2010-2011


 Ben at Occupy Wall Street

Ben at Occupy Wall Street

With Jess Chayes and The Assembly, I started making work that was both experimental and collaborative, that demanded serious investment as both an actor and a co-creator.

Jess took big risks — adding live-feed video to a 19th-century Russian play and incorporating monologues in which actors dropped character to offer their perspectives — always in the service of the story and with an eye to engaging (rather than alienating) the audience.

The company learned to harness the intimacy of small spaces and the potential of every writer, actor and designer in the room.  With Three Sisters, I explored a new approach to performance, and with HOME/SICK, a new approach to theater altogether.

 

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THE THREE SISTERS

Production

January 20-30, 2010; EXTENDED February 22-24, 2010

by Anton Chekhov, dir. Jess Chayes

with Cecil Baldwin, Edward Bauer, Kate Benson, Kate MacCluggageMoti Margolin, Brendan McDonough, Levi Morger, Emily Perkins, Alley Scott, and Steve Stout

Role: Andrei

The Assembly @ The Red Room and The Cherry Pit

Jess staged the production in the round, with audience on all sides, and actors occasionally sitting among them. Inspired by Ivo von Hove's Opening Night, she incorporated live-feed video, often manipulated by the characters, which enabled her to draw attention to certain moments that might otherwise have escaped the audience's attention.


DOWN FROM BUFFALO

Reading

March 16, 2010

By Eric John Meyer

with Joan MacIntosh, Rocco Sisto, Cynthia Harris, and Carmen Zilles

The Public Theater

 playwright Eric John Meyer

playwright Eric John Meyer


 Ben with Cynthia Harris, Simon Jones, and Jack Koenig

Ben with Cynthia Harris, Simon Jones, and Jack Koenig

THE COCKTAIL PARTY

Production

March 7-April 17, 2010

by T.S. Eliot, dir. Scott Allen Evans

with Jeremy Beck, Cynthia Harris and Simon Jones

Role: Caterer's Man, Peter (u/s)

TACT (The Actors Company Theater) @ The Beckett Theatre (Theatre Row)

My first Off Broadway play.

The Cocktail Party conflicted with a fifth touring engagement for Welcome to Nowhere, and by accepting the role, I was effectively ending my tenure with Temporary Distortion.

Though turning down a highly paid leading role in an international tour for a minor supporting role with minimal compensation, it was the only decision I could make. The Cocktail Party was my Off Broadway debut, and it was a step closer to the kind of career I wanted.

I cleaned out my bank account to reimburse Temporary Distortion for a plane ticket to France and I gratefully accepted the part.


SHARING SPACE

Closed Workshop

April 18, 2010

by Anna Moench, dir. Jess Chayes

with Hope Cartelli, Sarah Elmaleh, Emily Perkins, Michael Thomas, and Steve Stout

The New Georges Jam

A "performance gym" for early-career women writers and directors, The New Georges Jam was co-founded by Jess Chayes with Portia Krieger (associate director of the Tony-winning musical Fun Home) and Lucy Alibar (co-writer of the Oscar-winning film Beasts of the Southern Wild).

This particular project explored simultaneous dialogue and action. Anna Moench would further develop this material for the short play she wrote the following month for the Old Vic/New Voices Exchange.

 playwright Anna Moench

playwright Anna Moench


 playwright Matt Korahais

playwright Matt Korahais

TRIGGER WARNING

Staged Reading

April 26, 2010

by Matt Korahais, dir. Michael Silverstone

Kate Benson, David Brooks, William Jackson Harper, Neil Hellegers, Carmen M. Herlihy, Jenny Seastone Stern, and Becky Yamamoto

Role: Ben Beckley Reading Slavoj Zizek

Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab

Matt's got a postmodern sensibility, and his writing is polyglot, dialectical, intelligent, emotionally transparent, unabashedly silly, and deeply idiosyncratic.

In other words, wonderful.


