to Pecola’s downfall.

Time-Honored Shakespeare 

In contrast to his dramatic roles, Alex goes through a remarkable, comedic transformation into a blundering but amiable carpenter, Peter Quince, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Peter Quince harbors an ambitious hope of performing a play for Theseus and Hippolyta’s wedding celebration. Quince’s storytelling, acting, and directing skills are clumsy, he maintains his easy-going affable nature. But there might be more to this character! Some have suggested that Peter Quince is a somewhat autobiographical portrayal of Shakespeare himself. Known for his hasty playwriting, and taking on minor acting roles, Shakespeare may have drawn inspiration from his own life in developing the character of Peter Quince.

Alex Morris with the cast of The Book of Will. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

The Business of Being About the Business 

The Bluest Eye delved into serious and complex issues, while A Midsummer Night’s Dream concocts a world of mischievous antics, and the roles Alex took on in these plays might even be considered polar opposites. When I spoke to Alex about these differences, he noted that The Bluest Eye was the hardest work he’d ever done on stage, while A Midsummer Night’s Dream is among the most enjoyable. However, his approach to both plays remains the same: “It is about the business of being about the business.” To him this means taking the time to learn and trying to become part of the overall company. Flexibility is key. He explains, “I wanted to be flexible and open to whatever my cast was doing around me so I could fit in I wanted to catch up rather than them having to drop back and get to me.” More than anything, he approaches each day with the goal of having more fun.

The chasm between Soaphead Church and Peter Quince is vast, but it is through Alex Morris’ formidability that we get to know and enjoy both characters equally. While Soaphead Church is an intense figure who looms large over the play, Peter Quince is a lighthearted character, who packs a punch in his brief appearances on stage. Whether in contemporary or classic, drama or comedy Alex’s talent shines through. If you enjoyed his portrayal of Soaphead Church, get ready to laugh with Peter Quince and the rest of our incredible cast.  As Alex aptly puts it, “You ought to see the stuff we’re doing, it’s just wonderfully fun.”  

What I Learned 

To me, Alex Morris represents everything good about theatre. His passion and fervor extend well beyond the stage. More importantly, Alex approaches everything with an open heart and open mind, which makes him not only an incredible actor but an incredible person. It’s been a pleasure to be a member of the A Noise Within team, and I’m so excited for the opportunity to learn more about the inner workings of repertory theatre and grow as a marketing professional. Opening night for A Midsummer Night’s Dream is Saturday, October 14, 2023.

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