2006-2007


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Through an internship with The Wooster Group, I met a director-writer-designer named Kenneth Collins and began to make a regular trek to his Queens apartment, where we developed weird new theatrical worlds in his tiny living room.

Later that year, after my first major regional gig, I stepped into the lobby of The Flea Theater, signed up for an audition, and performed a couple of monologues for artistic director Jim Simpson later that afternoon. Within the week, I was rehearsing a new play with award-winning playwright Christopher Durang — someone I'd never expected to meet, let alone collaborate with.

In New York, it can take decades to secure worthwhile auditions, but that one was easy — and it changed my life.

Life-changing also was scene study with Gene Lasko, an irascible old acting coach I began working with in late 2007. Over our seven years together, Gene taught me how to immerse myself so completely in each scene that I threw myself off balance — maybe the most important thing I ever learned.

 

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SOMEONE IN THE GHOST BOX TOLD ME IT WAS YOU

Production

February 23-25, 2006

written and directed by Kenneth Collins

with Alisa Burket, Gary Clegg and Anne Source

Temporary Distortion @ The Chocolate Factory

Kenneth Collins puts people in boxes.

Creating complex compartments of plexiglass, fluorescents and steel, he then immobilizes his actors within them. Movement is minimal, text elliptical, and narrative fragmentary and elusive. His work takes on a meditative intensity unlikely anything else in the New York theater scene.

At the time I did Ghost Box, the idea that we'd ever get paid for this kind of work seemed absurd. But then again, no more absurd than the idea that my castmate, Gary Clegg, would soon make a fortune manufacturing, marketing, and distributing his new invention: a blanket with sleeves.

A year later, Kenneth Collins was racking up multiple international tours with Temporary Distortion and Gary Clegg, thanks to The Slanket, was a multi-millionaire.


FORCE: CONVERGENCE

Production

March 29-April 14, 2006

by Bryn Manion, dir. Bryn Manion and Wendy Remington

with Berto Colon

Aisling Arts

The third installment of Bryn Manion's Force Trilogy. Aisling Arts mounted all three plays in rep the following year, but I was tied up with Los Angeles.

playwright/director Bryn Manion

playwright/director Bryn Manion


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THE REVOLUTION

Documentary (Voiceover)

May 3, 2006 (studio recording)

Role: Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry

At my audition, the guy running the session seemed irritated.

"Hey, man - we need you to do a Southern accent."

"You want something more pronounced?" I asked him.

"Hold on a sec," he said, as he played back the take.

"Oh yeah, no, that was good, actually."


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THE ILLUSION

Production

May 27-June 24, 2006

by Pierre Corneille, freely adapted by Tony Kushner

dir. Richard Corley

Zenzele Cooper, Matthew Cryder, Austin Durant, Kevin Dwyer, Sarah Kauffman, Philip Sletteland, Brian Weaver

Role: Pridamant

Berkshire Theatre Festival (now Berkshire Theatre Group)

My first high-profile regional gig.

I'd never even have gotten the audition if it weren't for Mark Nelson, an accomplished actor/director who generously reached out to BTF on my behalf after taking the time to meet me for coffee.

I played a dour, fastidious lawyer ("with black-suited priggishness," according to The Boston Globe) opposite a terrifying magician portrayed by Austin Durant, a remarkable actor with a rich, beautiful baritone voice and world-weary eyes.

Rick Corley's inventive direction drew on a variety of different theatrical styles — including Group Theater naturalism, French farce à la Comédie-Française and Robert Wilson-esque postmodern movement — in the service of Corneille and Kushner's multivariegated valentine to theater. 


BEN AND JERRY'S - "IMPROVE YOUR CHUNK-ABULARY"

National Radio Ad (Voiceover)

July 7, 2006

Role: Scientist

"I don't mean to bananalyze this to death...", my character offered, "but it's the crunchy almonds that really make this flavor."