ADAM'S DREAM

Workshop

April 29-May 1, 2010

by Stephen Gaultney, dir. Matt Torney

with Craig Bridger, Paul Coffey, Jessica Crandall, Justin Holcomb, Charles Linshaw, Meg McGlynn, John Peery, Adam Radford, Eric Slater, Erin Treadway, and Ian White

Role: Father

Columbia University, MFA Playwrighting Thesis @ The Cherry Pit

"When a society collapses into warfare and starvation, Adam and Eve seek isolation in the wilderness. Plagued by the past they’ve left behind, they work to build a new world for their children. 

Part One of a mythological mash-up tetralogy centered around the character of Cain."

 playwright Stephen Gaultney

playwright Stephen Gaultney


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 Some Americans abroad: Ben with Jerome Parker, Ngozi Awanyu, Elizabeth Davis, and producer Alona Fogel.

Some Americans abroad:
Ben with Jerome Parker, Ngozi Awanyu, Elizabeth Davis, and producer Alona Fogel.

THE OLD VIC/NEW VOICES U.S./U.K. EXCHANGE

Exchange Program (NYC/London)

May 22-30, 2010

Monologue Workshop with Kevin Spacey

Physical Theater Workshop with Frantic Assembly

Accent Workshop with Jill McCollough

MACBETH - AGAIN

by Jerome Parker, dir. Johnson Henshaw

with Ngozi Anyanwu, Adam Kern and Elizabeth Davis

The Old Vic (London)

Comprised of over a hundred actors, writers, directors and producers from New York and London, the exchange included my girlfriend Jess Chayes as well as many future collaborators: Stuart Luth (The Skin of Our Teeth), Anna Moench (The Pillowbook), and Carl Howell (Peter and the Starcatcher, 2013-2014). 

Within a few years, two Exchange-ers would be playing leading roles in Broadway musicals: Margo Seibert as Adrian in Rocky and Elizabeth Davis as Reza in Once (for which she was nominated for a Tony). Ngozi Anyanwu, now a successful playwright, has premiered work at Center Theatre Group and Atlantic Theater Company.

In fact, everyone but Kevin Spacey is doing pretty well.


                          

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE OCTOROON

Production

June 26-July 3, 2010

written and directed by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins

Role: Salem Scudder

P.S. 122

Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and director Gavin Quinn parted ways three weeks into rehearsals, and four actors had already dropped out of Octoroon before what was supposed to be our first performance. That morning, after a disgruntled cast member dashed off a scathing email about the rehearsal process, The Village Voice published it online. By the late afternoon, I got word that the production would be cancelled.

Hours later, Branden decided that, given another seven-to-ten days of intensive work, we could jettison all the work we'd done over seven weeks of rehearsal and mount a "response project" to our play's aborted premiere.

Though I love Branden's work, I was frustrated by the process (which critic Helen Shaw has written about), and after writing an exhausted Branden a heartfelt email, I became the sixth actor to leave the project.

After four more years of development, Branden eventually opened the play at Soho Rep, where it became a huge success, garnering both an Obie Award and Pulitzer Prize nomination. I nearly cycled back into the show's orbit in 2015, when I had a final callback for the remount at Theatre for a New Audience.


A TIME TO KILL

Closed Reading

June 28, 2010

by Rupert Holmes, dir. Scott Ellis

with Reed Birney, Michael McKean, and Susan Pourfar

Role: Stage Directions

Daryl Roth Productions

This Broadway workshop marked my first project with longtime friend and mentor Reed Birney. The show premiered on Broadway in 2013.


THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND PROJECT

Workshop Production

August 29-30, 2010

dir. Jess Chayes

with Edward Bauer, Kate Benson, Anna Abhau Elliott, Luke Harlan, and Emily Perkins

The Assembly @ UNDER St. Marks and The Kraine Theater 

Inspired by a Sam Green's 2002 documentary, I urged The Assembly to create a new play about The Weather Underground.

