My name is Gregory Pember and I am playing Jared in Annie Baker’s Body Awareness at SpeakEasy Stage Company. This is my first play at SpeakEasy and after graduating from The Boston Conservatory this past May, I am very happy to be back in this great city. Body Awareness takes place in Shirley, VT, a fictitious town in New England and much like Boston, it is very far from where I was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia. New England differs greatly from the Pacific Northwest (Vancouver is on the Pacific Ocean, about three hours north of Seattle). Founded in 1886, Vancouver cannot compare with the rich, vibrant history of New England that dates back to the early 17th Century. This was a huge culture shock for me when I originally moved to Boston, as the dorm building in which I was living in was in fact older than my country! Finding Jared’s place in the town of Shirley, VT will be an ongoing challenge as we continue rehearsals.
Rehearsals have been very productive and exciting and I could not be working with a better cast and production staff. There are some definite challenges that come with developing and rehearsing the role of Jared, a 21-year-old who most likely has Aspergers Syndrome. Aspergers Syndrome (AS) is on the Autism spectrum meaning that people with AS can potentially land anywhere between fully Autistic and having almost no Autistic symptoms whatsoever. Every AS case is completely different and the symptoms can vary quite drastically from person to person. In Jared’s case, he definitely displays many of the typical AS symptoms including a need for routine and structure, ritualistic behavior, a lack of social prowess and an obsessive, single-minded focus on one specific subject of interest, which, in Jared’s case, is his autodidactic knowledge of etymology (the origins and histories of words). So far, I have found that the biggest challenge with developing the character of Jared has been finding a balance between being completely in the moment and truthful to the scene/situation at hand whilst playing with the fact that he does not pick up on social cues as well as you or I would. How much do you play into the fact that he can understand what is happening in a scene, but does not have the necessary tools to communicate and respond to situations in a “normal” or “socially acceptable” manner? I personally believe that the frustration felt by people with AS would be constantly overwhelming as one of the symptoms is an inability to comprehend or see other perspectives. Thus, when other people do not see eye to eye with Jared he physically cannot understand why those people do not think the way he does, or see things the way he sees them. I am very excited to be venturing further into the rehearsal process and I look forward to continually working on bringing Jared to life and really figuring out his journey within this great play.
More to come!
Gregory Pember (Jared) is thrilled and honored to be making his SpeakEasy debut. A native of Vancouver, British Columbia, Gregory recently graduated from The Boston Conservatory with a BFA in Musical Theatre. At TBC, Gregory played such roles as Romeo (Romeo & Juliet), Young Ben (Follies), John Wilkes Booth (Assassins) and Mark (Rent, the latter under the direction of Paul Daigneault. Other professional credits include Rolf (The Sound of Music), Will Parker (Oklahoma!), Man 1 (I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change) and Jack (Into the Woods). Thanks to Mom, Dad and Bob for their unconditional love and support, and to Paul Daigneault for his guidance and this amazing opportunity.