Alumnus returns to Pittsburgh to perform

Perry Sherman, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon’s School of Drama, is returning to Pittsburgh as a part of the first national tour of Next to Normal. (credit: Courtesy of Diana Roth) Perry Sherman, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon’s School of Drama, is returning to Pittsburgh as a part of the first national tour of Next to Normal. (credit: Courtesy of Diana Roth)

Dreams can become reality. For Carnegie Mellon alumnus Perry Sherman, his dream as a student was to be on Broadway after graduation. Today, he is living that dream: He is on his second Broadway production, a member of the first national touring company of Next to Normal, which is coming to the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh next week.

Sherman has already returned to Pittsburgh professionally before, during the national tour of Spring Awakening. Sherman commented via e-mail that coming back again to perform Next to Normal will be exciting for him. “I’m really proud of Carnegie Mellon. It gives me a lot of pride to have the company come and see where I trained. And it’s cool because I get to bring my friends in production to my favorite places, like the Mattress Factory, the Andy Warhol Museum, and Venus Pizza.”

“CMU is really great because it teaches you all the things you can’t get out of a professional scenario,” he said. “Teachers are there to help you. [It’s a] safe place. You can mess up, get things wrong, and they’re totally there for you to fall back on.... [Carnegie Mellon was a] great place to fall, figure out who I was and what I wanted to accomplish.”

“I have a lot of love for the teachers,” Sherman continued. “Gerry Kline always made time for me. Don Watsburg, my advisor — I keep his number in my phone and I can call him about everything. He has a great eye on the professional world and the world at school. Barbara McKenzee — who was the last acting professor I had at Carnegie — I will always keep in mind as a great teacher.”

“I saw every production Carnegie did when I was in school. Whether it’s the actors, design’s lights, [or] sound, [there’s] always something inspirational that comes out of every production.”

Sherman recalled his fondest memories at Carnegie Mellon to be “Playground, literally pulling all-nighters to get things ready for that festival and working with everyone else so closely.” Sherman explained that Playground was also “the first time I felt like I had to put on something that didn’t have anything to do with the teachers. [It was] just about us putting it together.”

He got involved in Next to Normal unconventionally. Sherman “went to a bunch of open calls in New York for it, I didn’t have an agent at the time. I am a member of Equity from [my time working on] Spring Awakening, and [so I] have the opportunity to go into open calls for Equity productions. I went into the open call and got a callback two weeks later... I got callbacks over the course of about four weeks.” Sherman also said he “had to keep on beating out for this position... And I think that helped me become so invested [in this production].”

When asked what was the most interesting aspect of being in Next to Normal, Sherman responded, “Probably being in it with Alice Ripley,” who won a 2009 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance as Diana Goodman in the show. “I probably gather more from her than she could even know. I go out and watch the show to see her. She’s a phenomenal actress and wonderful in this role... subtle and terrific.”

A highlight of the musical for Sherman is the music. “One of my favorite songs and themes I really like is ‘Make up Your Mind/Catch Me I’m Falling.’ It’s at the end of act one and kind of like everything is culminating into this one number. A lot of different things are happening at the same time — plot lines interweave and mix during the song.”

In Next to Normal, Sherman is the understudy for two characters, Henry and Gabe. He described Henry as the “sweetheart, very naïve — [he has] no idea of what he is getting himself into when he starts his relationship. Playing him [you have to be] open to whatever the actress playing Natalie gives you. [You have to] be willing to play with her and find the fun onstage. Henry’s the light side of the story. Gabe is much more physical. He represents sex in the show. He is a visceral character. He’s all over the set all the time, running and always doing something.”

To prepare for his roles, Sherman explained that for Gabe, “I have to be loose and make sure I’m ready to do the physicality. For Henry, I can’t be thinking about anything else, I need to be in the moment with Natalie onstage.”

In regards to future plans, Sherman is unsure. “I really enjoy writing and directing, and don’t really know [what I’ll do next]. What makes me happy now is acting. Who knows, in a couple of years I might feel a strong pull to a different area. In the age of YouTube, anything can happen. I could write a script for YouTube that could become really big. [With the] crazy way things travel, [if you’re] talented and have ambition it could really happen. Right now I just do what makes me happy and what fulfills me. Next to Normal really does that. It’s a wonderful story, and I’m proud and excited to be a part of it.”