THE DINNER

Independent Film (Short)

August 17, 2006 (Principal Photography)

written and directed by Soraya Gomez Crawford

Role: Robert

When Katherine brings her fiancée Robert home for dinner, her father Roger is deeply disturbed. Robert, he confesses, is his son — the product of adultery. Fortunately, Katherine's mother is able to resolve the situation. Roger, she explains, is not Katherine's father.

You can view our imdb page here.


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THE FROGS

Performance

September 9-October 1, 2006

by Jason Tyne, adapted from the play by Aristophanes

dir. Rachel Klein

with Sinem Balkir, Elizabeth Burke, Megan Dahl, Josh Hyman, Amir Levi, Tommy Lind, Emily Miner, Aaron Oetting, Jeff Seal, Kathleen Schlemmer, and Zachary Zdunich

Roles: Hercules, Anton Chekhov

Rising Sun Theater Company @ Central Park/Summit Rock

I played the strongest man in the universe and a melancholy Russian dramatist. 

(Guess which role was more of a stretch.)


(photo by Stefan Hagen)

(photo by Stefan Hagen)

OFF STAGE: THE WEST VILLAGE FRAGMENTS

THE BRIG

Production (Site Specific - Excerpts)

September 21-October 7, 2006

by Kenneth Brown, dir. David Vining

with Mike Amato, Richard Binder, Stephen Blackwell, Franzika Blattner, Janet Bryant, Sara Buffamanti, Nikki Calonge, Tonya Canada, Lindsey Carroll, Oscar Castillo, Jeff Clarke, Siobhan Dougherty, Patricia Drozda, Evan Enderle, Paul Fiteni, Rob Gaines, Gillien Goll, John Grace, Erik Gratton, Liz Gutman, Steve Hauck, Andrew Hurley, Christopher Hurt, Benjamin Ickies, Derek Jamison, Tom Johnson, Spencer Katzman, Ben Kopit, Alex Lane, Donna Lazar, Samantha Levitt, Jesse Liebman, Ryan Lillis, Rebecca Lingafelter, Melissa Menzie, Shawn Mahoney, Jerry Marsini, Jason Martin, Belinda Mello, Gretchen Michelfeld, Chris Mirto, Joel Newman, Nick Palladino, Stacy Parker, Catherine Porter, Lars Preece, Dan Rabinowitz, Eleanore Scully, Rebecca Sevron, Margi Sharp*, Maggie Steele, Sarah Stephens, Patrick Taylor, Stacy Lee Tilton, Michael Tomlinson, Connie Van Decker, Chris Weikel, Bradley Wells, Max Woertendyke

Peculiar Works Project @ 6th Avenue and 9th Street

A walking tour of the West Village, featuring scenes from seminal works by the pioneers of Off Off Broadway: The Living Theater, The Performance Group, Maria Irene Fornes, Gertrude Stein, Lanford Wilson, Edward Albee, and others.

I appeared in a scene from The Living Theater's The Brig which kicked off the show. Featuring soldiers in a brutal military prison, it involved a lot of yelling ("You touched me, you lousy insect!" "I'm sorry, sir!").  

Audiences loved the show, but locals were less enthusiastic. One even hurled tomatoes at us occasionally from his fifth-story window. When these began bruising more than just our egos, a cop went up to check it out. "I definitely didn't throw anything, officer," the guy told him. "But... I'm very sympathetic to whoever did."

This production and its counterpart, The East Village Fragments, earned an Obie Award for its producers.

Reviews: Backstage


THE PHARMACIST

Independent Film (Short)

September 17, 2006 (Principal Photography)

written and directed by Ongun Hassan


MICROSOFT -

"A PEOPLE-READY BUSINESS"

Print Ad

October 8, 2006

One of the few print campaigns I've ever appeared in, this Microsoft ad ran in Newsweek and several other major publications.

It ultimately made me a couple grand -- more money than all the plays, workshops and readings I did in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 combined.

Ben at center left in the glasses and green-striped button down.

