1998-2003


AIOtmp-4.jpg

After graduating first in my class, I entered Princeton in the fall of 1998. At the time, I was torn about whether to pursue a career in academia or in theater.  Both seemed equally thrilling — and equally daunting.

At first, I assumed it would take months (if not years) to get cast in my first college production. It didn’t. By the time I graduated, I’d appeared in over thirty projects. It helped that there were so many to choose from: Theatre Intime, Princeton University Players, Princeton Shakespeare Company, and the Department in Theater and Dance all put up multiple plays each year.

The overwhelming majority of theater wasn’t just performed by students, but directed, designed, and produced by them as well. That approach, as you can imagine, had its pros and cons. It made it easy, though, to get experience with a dizzying variety of projects, both as an actor and as a director.

 

General_of_the_Army_Dwight_D._Eisenhower_1947.jpg

FIRST LADY SUITE

Production (College, Musical)

October, 1998

music and lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa, dir. Amanda Whitehead

with Catherine Keyser, Cliff Sofield, and Giselle Woo

Role: Ike Eisenhower

Princeton University Players (Princeton University)

My college acting career began and ended with musicals by Michael John LaChiusa, a wildly inventive and ambitious writer in the groundbreaking tradition of Stephen Sondheim.

At the time, the university's musical theater club (PUP) was at war with itself over whether to stick to "classics" like Guys and Dolls or mount "weird" new work like First Lady Suite. While I loved both kinds of shows, I was, from the beginning, in the weirdo camp.

Before First Lady Suite, I'd never heard of LaChiusa, but by my senior year, when we mounted The Wild Party, I was conversant not just with LaChiusa's work, but with the man himself. We corresponded over email and AIM, and he came to see the production.


Tartuffe_Molière_02-2.jpg

TARTUFFE

College Production

October 15-24, 1998

by Moliere, trans. Richard Wilbur, dir. Marlo Hunter

with Samara Abrams-Primack, Mary Bonner Baker, Todd Barry, Dan Cryer, Tommy Dewey, Adam Friedman, Suzanne Houston, and Karron Graves

Role: Valère

Theatre Intime (Princeton University

Tommy Dewey in Casual.

Tommy Dewey, one of the funniest guys I've ever met, was savaged in a student-written review of Tartuffe in The Nassau Weekly for "cross[ing] the line between farcical and irritating."

A big fan of Tommy's performance, I was shocked that a critic could be both so harsh and so off-base.

(These days, that kind of thing no longer surprises me.)

Anyway, Tommy had the last laugh. He's had a successful career in TV and film, most recently as a series regular on Hulu's Casual.

Reviews: Town Topics (or text-only here)


6827060501_3ebe27530f_b.jpg

THE MOUSETRAP

College Production

February 18-March 6, 1999

by Agatha Christie, dir. Jennie Klein

with Tommy Dewey

Role: Major Metcalf

Theatre Intime (Princeton University)


              

 

 

 

 

 

ARCADIA

College Production

April 15-24, 1999

by Tom Stoppard, dir. Marlo Hunter

with Kate Callahan, Adam Friedman, Karron Graves, Dale Ho, Nick Merritt and Kurt Uy

Role: Valentine Coverly

Theatre Intime (Princeton University)

When I first saw Arcadia at Playmakers Rep in 1996, it made a deep impression on me. Bursting with wit, intelligence and heart, Arcadia somehow unites subjects as disparate as chaos theory, Romantic literature, and landscape gardening. It celebrates the art in science and the science in art. Its ambition and scope are breathtaking.

When Princeton mounted the show three years later, I couldn't wait to be a part of it. It ended up being -- with Sweeney Todd -- one of the best productions I did in college. 

Marlo assembled a talented group. Nick, Karron, Pepper, and Kurt all went on to major grad acting programs, and Dale has become a major voting rights advocate for the ACLU.


Mihály_Zichy_-_Falstaff_with_a_Tankard_of_Wine_and_a_Pipe_-_WGA25976.jpg

HENRY IV, PART 1

College Production

March 1999

by William Shakespeare, dir. Nick Merritt

Roles: Lancaster, Mortimer, Francis

Princeton Shakespeare Company (Princeton University)

My first Shakespearean play, Henry IV also marked the first time I had to differentiate several small supporting roles in a single production, something I'd return to in The Bible: AbridgedTiny DynamiteGoldor $ Mythyka, and Peter and the Starcatcher.


