October 14, 2009.By Zach Curtis, Examiner.
How long have you been working in the Twin Cities? I grew up in West Saint Paul, went to school at Gustavus Adolphus College and have been performing in the Twin Cities since 2001. My first shows were at Theater in the Round, Ten November and She Loves Me.
What might we have just seen you in? I started the year doing The Miracle Worker withTorch Theater, then Passage of Dreams with Theater Latte Da. To date, Passage is my favorite show. Then I did Power Balladz at The Lab, a show I wish everyone could have seen. Most recently I did a weekend run of Chicago in St. Cloud at The Paramount Theatre.
Tell us a bit about your current show and the role you play: The Full Monty is based on the 1997 film. The location has moved from Yorkshire, England to Buffalo, New York. The story is the same, a group of unemployed factory workers decide to strip for some quick cash, promising to go 'the full monty.' The show explores the insecurities of these men as they struggle with unemployment, relationships, family, expenses and the horror of exposing their less than perfect bodies to the public. I play Malcolm MacGregor, a thirty year old ex-factory worker with no friends who still lives with his invalid mother. Early on, we see Malcolm trying to commit suicide, only to be saved by Dave and Jerry (to great comic effect). As the show progresses, Malcolm begins to see he has a place in the world. He now has friends, he's got something to work toward, he discovers a new love interest, and he finds the freedom he so desperately longs for in the beginning of the play. He learns to let go of his insecurities and enjoy the ride.
What drew you to this current production? I'm eager to work on any production with Latte Da. I find their process beneficial to my own growth as a performer. Peter [Rothstein, artistic director] communicates well with the actors. He lays out his vision for the play as a whole, but he isn't rigid. He respects the actors' input and craft. Denise [Prosek, music director] is one of the best, not just musically, but also at keeping the character's intentions at the forefront of the music rehearsals. She and Peter work well as a team and the rehearsals are always fun and inviting. It's a great atmosphere for creativity. As far as the show itself, I think the insecurities of the characters mirror many of my own insecurities. I often deal with unemployment, the fear that no work will come my way, the fear that bills will not be met. Also family issues, trying to be a good loving son/brother/uncle, hoping I am doing enough and constantly feeling like I should be doing more. And, of course, the nudity. Now, I've done nudity once before, in Hair. That was a different experience since the characters were showing their naked bodies to the audience, telling THEM to let go of their hang ups. Those characters were comfortable with their bodies and their sexuality. This is the opposite situation. These characters are humiliated, by their lack of work, their body types, their struggle to find a place in the world. To explore these very real insecurities then to strip fully nude poses a greater challenge, but ultimately a more rewarding one. Here we are, fully exposed emotionally, now it's time to take our clothes off and really let go. I look forward to tackling those challenges each night on stage, perhaps learn something about my own insecurities. I just hope I remember all the dance steps!
What has been your favorite rehearsal moment so far? Well, the funniest moment has to be the day the men stood in the green room and practiced taking off our velcro g-strings in one motion (not as easy as it looks). But my favorite moment was teching the final number, "Let It Go". We rehearsed at The Directors Studios in Minneapolis for three weeks and I never felt comfortable with the routine. They thrust us into it. We were stripping the day after we learned the dance number. I'm insecure about my dancing as it is, to add my insecurity about my body on top of that was horrifying. And it was humiliating, to screw up your dance steps and have the rest of the cast watch you, and you're naked. We rehearsed the dance nearly every day after that. Finally, two weeks later, we're on stage, fourth day of tech, and we're all stripping and dancing and having a hell of a time. It was the first time we wore our g-strings without boxers underneath and it was the first time we did all the choreography more-or-less correctly. So there we are, smiling from ear to ear, and I knew exactly how much fun we were going to have performing this show. I need to give credit to Michael Ferrell for the choreography. He's absolutely one of the best in the Cities.
Do you have any sort of pre-show routine? My routine seems to change with every show. I fall into habits based on the show's demands. But in general for any musical I warm up my voice, warm up my body, and focus on my first moment of the play. Then it's just a matter of staying limber and focusing on the next moment on stage. Not much of a routine, but I like the pliability of it. Though on Sundays it's trying not to focus too much on the Vikings game.
What's the weirdest/funniest/most awful thing that's happened to you on stage? Every show has its funny stage moments. I really can't think of anything too awful. Though, if my g-string pops off before we finish the final dance number, I'll get back to you.
What excites you about Twin Cities Theater? What's exciting to me is that there are still so many theaters I haven't worked for that I'd love to be a part of; The Jungle, Mixed Blood, The Guthrie, Ten Thousand Things, Children's Theater, Frank Theater, Pillsbury House and so many more. Just knowing that I've had eight years full of shows to be proud of and that there is so much more to strive for, that's what keeps me excited.
What's up next for you after this show? I just got cast in Corleone with Gremlin Theater, which runs late November into December. Then in February/March I'll be playing Monty, a young soldier, in Violet with Theatre Latte Da at the Guthrie Dowling Studio. I hope my career lasts long enough to someday be playing 'the old soldier.'
The Full Monty opens October 16 and runs through November 8 at the McKnight Theater at the Ordway in downtown Saint Paul. Order tickets online or call 651.224.4222