Ben at center left in the glasses and green-striped button down.


director James Dacre

director James Dacre

DEATH OF A SALESMAN: REDUX

MFA Directing Project (Scene)

October 13, 2006

text by Arthur Miller

arranged and directed by James Dacre

Columbia University, MFA Directing 

The MFA directing candidates at Columbia had to create two short theater pieces each week: one for Brian Kulick (then artistic director of Classic Stage Company) and one for Anne Bogart (founder of SITI Company).

Projects for Brian, a mainstream director of classical work, tended to focus on staging each scene as written, while projects for Anne, an experimental director of new plays, tended to involve scrambled fragments of text and often foregrounded other elements of the mise-en-scene, such as movement, visual imagery, and music.


ORESTES

MFA Directing Project (Scene)

October 13, 2006

by Euripides, dir. Matt Torney

with Tony Roach

Role: Orestes

Columbia University, MFA Directing 

director Matt Torney

director Matt Torney


DOG AND HUMAN

Production

October 25-29, 2006

Role: Dog

Where Eagles Dare Theater


KREON'S LAMENT

MFA Directing Project (Scene)

November 8, 2006

freely adapted from Sophocles' ANTIGONE, dir. Matt Torney

Role: Kreon

Columbia University, MFA Directing


RAMONA'S NEW DRESSER

Student Film (Short)

November 12, 2006 (Principal Photography)

written and directed by Bohdana Smyrnova

Role: Mike

New York University, MFA Film


ANTIGONE

MFA Directing Project (Scene)

November 13, 2006

by Sophocles, music by Carl Orff

dir. James Dacre

Role: Kreon

Columbia University, MFA Directing

Over than a decade after first playing the role in middle school, I finally got a second stab at Kreon.


THE BACCHAE

MFA Directing Project (Scene)

December 1, 2006

dir. Matt Torney

Role: Pentheus

Columbia University, MFA Directing


Above, Beth Hoyt, Amanda Quaid, and Jon Ledoux  Below, Bat Attack!

Above, Beth Hoyt, Amanda Quaid, and Jon Ledoux 

Below, Bat Attack!

'TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE -

"NOT A CREATURE WAS STIRRING..."

Production (Short)

December 13-December 30, 2006

by Christopher Durang, dir. Kip Fagan

with Elizabeth Hoyt, Leslie Meisel, John Fico, David Skeist, Tanya Fischer, Evan Enderle, Pernell Walker, Jonathan Ledoux, Barnett Cohen, Bobby Hodgson, Emily Hyberger, Joseph McLaughlin, Amanda Quaid and Liz Wisan

Role: Father

Flea Theater

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I worked part-time as a paralegal in Tribeca. One afternoon, my co-worker Nathan Freeman mentioned that a nearby theater was holding open auditions for upcoming projects. I'd never seen a show at The Flea, but I walked down to White Street, signed up, and performed a couple of monologues for artistic director Jim Simpson. I had a callback a few days later for Kip Fagan and Chris Durang, booked the job, got singled out in our positive great New York Times review, and assumed I was destined for instant fame and fortune.

I wasn't. I couldn't even secure representation.

But I had found an artistic home, for the moment, and in a business where progress is hard to come by, a path forward.


SEXTET

Closed Reading

January 21, 2007

by Tommy Smith, dir. Blair Brown

Role: Carlo Gesualdo

Flea Theater

In college, I'd seen Blair Brown in multiple leading roles at McCarter Theatre, and I was a little star-struck to be working with her.

The more profound artistic partnership to come out of Sextet, though, was with playwright Tommy Smith. For the first time, I began to develop a close working relationship with a playwright whose words and worldview resonated deeply with me.

Tommy and I would go on to work together on productions of White HotSunrise, and The Break-Up, workshops of SextetAir ConditioningThe Wife, D.B., and Little Rock, and two film collaborations with Reggie Watts.

Sextet (later retitled Fugue) follows Carlo Gesualdo, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, and Arnold Schoenberg — three composers living on the edge of sanity. Their unsettling stories unfold simultaneously, as if each were a different instrument and the play a piece of music.

You can read the full play here.


