'Somewhere'

Priscilla Lopez and Michael Rosen in 'Somewhere' at Hartford Stage. (Mark Kitaoka / March 31, 2014)

She did get into the famous institution that would later be known as the "Fame" school, based on the popular 1980s film. Just out of school, she was cast in a series of musical flops —- "Breakfast at Tiffanys," "Henry Sweet Henry," "Her First Roman" — before landing understudy and replacement roles in "Company" and "Pippin." But it was "A Chorus Line" — her character was based on transcripts of her own story which director Michael Bennett gathered from dance "gypsies" — that placed her into the spotlight.

Working Together

"I had my aunt in my mind for the role of the mother," says Matthew Lopez. "I sure as hell wasn't going to give anyone else that part. It was also a great excuse to look for a way to write something for her. Everyone should, really."

"It's been a joy to do," says Priscilla Lopez, whose credits also include Broadway's "Anna in the Tropics" and "In the Heights" and a long list of film and TV roles. "We have been further developing and changing the play [since its premiere] and it's rewarding to feel you're part of the process of its creation."

"Just short of royalties," her nephew jokes.

"Working with him is so easy," she says. "We have our moments but he is the writer and I like to honor everyone's position of what they do."

"When we are in the room together we are professionals," he says, "and I treat her no differently than I would anyone else and she treats me with the respect that she would with any other playwright and that's how it should be."

Aunt Priscilla continued, "It makes me really proud how articulate and smart he is and that I can witness it up close."

Her nephew added, "She is a wicked comedienne and one of the funniest women working in theater. She can cast a spell over an audience."

She certainly cast a spell over him when he was a boy.

"I don't think my parents knew what they were letting themselves into when they took me to see her in ["Hollywood/Ukraine"]."

From that moment on he saw his aunt " -- as a god," he interjects. Returning to Florida, he began performing in all sorts of shows. "My first time on stage was as Michael Darling in 'Peter Pan.' " He later went on to the University of South Florida at Tampa with a degree in theater performance. He went to New York in 2000 to pursue acting, only later to his place somewhere in the theater through writing. Hartford Stage will produce the world premiere of his newest play, "Reverberation," next year.

He says "The Whipping Man," "Somewhere" and ":reverberation" "are all about healing after some kind of upheaval, where home represents safety in a hostile world" and characters "attempt to build or maintain order in the face of chaos. All three plays are about how the world is dangerous place and how home acts as a safe place."

With the lunch and interview over, nephew and aunt start to make their way back to the safe place of the rehearsal hall.

But one more question: If seeing his aunt in "Hollywood/Ukraine" was Lopez' moment of theatrical destiny, what was hers?

"When I was eight I went to see the movie of 'The King and I' and it was magical," she says. "The Technicolor, and [Yul Brynner] is gorgeous and oh my god that purple satin dress and — well, just everything about it. Oh, I just wanted to be a part of that wonderful world.''

"Jerome Robbins," says Matthew, remembering who the choreographer for the movie.

"Oh my god. You're right. It was Robbins."

Click! Destiny set.

"SOMEWHERE'' is now in previews and opens Wednesday, April 9, at Hartford Stage, 50 Church St., Hartford. Evening performances are Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. There are also 2 p.m. matinees on select Wednesdays and Saturdays. Information at 860-527-5151.

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