IMG_0333.PNG

ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN
ARE DEAD

College Production

September 23-October 2, 1999

by Tom Stoppard, dir. Ted Dorsey

with Todd Barry, Kate Callahan, Tommy Dewey and Jake Ruddiman

Role: Hamlet

Theatre Intime (Princeton University)

There's a moment in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead in which the title characters come across Hamlet silently contemplating some dark and unknown matter. Reasoning that the prince must be weighing whether "To be or not to be", our director asked me to mouth the words of the world's most famous soliloquy with my back to the audience.

I still maintain it's my best work ever.


Image 1-16-18 at 1.24 AM.jpeg

YOU'RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN

College Production (Musical)

October 21-23, 1999

by Clark Gesner (music, lyrics and book), dir. Cliff Sofield and Ryan Sawchuk

with Cristy Lytal

Role: Linus

Princeton University Players (Princeton University)

Inspired by B.D. Wong's performance in the recent Broadway revival, I gave Linus a lisp. When the show's author Clark Gesner came to see us, he had warm words for everyone else in the cast. To me he said, "I really hope that doesn't become the way it's done now."


Lee Harvey Oswald

ASSASSINS

College Production (Musical)

February 24-March 4, 2000

music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by John Weidman

dir. Ben Beckley and Cliff Sofield

with Charles Alden, Micah Baskir, Stephen Feyer, Kristin Long, Vanessa Rodriguez, Susan Trivedi, Ari Silver and Natasha Badillo

Princeton University Players (Princeton University)

My directorial debut.

In high school, I'd created a self-directed independent study focused entirely on Stephen Sondheim. There's no writer who matters more to me.


THE DUCK VARIATIONS

College Production

May 25-28, 2000

by David Mamet, dir. Sarah Rodriguez

Theatre Intime (Princeton)

Best known for furious dramas full of four-letter words, Mamet also wrote Duck Variations, an introspective little one act that follows two aging friends sitting on a park bench, reminiscing about old times and contemplating the lives of mallards.


STONEWALL COUNTRY

Regional Production (Musical)

July 6-August 5, 2000

by Robin and Linda Williams (music, lyrics and book), dir. Brian Desmond

Role: Henry Douglas

Theater at Lime Kiln

A musical chronicling the life and times of Lexington, Virginia's hometown hero, General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, Stonewall Country played for twenty consecutive summers at Lime Kiln. This was the first and only time I appeared in the show.

The score is terrific and the book consistently engaging, but I began to feel a little uneasy about the show.  This was my third musical about the Civil War (after Shenandoah and Red Badge), and all three had ignored or downplayed the role of slavery.

In 2005, artistic director John Healey, understandably weary of restaging the same show every summer, decided to mount a season without Stonewall Country. It was a fatal mistake for the theater. Unable to take the financial hit, Lime Kiln closed its doors later that year.

"Stonewall Country," as sung by Robin and Linda Williams


1_large.jpg

MACBETH

Regional Production

August 10-August 26, 2000

by William Shakespeare, dir. Brian Desmond

with Tom Anderson, Cary Beckelheimer, Lynn Blackburn, T.J. Edwards, Brian Hemmingsen, Brandon Hope, J.J. Johnson, Kathryn Kelley, Tom King, Dori Legg, Gregory Lush, Ginger McNeese, Francis McWilliams, Hugh Nees, Michael Oakley, Drew Ross, Cintia Sutton, Chris Van Cleave, Corey Volovar and Blair Williams 

Roles: Donalbain, Menteith

Theater at Lime Kiln

A stunningly beautiful outdoor venue, Theater at Lime Kiln was open to the elements.

During our final dress, dark clouds began to mass above us. No sooner had Macbeth (Brian Hemmingsen) bemoaned that life was "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury" than we heard a deafening thunderclap, as if in reply.

"Signifying nothing," Brian added. And the rain came down.


THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL

College Production

November 2000

by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, dir. Al Gordon

Role: Joseph Surface

Washington and Lee University

Our costume designer created period-perfect Restoration-era wigs for the production. This particularly benefited my character, a stylishly dressed and immaculately bewigged hypocrite whose nefarious plans are only narrowly averted.