This was the first workshop of what would become HOME/SICK.

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I'S TWINKLE - PURGATORY

Staged Reading

September 2, 2010

by Nate Weida, dir. Isaac Klein

with Mike Anderson, E.J. Cantu, William Connell, Nicole Hodges, Benjamin Jeffrey, Eric Miller, Andrew Pastides, Devin Preston and Adrian Wyatt 

Some writers determine what to write next based on what's most likely to get produced: a play with a small cast, for instance, or a musical with a catchy, pop-infused score.

Nate Weida, on the other hand, freely adapted Dante's Divine Comedy as a retelling of his own journey from the South to the North — and from profound insecurity to embattled self-acceptance — in the form of an epic poem (Hell), a musical play (Purgatory), and an opera (Paradise).


PERFORM-A-THON - "I BELIEVE"

Devised Workshop

October 2, 2010

dir. Jessi Hill, by Barbara Cassidy

New Georges

About once a year, Susan Bernfield, the artistic director of New Georges, hosts what she calls a "Perform-a-thon". Directors and writers are paired up, handed a series of prompts, and asked to create an entirely new play in just a few hours. About an hour before showtime, actors are added to each piece.

This was my first time meeting both Jessi and Barbara. I'd end up working with Jessi again on A People (2011) and with Barbara on The Propositional Function (2013-2014).


HAROUN AND THE SEA OF STORIES

Staged Reading

October 4, 2010

adapted from the novel by Salman Rushdie

dir. Rachel Chavkin

with Taylor Mac and Debargo Sanyal

Role: Snooty Buttoo

Classic Stage Company

This was my first collaboration with Rachel Chavkin, who had seen me in two Assembly productions, and with Taylor Mac, who promptly offered to cast me in his upcoming show (which unfortunately conflicted with the Assembly's January 2011 workshop of HOME/SICK).


THIS TIME TOMORROW

Dance/Performance Piece

November 2-13, 2010

EXTENDED December 18-19, 2010

dir. and conceived by Michael Silverstone and Abigail Browde

with Dan Cozzens and Paola di Tolla

600 Highwaymen @ Duryea Church

A partially devised, partially choreographed dance piece, This Time Tomorrow was that rare show staged in a church basement that's reviewed in The New York Times.

The company would win an Obie Award in 2014 and regularly tours internationally.

You can see excerpts of the production here and here.

Reviews: The New York Times


THE TENANT

Closed Workshop

December 1-9, 2010

by Steven Levenson, dir. Teddy Bergman

with Aaron Dias, Melissa Miller, and Joe Tippett

Woodshed Collective

My third Woodshed project, based on the film by Roman Polanski.

Though Steve Levenson's script was fantastic, my role was extraordinary, and I loved watching the final production, I don't regret turning down the premiere of The Tenant in August 2011. Woodshed was once again asking me to work for free, and I couldn't afford it.


ARIZONA STATE OF LIMBO

Closed Reading

December 14, 2010

by Maja Milanovic, dir. Tea Alagic

with Joe Tapper

Role: Thomas

The Lark Play Development Center


FINS.COM - "Strengths"

National Commercial (Online and Print)

December 19, 2010

A search engine for white-collar jobs, fins.com is owned by News Corp, which owned Fox News at the time.

We shot this commercial in News Corp headquarters, where Fox News was playing in all the elevators, as well as on a big-screen TV just off-camera as we were filming. 

It felt like shooting a commercial at the center of the Death Star.


THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND PROJECT

Closed Workshop

January 31, 2011

dir. Jess Chayes

with Edward Bauer, Kate Benson, Anna Abhau Elliott, Luke Harlan, and Emily Perkins

The Assembly @ 20 Jay Street

A few months after our first workshop, which relied heavily on found text and improvisation, the ensemble came together in December 2010 and January 2011 for a writing intensive. We emerged with something like 2/3 of a full script, which we'd continue to develop in the oncoming months. 

