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Is it true that you grew up on a farm in Ohio?
100% baby. 200+ acres. It was my dad’s family’s farm from generations back. We lived in his grandmother’s house. To be more accurate though, I was raised on a farm in Ohio; I’m still waiting to grow up.
What was your path to a showbiz career?
I just always had the bug, I guess. My mom took me to a local audition for Oliver before I could even read, you know. at like 13 or something… no I guess it was more like 4-5 years old, and she sang the audition song in my ear as other kids were going so that I could memorize it, and BAM! My first role. I was the worlds littlest beggar in Oliver! I also sang in a Barbershop Chorus with my dad from a young age, and just kind of tried to pursue every possible venue to perform in the rather rural area we lived.
Are there any showbiz types in your family?
Oh, we’re all a bit theatrical in our way, and a quite a bit of talent. My sisters and my mom all have very lovely voices, and as I mentioned my dad was a singer. He had this amazing bass tone to his voice and was quite talented at an array of instruments. His dad, Gus the First, played sax in the Buckeye Serenaders, a Tommy Dorsey-Glenn Miller-style group, and when he lost his pinky finger in a lawnmower accident, got a plastic pinky so he could still play with the group. I would not make that up. Our extended family, particularly on my dad’s side would always play music together and sing, mainly barbershop and other turn of the century era tunes, when we got together. So, to make a long story even longer, yes.
When did you know that you wanted to be an actor?
I suppose from as long as I can remember, really. I always wanted to create. And be in on the creation of stuff like movies, because that’s what I had exposure to. And then the first times seeing theatre… I’d be on a buzz for like weeks after. Then you perform once, and it’s just all over. I remember our discussion in second grade about winning my Academy Award. Big plans.
What do you consider your first big break?
I broke my nose when I was 3. I think I’ve had a lot of really great small breaks over the past few years. My first job out of New York really proved to be a great thing for me because it was a wonderful theatre with which I established a fantastic relationship and have worked at many times since. There have also been a few jobs that I haven’t gotten, but made it really far into the audition process when the casting director was really championing me, and I’ve gotten to be seen by some great directors and big-wig producers and start scratching at their radars. I also consider this production to be a really great opportunity. It has exposed me in a big way to a pretty large, theatre-savvy area and I pretty much couldn’t be happier about it being this show to do that.
Let’s talk about Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson a bit. What is it like to play a president, especially one who may not be well known or understood?
Playing a President brings along its own set of challenges and gifts. You obviously get to be powerful and have a lot of control. And as far as Jackson being not as known, all the better. That makes him more of a blank canvas. At least there are no recordings of him so I don’t have to do impressions.
Tell us a little bit about the show and its style.
The show is an ultra-modern, punky retelling of the life of Andrew Jackson, set, both visually and musically in the style of an emo-rock concert.
Why do you think the authors chose a rock score to tell this story?
Emo-rock is a young people’s music, teeming with angst, unrequited love, and all of those things which made the teenage years so memorable. Often simple musically, often whiny, emo-rock, much like punk-rock, doesn’t require flashy musician skills, putting the power in the hands of the common musician. Jackson’s presidency came during a time when America was still struggling through many of its own “growing pains” and was desperately trying to claim what was felt to be rightfully theirs… certain teenage sensibilities. His presidency was largely devoted to dismantling the aristocracy and getting the power back into the hands of the people.
How historically accurate would you say the play is in presenting Jackson’s life?
On a scale of one to ten… liberties were taken. The play does in fact present quite a bit of historically accurate info, while at the same time having a bit of fun with certain situations.
Do you think the show offers a fair portrayal of our 7th President? Or do you think it is biased toward a certain view of the man?
I believe that it does. He was a complicated man with a sometimes sordid record of decisions. But I do believe, much as the play shows, that he had the people and the future of this nation in mind, and we wouldn’t be the same country without him.
What about the man stood out to you in doing your research? Any interesting events, actions, quotes etc?
So much! His strength and determination. The amount of duels that he fought, like, I mean, literal 10 paces turn around and one man gets shot dead duels, is jaw-dropping. But my favorite fact, hopefully not fiction (‘twas on the internet), was that at his funeral his pet parrot had to be removed from the church because it wouldn’t stop cursing.
What can we learn from Old Hickory today?
I’ll say one word. Consequences.
Do you think he would make a good leader today?
Hm. Not too sure about that. He tried to do what he thought was good for the People, sometimes through brutal and devious means, so I’m sure there’d be a great debate!
Are there parallels between what Jackson went thru in his day and our current political climate?
Absolutely. He inherited an uneasy America from the son of a former President, trying to fight for the common man in a time when the one and ninety-nine percents were distinct.
What has been the hardest/most fun part of playing Andrew Jackson in Bloody Bloody?
The role is very physically demanding. I’m pretty sore. Always. And then there’s the voice. I congratulate Michael Friedman for writing a beast of a score to sing every night, sometimes twice (woof), and Alex Timbers for writing SO MANY words for me to say throughout the play. I’ve really found myself talking less and less lately trying to cope.
However… I’m getting to play a really sweet role in a really cool play in a really rad theatre in a really great town, with a really, REALLY amazing ensemble of actors who come together to tell this story every night. The first time I read the script it struck me just how fun this was gonna be if we did well, and I haven’t been disappointed
You have performed around the country. How would you characterize Boston audiences?
So far I’d say very generous. And fun! It seems like people are coming ready and wanting to be a part of a really cool, entertaining night. I think that’s also a testament to the work Speakeasy does. The audiences seem to know from the very beginning to expect the unexpected and to work with us to create something really fun for us both.
You were just married this summer – to a Rockette! Is it hard managing a two-career relationship?
I was! Not really, thankfully, because it’s definitely hard enough for me to try and manage a one-career relationship. Luckily she’s a Rockette at Radio City in NYC and doesn’t do the touring company, so she gets to stay in our apartment with our cat, and she’s also finishing her undergrad right now, so she has enough on her plate as well! She’s extremely supportive of me and my goals as well. In many ways, our relationship has actually made it easier for me to pursue this crazy career.
What’s next for you?
I’m not too sure yet. I think I may be heading to Manchester, NH to appear in the Palace Theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol, and then after that we may get to finally take our honeymoon! Then I guess it’s back to pounding the pavement. #livingthedream