In one performance, frustrated that I'd been foiled, I snatched off my wig and hurled it to the ground. The audience roared—a reaction I found both gratifying and a little depressing: I'd never managed to get that kind of response for my work on the text!


picasso3.jpg

PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE

College Production

February 27-March 10, 2001

by Steve Martin, dir. Micah Baskir

with Jeff Kitrosser, John McMath, and John Vennema

Role: Pablo Picasso

Theatre Intime (Princeton University)

While taking a year off from college, I returned to Princeton's campus in the spring of 2001, crashed on a friend's couch, and focused entirely on student theater. The university likely would have put a stop to it, if they'd ever found out.

By this time, I'd gotten more serious about accent work. After learning that Antonio Banderas was from Picasso's hometown, I watched every Banderas movie I could get my hands on to get the accent just right.

Reviews: The Daily Princetonian


THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD

College Production (Musical)

March 29-April 7, 2001

music, lyrics and book by Rupert Holmes, dir. Sujan Trivedi

with Natasha Badillo, Jeff Kitrosser and Josh Robinson

Role: John Jasper

Princeton University Players (Princeton University)

John Jasper is a dark and brooding choir master whose winning smile masks his opium-fueled rage, shame and madness. Somewhat inspired by my work as Joseph Surface a few months earlier, preparing for Jasper gave me plenty to draw on when I took on the title role in Sweeney Todd a year later.


    

   

SIDE SHOW

College Production (Musical)

music by Henry Krieger, lyrics and book by Bill Russell

dir. Josh Robinson

Role: Buddy

Westminster Choir College

After acting opposite Josh in Princeton's The Mystery of Edwin Drood, he cast me in productions he was directing at Westminster Choir College. 

Nothing if not ambitious, Josh created a manually rotated student-constructed turntable for Side Show.


BAREFOOT IN THE PARK

Summer Stock

June 21-July 8, 2001

by Neil Simon, dir. Sarah Rodriguez

with Erin Gilley, Josh Robinson and Cliff Sofield

Role: Telephone Repairman

Princeton Summer Theater

Run by students, with no administrative support or supervision from the university, Princeton Summer Theater wasn't quite student theater and it wasn't quite professional theater. The 2001 season was especially challenging, since no one on staff had ever worked at PST before.


JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT

Summer Stock (Musical)

June 28-July 22, 2001

music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Tim Rice, dir. Cliff Sofield

Roles: Pharaoh, Naphtali

Princeton Summer Theater


KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN

College Production (Musical)

October 11-20, 2001

music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, dir. Natasha Badillo

with Rakesh Satayal and Devin Sidell

Role: Valentin

Princeton University Players (Princeton University)

Spider Woman marked my first time being naked onstage.

My ex-girlfriend was directing. My then-girlfriend was less than thrilled about it.


FALSETTOS

College Production (Musical)

November 29-December 8, 2001

music and lyrics by William Finn, book by William Finn and James Lapine

dir. Ben Beckley

Princeton University Players (Princeton University)

----------------------------------------

Reviews: The Daily Princetonian


PARADE

College Production (Musical)

January 24-February 2, 2002

music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, book by Alfred Uhry

dir. Josh Robinson

Role: Leo Frank

Westminster Choir College

My second and final production at Westminster, Parade chronicles the true story of Leo Frank, an innocent man lynched in Georgia for a crime he didn't commit.

Westminster was on an entirely different schedule, and Parade coincided with my final exams at Princeton. The timing was terrible, but I couldn't turn down such an incredible role, so with limited time to prepare, I stole shamelessly from Brent Carver's Broadway performance.

38737_966405423629_6088823_n.jpg

Brent Carver's performance as Leo Frank in PARADE, 1999 Tony Awards.


Sweeney1.jpg

SWEENEY TODD

College Production (Musical)

April 11-April 20, 2002

music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Hugh Wheeler

musical dir. Matthew Lembo, dir. Cliff Sofield

with Samara Abrams-Primack, Joe Cermatori, David Kellett and Jeff Kitrosser

Role: Sweeney Todd

Princeton Program in Theater and Dance

If I could spend the rest of my life doing this show, I probably would.

