As an actor, every job you do, you make a new family. There is something special about theatre and it’s ability to bring people together in a way that is unlike any other. I have made so many amazing friends throughout my career, and many of them share my love of books and literature. Since theatre brings stories to life, I thought I would feature some of my favorite performers (my fabulous friends and cast mates) and see what their bookshelves look like! Welcome to my Broadway Book Chat!
Currently performing as Curly in Oklahoma at Stages St. Louis!
What shows have you been working on and who do you play?
I was most notably Monty Navarro in the most recent tour of the Broadway show A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which played all over the country from October of 2017 through May of 2018. But I’m currently checking off another dream role off my list at Stages St. Louis, playing Curly in Oklahoma!
What are you currently reading?
I’m going back and forth with And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, but it’s been a very slow go. I really enjoyed his first two books: The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns.
What is your favorite book series?
It’s hard not to say Harry Potter, but in an attempt to be different, I’ll say the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series. I blew through all three books seamlessly, and as I said before I’m usually a really slow reader.
Who is your favorite author?
Most of Khaled Hosseini’s books are some of my favorites. I have a very basic library so JK Rowling is obviously up there. I also love diving into a good memoir or interview-based novel like Judd Apatow’s Sick in the Head. Or revisiting George Orwell’s 1984, which I read in high school. It’s a little too poignant nowadays, so it hits pretty close to home. Home being America and its new obsession with fascism. Let’s just say it didn’t make riding the subway in NYC any less stressful.
What book inspires you and why?
I love a good acting self-help book. The Actor and the Target by Declan Donnellan was a game changer for me. It revamped the way I approached character work and my own process and blocks in all aspects of my work. I highly recommend it for any performer looking for a new outlook and a practical approach to their work. Even more important is the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It’s one of the most inspirational books I’ve ever read. It’s basically an ass kicking thrown into less than 200 pages with an emphasis on overcoming any and every thing that keeps you from achieving your true purpose, as an artist or otherwise. It challenges you and is 100% upfront with you about its strong opinions. Not everything in the book will resonate, it even includes a forward from another author that disagrees with the entire final portion of the book, but the sentiment and practical approach cannot be denied. Read this book if you’re a person with any type of aspiration… Seriously.
Which literary character would you like to play and why?
This could go a million ways. I’ve had feedback from more experienced readers who’ve told me I should play the infamous Dr. H.H. Holmes from Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City. I did play one murderous character based on the 1906 novel Isreal Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal which was then turned into the 2014 Tony Award-winning musical, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. I played Monty Navarro, who comically knocks off 8 of his family members to become the Earl of Highhurst. The book is a dark comedy, but nowhere near as fun and enjoyable as the musical. If you see it playing anywhere near you, buy your tickets immediately.
If you could be friends with any of the characters you have played, who would it be and why?
I played Billy Bigelow a couple years ago, and part of me wishes I could’ve helped him through his problematic relationship with Julie Jordan. It’s a musical with a stigma and a musical that’s disliked because more often than not, it’s done incorrectly. Like bad Shakespeare, it has a way of leaving audiences with a sour taste in their mouths. Sweeny Todd is another gentleman I’d like to be there for. I’d rather avoid murderous and violent folks, but growing up in the emasculating sports world, I’ve had experience helping gents get in touch with their sensitive sides. It’s okay to be a man (straight or not) and enjoy singing, dancing, dressing nice, watching musicals, shopping, embracing love from both women AND men.
What book would you like to see turned into a musical/movie/play?
Many of the books I’ve read HAVE been made into movies. And self-help books and acting technique books would make for real masturbatory work. Which, I mean, there’s a place for it. But Khaled Hosseini’s second book, A Thousand Splendid Suns, would make for a very poignant film in our current era of #MeToo and #TimesUp. It follows three women and their place in Afghan society. It spans various points in the latter half of the 20th century, but it really exemplifies an immense amount of strength that women in a much more conservative society have to have in order to endure and overcome adversity. It puts out own society in perspective and helped me look at the way I treat the women in my life in various aspects. It’s important that we find ways to take a step back and look at how responsible we are when interacting with the people in our lives.
What book is next on your reading list?
Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. I’ve always been enamored by those classics that I never got to read or had to read when I was “too cool to care”. This is one I’ve always known about but never took the time to sit down with. It’s one of the best stories for retelling the brutal relocation by our own government, stripping any and all tribes of their power and land for no other reason than greed. I’m excited to give this one a hearty read. I’m also apparently into anti-establishment books that also give me anxiety. Go figure.
What is your favorite show you’ve been a part of and why?
Each one has given me the opportunity and tools to grow as a man and an artist. Each one carries a newfound respect for myself and the artists and world around me. A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder taught me that I could do literally anything- because my character was onstage for 95% of the show, singing all sorts of patter and operatic turns with highly energetic physical movement on a schedule that no other Monty who has ever played the role has had to endure. Billy Bigelow in Carousel taught me how to use text that reads one way to be delivered another. Its format is outdated, and I think the intention for the character is lost when the way he’s written is so aggressive. The only way the show works is if the audience inherently roots for him- which means the actor playing him MUST show us his capacity for love in the iconic Bench Scene (“If I Loved You”) and that’s not just singing pretty. Julie has to be seen as an equal and most of the time, she’s bowled over by the actor playing Billy. I also did a play called Canine Mutiny Court-Martial a couple years back in Arrow Rock, MO at the Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre that was one of the worst selling shows they’ve ever had. However; it got the most positive email responses of any they’ve ever put up as well. The cast was beyond stellar. It was an all-male courtroom drama about a naval captain, who may or may not have lost his composure during a storm, and his second in command is forced to commit mutiny to save the ship. I’ve never seen a more efficient dissection of a script than this production with only the two lawyers who stood, and every other character sitting. I was also the youngest in the cast with an entire testimony to carry, and each veteran actor I interacted with treated me as an equal. It was the first time I began to realize that even if I’m standing face to face with the likes of Morgan Freeman, Bernadette Peters, or Daniel Day-Lewis, I should see myself as no less or no more than their equal. In whatever moment that is, as two or three or twenty storytellers on the same stage or screen, we are equals.
I feature a new performer every month! I would love some suggestions for questions you would like to ask, or things you want to know! Leave them in the comments and I will add them to future interviews! Thanks to dear friend Blake for sharing with us! ❤