LOS ANGELES

Production

February 12-March 17, 2007

by Julian Sheppard, dir. Adam Rapp

with Dan Cozzens, Cooper Daniels, Roy Edroso, Evan Enderle, Tanya Fischer, Meredith Holzman, Emily Hyberger, David Skeist, Katherine Waterston, Rob Yang, and Amelia Zirin-Brown

Role: Lyle

Flea Theater

I played a tough-minded movie producer opposite Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice), who starred as a troubled young starlet named Audrey. Increasingly unable to navigate the treacherous waters of Los Angeles, Audrey drowns herself in drugs, men, and wasted dreams.

Adam had taken home an Obie for Red Light Winter the year before, and his direction was taut, clear and inventive — including live music by cabaret star Amelia Zirin-Brown.

Reviews: Variety

Ben opposite Katherine Waterston

Ben opposite Katherine Waterston


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THE NEW HOPEVILLE COMICS

Workshop Production (Musical)

February 25-26, 2007

by Nate Weida (music, lyrics and book), dir. Isaac Klein

with Ruthie Ann Miles and Trevor Vaughn

Role: Mayor

45th Street Theater

Nate's epic comic book music showed how even Perfectman can be taken down by Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'N Roll (all four characters pictured left).

Eight years later, Ruthie Ann would win the Tony Award for her performance in The King and I.


707 PINE

Closed Reading

February 26, 2007

by Deron Bos, dir. Kip Fagan

with Teddy Bergman, Donal Brophy, Cooper Daniels, Julie Ferrell, Bobby Hodgson, Elizabeth Hoyt, Bobby Moreno, Vadim Newquist, Erin Roth, Rachel Rusch, Sarah Sakaan, Sarah Silk, and Maureen Sebastian

Flea Theater


AIR CONDITIONING

Closed Reading

March 19, 2007

by Tommy Smith, dir. Jim Simpson

with Evan Enderle and Elizabeth Hoyt

Role: Jerry

Flea Theater

My second reading with Tommy Smith — a brutal satire puncturing both the illusions of the wealthy and the illusions of the working class.

It's an incredible play, and to my knowledge, it's never been produced.


THE THYME OF THE SEASON

Staged Reading

March 29, 2007

by Duncan Pflaster

Role: Demetrius

Janus Theater Company @ The Film Center

Duncan Pflaster's sequel to A Midsummer Night's Dream.

"When Titania and Oberon need to pay their 7-yearly tithe to hell, they need to find a human soul to sacrifice. Puck's been ensorcelled by a witch so that he can't sleep, and there's a new Autumn fairy, Pumpkinseed, who is in love with that merry wanderer of the night. Meanwhile, Helena is pregnant, Demetrius thinks she's cheating, Lysander is exploring his feminine side, and Hermia is unsatisfied. Bottom has become a huge famous rich ass."


I MAKE NO PROMISES

Performance

April 1, 2007

written and directed by Annie Scott

with Drew Hildebrand and Meghann Murphy

Labyrinth Theater Company

Tony Award-winning playwright John Patrick Shanley commissioned I Make No Promises for a Labyrinth Theater Company party he threw at his apartment.


WHITE HOT

Staged Reading

April 16, 2007

by Tommy Smith, dir. May Adrales

Mary Jane Gibson, Joel Israel, and Patricia Nelson

Role: Brian

Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab

Arguably Tommy's most scathing and unsettling work, which is saying something.

You can read the full play here.


Carlo Gesualdo

Carlo Gesualdo

SEXTET

Closed Workshop

April 21-May 22, 2007

by Tommy Smith, dir. Blair Brown

Role: Carlo Gesualdo

Flea Theater


TINY THEATER FESTIVAL - 

WELCOME TO NOWHERE

Production (Excerpt)

May 2-5, 2007

written and directed by Kenneth Collins

video design by William Cusick

with Stacey Collins, Brian Greer, Lorraine Mattox, and Jessica Pagan

Role: Hunter

Temporary Distortion @ The Ontological-Hysteric Theater

Tiny Theater required each excerpt to run no longer than ten minutes in a 10'x10'x10' space marked off at the center of the Ontological-Hysteric Theater.