As far as I know, I'm still the only guy to play Leo Frank and Sweeney Todd in back-to-back productions.


BETTY'S SUMMER VACATION

College Production

September 19-28, 2002

by Christopher Durang, dir. John Vennema

with Micah Baskir, Liz Berg, Salman Butt, Jeff Kitrosser, Emily Mitchell, Vanessa Rodriguez and Austin Saypol

Role: Voice #2

Theatre Intime (Princeton University)

At the time, Christopher Durang seemed just as distant and unknowable as Christopher Marlowe, the 16th-century dramatist who wrote the play I did later that semester.

Four years later, I'd premiere a play with him. (Durang, not Marlowe.)

1928972_507883999242_6013_n.jpg

SERIOUS POKER

Production

Oct. 23 and 25, 2002

by Frank Hertle, dir. by Cliff Sofield

with Joe Cermatori and Jeff Kitrosser

Role: J.L.

Theatre-Studio Inc.

My first New York production.  A recent Princeton grad, Cliff had moved to New York the previous summer, but the cast — still undergraduates — rehearsed on campus and took the train into Manhattan for each performance.


OIT WIRELESS ZONES - "WHERE ARE THE WIRES?"

Commercial (College)

November 2002

written and directed by Macauley Peterson

with John Vennema

Frist Campus Center (Princeton)

An advertisement for the then-new technology of wireless.

"Where are the wires?" I ask a fellow student, blissfully typing away on his computer. He looks up at me and smiles. End of scene.


Tamburlaine.jpg

TAMBURLAINE

College Production

December 5-8, 2002

by Christopher Marlowe, dir. Jerry Passanante

with Joe Cermatori and Jeff Kitrosser

Role: Tamburlaine

Princeton Shakespeare Company (Princeton University)

"I thought your production of Tamburlaine was very successful," a renowned English professor told me. "It was very successful at destroying Marlowe's text!"

If not necessarily my most "successful" college production, Tamburlaine was easily one of the most formative.

A grad student in the English department, our director was a devotee of the New York experimental theater scene. Just as the Wooster Group smashed together unlikely sources in productions like Route 1 & 9 (which drew on Pigmeat Markham's blackface routines and Thornton Wilder's Our Town) and House/Lights (which drew on a Gertrude Stein play and a soft-core bondage flick), Jerry juxtaposed Marlowe's drama to the musical Oklahoma! and the mass shootings at Columbine.

Reviews: The Daily Princetonian


Travesties3.jpg

TRAVESTIES

College Production

March 6-14, 2003

by Tom Stoppard, dir. Sujan Trivedi

with Jeff Kitrosser

Role: James Joyce

Princeton Program in Theater and Dance

My senior thesis. I also wrote an 80-page paper ("The Importance of Being Joyce") on the influence of James Joyce and Oscar Wilde on Stoppard's play.


175535_10100352768675909_17723783_o.jpg

THE WILD PARTY

College Production (Musical)

April 17-27, 2003

music and lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa, dir. Natasha Badillo

with Nathan Freeman

Role: Goldberg

Princeton Program in Theater and Dance

Michael John LaChiusa came to our production, the first he'd seen since the show's brilliant, criminally underrated Broadway premiere.

Reviews: The Daily Princetonian


FRENCH ATELIER -

TARTUFFE

College Production (Excerpt, French)

by Moliere, dir. Florent Masse

Role: Tartuffe

Princeton Program in Theater and Dance

Florent Masse produced and directed a series of scenes from classic French drama.

We performed in the original French.

1923678_515655230632_5565_n.jpg

THE CANDIDATE

Student Film (Short)

improvised by Ben Beckley, dir. Micah Baskir

Role: Benjamin Beckley

Princeton University

A mock campaign ad for a New Jersey congressional candidate.


THE MEDIUM

Student Film (Short)

written and directed by Philip Isles

Role: The Man

Princeton University


Midsummer Small.jpg

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM

Regional Production

July 30-August 23, 2003

by William Shakespeare, dir. John Healey

Role: Flute/Thisbe

Theater at Lime Kiln

After experimenting with a number of different options for Thisbe's breasts, I finally landed on balloons. If I hurled myself just right onto the dead Pyramus' chest, my left tit would explode.