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Fifty Million Frenchmen

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Mark J. Dempsey
October 16, 2012

What is your job on this show?
Actor.

What type of theater do you like most to work on?
While I like, pretty much, all theatre, I enjoy performing plays where the language is stylized or heightened. Acting as Shakespeare's Richard III or as Shaw's Don Juan Tenorio (Monster!), or as Frank O'Hara's John... well, Wow! I get a chance to say delicious words. I get a chance to experience how they sound next to one another and experience every interval between every syllable. Cole Porter requires a literal oral dexterity! "We are now in a theater called the Moulin Rouge, an old Parisean Pet, where the men that girls remember meet the girls that men forget..." and so on. Music and verbosity are linked in my soul. Often having difficulty finding my own words, I count myself lucky to be able to work in the theater and to be able to defer to great authors, while communicating the intimate numan experience.

Why do you do theater (as opposed to film, or TV, or something not in the entertainment field)?
I love the audience. I love the liveliness of the audience. Being witnessed satisfies a very deep seated need. Those times when I am at one with the audience (dare I say MY! audience) are truly sublime. Comedic timing is not learned, but felt, heard, smelt. I like doing a show night after night and although the ritual is basically the same, each night contains new discoveries. I like being able to tell an uninterrupted story.

What was the most memorable/funny/unusual thing that has happened during the development and rehearsal process for this show?
The show is called Fifty Million Frenchmen. I get to play many different parts in this show (all of them french!) and at one point I get to play a cab driver for Peter and LooLoo - the young lovers in the show. So I came on with my cab prop and the two lovers got in and they began to sing "You do Something to Me". And I realized how extraoridnarily intimate being in love is and how one goes about the day doing their work and around any corner, Love might be. But you have to be able to sense it. I rediscovered, as I have been doing again and again in the past few years, that giving stage is the most extraordinary fulfilling act there is. And to do so in the service of Love is everything this love child was meant to be! Woo Hoo!

Which “S” word best describes your show: SMOOTH, SEXY, SMART, SURPRISING?
SURPRISING!

How important is diversity to you in the theater you see/make?
I've been working with Medicine Show for 23 years. I've loved that Barbara (our director) has always felt free to cast in any way she pleased. Men for women, black for white, old for young etc. When I go to the theater I very quickly come to terms with what I think I am seeing. The best theatrical experiences are when my mind is blown, when my ideas - my big wonderful ideas! are shown up to be only part of a greater picture I hadn't been able to imagine before. Diversity is essential to better imaginings!