Kenneth's box was a few inches over 10 feet, and he assumed they'd let it slide, but the pitiless producers insisted he redesign it.   


OPHELIA: OPERA IN BLUE

Production (Musical)

May 5-8, 2007

lyrics by William Shakespeare, music by Sergei Dreznin

dir. May Adrales

with Lucas Howland, David Matranga, and Marissa Michelson

Role: Polonius

Prospect Theater Company 

Every word in Ophelia: Opera in Blue is taken straight from Hamlet, but the structure of the piece—a jazz-infused operetta—bares little resemblance to Shakespeare's great tragedy — or anything else, for that matter. Sergei, who flew in from Paris to see the production, conceived the action of Ophelia as taking place entirely in the mind of the title character: a nightmare dreamscape of words, words, words that dramatizes Ophelia's enthrallment to and ultimate liberation from the patriarchy of her brother, father and lover.

I opened Ophelia: Opera in Blue in the afternoon, then dashed across town for the closing performance of Tiny Theater that evening.


COMMANDER SQUISH

Production (Musical)

May 17-May 19, 2007

music, lyrics and book by Nate Weida

with William Day, Coleen Huley, Carolyn Cole, Ian Merrigan, Trevor Vaughn and Andy Stewart

Role: Commander Squish

45th Street Theater

When I first saw Commander Squish in 1996, I was stunned that a fellow high school sophomore had written a riveting full-length musical.

Eleven years later, I played the title role.


SOME THINGS CEASE TO BE WHILE OTHERS STILL ARE

Closed Reading

May 22, 2007

by Karinne Keithley, dir. Sherri Kronfeld

with James Blanshard, Donal Brophy, Jamie Effros, John Fico, Jocelyn Kuritsky, and Maureen Sebastian

Role: Knut

Flea Theater

You can read the full play here


THE MERCURY MENIFESTO

Production (Voiceover)

May 23, 2007 (Studio Recording)

written and directed by John del Signore

with Jeff Seal and John del Signore

Role: Narrator

Pretentious Festival @ The Brick Theater

I recorded a seven-minute voiceover for the opening of The Mercury Menifesto, which chronicled John del Signore's experiences performing in the subway as a living statue (or "Mercury Man"). During the performance, John stood absolutely still in full "Mercury Man" makeup as my words played out in their entirety.

For a clip of John as "The Mercury Man" click here.

John del Signore in full Mercury Man regalia

John del Signore in full Mercury Man regalia


Ben with Mary Jane Gibson. (It's not every day you get stabbed in the thigh by your wife's sister, one thing leads to another, and then this happens.)

Ben with Mary Jane Gibson.
(It's not every day you get stabbed in the thigh by your wife's sister, one thing leads to another, and then this happens.)

WHITE HOT

Production

June 20-July 7, 2007

by Tommy Smith, dir. May Adrales

with Mary Jane Gibson, Joel Israel, and Patricia Nelson

in rep with The Curse of the Smart Kid

Role: Brian

HERE Arts Center

 


THE CURSE OF THE SMART KID

Production (Solo Performance)

June 23-June 25, 2007

written and directed by David Vining

in rep with White Hot

Role: Smart Kid

HERE Arts Center 

The self-told story of a guy whose superior intelligence leaves him ill-equipped for adapting to life outside the classroom, The Curse of the Smart Kid was my first one-man show.


CERTAIN WORDS IN FRENCH (WHICH I SHALL NOT NAME)

Closed Reading

July 17, 2007

by Normandy Sherwood, dir. Sherri Kronfeld

with Jane Elliott, Parrish Hurley, Jocelyn Kuritsky, Alexis Macnab, Theresa Ngo, Erin Roth, Annie Scott, Sarah Silk and Maren Ueker

Role: Gil

Flea Theater


TWELFTH NIGHT

Production

August 4-19, 2007

by William Shakespeare, dir. BEN BECKLEY

Holla Holla Productions

I stopped directing because I didn't want to produce.

