nytheatre.com q&a preview by Stephen Dexter
September 17, 2012
What is your job on this show?
I'm an actor. I play Adam. Thank you..
When did you know you wanted to work in the theater, and why?
Preschool. Yep. I was about 4 or 5 and my class was performing a production of 'Ghostbusters' (abridged) in the banquet hall of St. Vincent's Parochial for the 1st & 2nd graders. We'd rehearsed for a couple of weeks, had a 'script', had 'blocking', had 'costumes, & had 'props'. I was playing the coveted role of Dr. Peter Venkman. I remember feeling bored and restless for most of the play. And then in a pivotal and emotionally-charged scene in which an evil spectre was being 'pulled' into our giant cardboard U-Haul 'Trap' after being blasted by our Positron Gliders, the action kind of came to a standstill because the kid couldn't get all the way into the box (as was rehearsed). He was basically just bending over it making guttural noises with just his head inside. The audience seemed confused and unsatisfied so I just went completely off 'script' and blurted out, 'Ya getting sucked into a trap or are ya bobbing for apples?' The audience just erupted in laughter! I'd never heard anything like it! They were so happy & I was so happy that I'd made them happy. So I continued to 'improvise'. I got the rest of the squad to just throw away the 'script' and just wing it. And it was amazing...the crowd was feeding us, we were responding and just letting that momentum shape and carry the story...what few cohesive elements there were at that point. But we were sharing something together...experiencing something together. It was a give and take between the audience & the cast as much as it was between the cast and the cast. Certain details from that day escape me, obviously, and I've filled in the blanks in certain areas (I do remember what the scene was and what I said that set off the audience though) but one thing was, & still is, crystal clear to me; I've never experienced this kind of thrill before. I was only 4 or 5 but I'd done something that was better than 50 birthdays, 30 Christmases, and 6 Halloweens COMBINED! And that is STILL the case. The sensation has only been enriched and grown more palpable as I've learned more, done more, and challenged myself more as I've progressed. To first share your life with a character, to open up to them so they will open up to you, to rise to meet them, then to share their/your struggle with an audience through the story...to be there and live with them, right in front of them...to reveal, to entertain, to enlighten, to embolden, but above all to change them...live, on stage, without stopping, without letting up...Well shit, there's just no greater pleasure on Earth in my opinion.
Why do you do theater (as opposed to film, or TV, or something not in the entertainment field)?
I guess I kind of answered this question already in my previous rambling reply. But just to nutshell it, there is nothing that can compare to the raw & almost celestial experience of live theatre. That high of being given great plays, by great writers, experienced and told through great characters. I love doing film and get a different, but equally fulfilling, experience from it...but the energy and electricity of being on stage in front of an audience is simply incomparable.
Why did you want to write/direct/produce/act in/work on this show?
I wanted/needed to act in this show because it is the story of not just one man but of an entire population of people that had so so much for so so long and then had it almost instantaneously taken away from them. Such a tale on such a scale seems like fiction but, as with so many of our greatest and most tragic narratives, it is based on ACTUAL events. The terrible ordeal of The Great Depression effected everyone in this country and indeed, to certain extents, the rest of the world. I needed to be a part of this. I needed to help revive this dramatic historical account of human suffering and perseverance in the face of insurmountable hardships not only because it has not been done by anyone since the Group Theatre over 80 years ago, but because it seems that history has recently repeated itself. Now, in the wake of an election in which employment and the economy of two of the biggest issues, is when audiences need to know, need to see, need to feel what it's like for those who lost everything and had nowhere to turn for help so that maybe THIS time we will learn from our mistakes.
People who like which of the following recent Broadway shows would also probably like your show: THE BOOK OF MORMON, ONCE, DEATH OF A SALESMAN, CLYBOURNE PARK?
Death Of A Salesman. They both deal with epic struggles, with pride, with self-delusion, with accepting one's failings, and, ultimately, with redemption.
If you had ten million dollars that you had to spend on theatrical endeavors, how would you use the money?
I would invest all the money in the educational institutions that gave, and continue to give, me so much. The drama & english programs at my public high school in Naugatuck, CT, the theatre & film departments of the state university I attended, and the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. There's absolutely no reason that these programs should ever have to suffer, as they often do, because of a lack of monetary resources. Art education is too fucking important.