Broadway Actor & Choreographer Ray Mercer is returning to the Omaha Community Playhouse as the Choreographer for our upcoming production of Ain’t Misbehavin’! We asked Ray a few questions about his experiences on Broadway, his theatre career journey and his creative process.
Q. How did you get started in theatre?
RM. In middle school I would attend summer theater workshops. But I fell in love with theater when I did my first musical, Funny Girl, at OCP.
Q. Can you tell us about the moment you found out you were cast in The Lion King?
RM. That moment change my life forever. I was working as a flight attendant and living in Chicago. I had just flown back from an audition in New York and the first message on my phone was a casting agent saying that I had been cast in The Lion King. My life would be forever changed.
Q. What about The Lion King has kept you there for 17 years?
RM. The Lion King is a special show with very special people. I am grateful to be living within my passion. I am constantly inspired by the magic that the cast and crew brings to the show eight times a week. Inspiration has kept me there so long.
Q. What was your experience like moving from Nebraska to New York? Do you have any advice for aspiring theatre professionals looking to make the big move?
RM. I attended college in New Orleans and spent some time in Chicago before I moved to New York. It was an adjustment getting used to the fast pace of the city, but I instantly fell in love with all that New York had to offer. My advice would be if you are planning to make a career shift to New York, preparation is the key. Have a game plan, make connections and be prepared to stay focused and work hard. The city is very competitive and unforgiving at times.
Q. What is your process like when creating choreography?
RM. My choreographic process varies depending on the task, job or commission. I am constantly driven by the things that connect us all. Any thing that is humanistic–that is usually my starting point. When I find a topic that I am inspired by, I get the dancers or actors in the room and I start to develop movement. I build on that and eventually I will have structured a work.
Q. Who are your biggest influences?
RM. My biggest influence is LIFE. I am constantly influenced by the things that are happening in the world, conversations that I have had, books I’ve read. Everyday life is one of my main influences when creating art
Q. Why should people come see Ain’t Misbehavin’ at OCP?
RM. People should see Ain’t Misbehavin’ because it is a musical treasure. To celebrate Fats Waller’s music is a gift within itself. The show is so full of life. You will laugh, you might cry, but you will be guaranteed to be inspired.