When producer/actor Clara Barton Green offered me the chance to direct one of my favorite plays, I said "absolutely" — even though I'd had no say in the concept, costumes, or casting.

This was just one year after I'd turned down a similar offer from Legitimate Theater Company to direct the same play. That production would have come with even more strings attached, though: they'd insisted I stage the whole thing as a drinking game.

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CHATEAU ROSALINE 1937

Independent Film (Short)

September 15, 2007 (Principal Photography)

written and directed by Maja Milanovic

with Lindsay Goranson, Carly Movizio and Rafi Sakur

Role: Howard 

More than seven years later, my Chateau Rosaline castmate Lindsay Goranson — whom I hadn't seen since 2007 — contacted me about auditioning for the feature film Crooked and Narrow. (You never know!)


TELL ME WHAT YOU'RE THINKING

Independent Film (Short)

September 16, 2007 (Principal Photography)

written and directed by Ozu Takahari


DAYLIGHT TRANSACTION

Independent Film (Short)

September 27, 2007 (Principal Photography)

written and directed by Ozu Takahari

with Vadim Newquist


WELCOME TO NOWHERE

Production

October 12-October 27, 2007

written and directed by Kenneth Collins

video design by William Cusick

with Stacey Collins, Brian Greer, Lorraine Mattox, and Jessica Pagan

Role: Hunter

Temporary Distortion @ The Chocolate Factory

Rehearsing for months in his tiny living room in Sunnyside, Queens to perfect the set, lighting, text, and performances of each of his experimental productions, Kenneth Collins seemed unlikely to ever make much money as an artist, and I certainly never expected to get paid anything for my work with Temporary Distortion. 

When a European artistic director picked up Welcome to Nowhere for a three-week tour of France, and Kenneth offered us salaries on par with those of a commercial Broadway tour, I was speechless.

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a fellow In Pursuit participant

a fellow In Pursuit participant

IN PURSUIT: ART ON DATING

Performance Art

October 21, 2007

conceived and created by John Miller 

As a photographer snapped pictures from a concealed location, I stood on a street corner wearing a sandwich board proclaiming all my great qualities as a potential date. Some of these details were contradictory (e.g., "social drinker...alcoholic"), others inaccurate (e.g., "Eyes: Brown").


AFTER THE WAR

Student Film

November 24-27, 2007 (Principal Photography)

adapted from Under the Blue Sky by David Eldridge

dir. Brian Quist

with Brooke Delaney

Columbia University, MFA Film

My first film at Columbia University. I'd now worked with students from every major film program in NYC: New York Film Academy, The School of Visual Arts, and both the undergraduate and graduate film programs at NYU.

After the War, an emotionally charged 25-page screenplay shot in a small apartment over the course of four consecutive days, was the most intense and challenging of any of these projects.

a clip from After the War


SUNRISE

Production

November 30-December 6, 2007

by Tommy Smith, dir. Portia Krieger

with Teddy Bergman and Jocelyn Kuritsky

Mackwell Productions @ The Lark Annex

The heartwarming story of two cold-blooded vampires and the priest who comes between them.


COOLER

Reading

December 9, 2007

by Gary Winter, dir. Kip Fagan

with Havilah Brewster, Elizabeth Hoyt and Annie Scott

Role: Jack

Flea Theater


THE MUMBLINGS

Closed Reading

December 9, 2007

written and directed by Dan Kitrosser

with Elizabeth Hoyt

The very first reading of Dan's terrific two-hander about a gay man who marries his best friend.

I did readings of The Mumblings for over five years, but when the play finally premiered in August of 2013, I was out of town on tour.


THE CASE OF THE MISSING FAMILY JEWELS

Performance

December 21, 2007

by Andrew Keating, dir. E. Randahl Hoey

with Chrissie Amorosia, Shawn Dempewolff, Jimmy Schwatzman, and BarbaraAnne Smilko

Role: Jack

Brain Brew Entertainment

We performed this interactive, pun-filled murder mystery at the Christmas party for a furniture reupholstery company based in southern NJ.

It did not go well.