We finally settled on a title for the project — HOME/SICK — a few months later.

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A PEOPLE

Workshop Production

February 12, 2011

by Lauren Feldman, dir. Jessi Hill

with Zack Fine, Maria Helan, Annie Henks, Lanna Joffrey, Jon Levenson, Luis Moreno, Franny Silverman, Jen Taher, and Chris Tramantana

terraNOVA Collective @ the Ontological-Hysteric Theater

A fantastia of Jewish identity past and present.

The cast — some Jewish, some not — took on dozens of different roles, sometimes straddling thousands of years in a single scene. Like Our Town, A People is difficult to describe and impossible to forget. Nobody writes like Lauren Feldman.

Four-and-a-half years later, my castmate Franny Silverman would officiate my wedding.


THE MUMBLINGS

Closed Reading

February 15, 2011

by Dan Kitrosser, dir. Jess Chayes

with Susan Pourfar

The Lark Play Development Center


THE SISTER

Production

February 16-February 26, 2011

by Eric John Meyer, dir. Jess Chayes

with Nathaniel Kent, Kate Michaud, and Jess Pohly

Role: Terry

The Brick Theater

Years after my first reading of The Sister, we finally mounted the show at The Brick.

Sara Walsh's extraordinary set featured the skeleton of a house — the support beams but not the walls — and resembled a prison. Jess staged the action with the audience on all sides.

Reviews: New York Theatre Review


FILE UNDER: SUPERWOLF - 

"CUDDLE" AND "STUCK"

Production

March 5-6, 2011

by Bekah Brunstetter, dir. Sherri Kronfeld

with Havilah Brewster, Jamie Effros, and Beth Hoyt

Superwolf

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New York Theatre Review

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CAPTAIN MIKE

Closed Reading

March 6, 2011

by Gary Winter, dir. Kip Fagan

with Heidi Schreck

Role: Captain Mike


HENRY V

Closed Reading

March 22, 2011

by William Shakespeare

with Rick Burnhardt, Alec Duffy, Dave Malloy and Danny Wohohan

Alec Duffy brought together friends and collaborators for informal readings of major works of Renaissance drama.


HEARTPLAY

Benefit Performance

April 1, 2011

by Heiner Muller, dir. Jess Chayes

The Assembly @ New York Theatre Workshop/4th Street Theater


THE DUCHESS OF MALFI

Closed Reading

April 4, 2011

by John Webster

with Rick Burnhardt, Alec Duffy, Dave Malloy and Danny Wohohan


MR. HEWITT ON THE PATH OF TRADITIONS, ENCOUNTERS, AND THE HUMAN RECORD

Workshop (Solo Performance)

April 9, 2011

by Alex Kveton, dir. Jess Chayes

Role: Mr. Hewitt

The Tank

Alex's play unfolds on the last day of class for the soon-to-be-unemployed Mr. Hewitt, a once-beloved teacher forced into early retirement after he refuses to teach to a standardized test.


UNDER CONSTRUCTION -

"THE MEETING"

Production (Short)

April 14-16, 2011

by Aaron Wigdor Levy, dir. Jess Chayes

Public Theater Emerging Writers Group @ The Kraine Theater 

Inspired by Shakespeare's Winter's TaleThe Meeting cast me as a latter-day Leontes unable to accept that he'd only imagined his girlfriend's infidelities.


WAITING FOR LEFTY

Benefit Performance

April 17, 2011

by Clifford Odets, dir. Leta Tremblay

Role: Tom Clayton

Working Theater @ The Studio Theatre (Theatre Row)

Fresh out of college, I played Miller, the idealistic young lab assistant in Waiting for Lefty. This time, I was cast as cynical double agent Tom Clayton.

Seven years in New York will do that to you.


THE JEW OF MALTA

Independent Film (Feature)

May 9-24, 2011 (Principal Photography)

adapted from the play by Christopher Marlowe, dir. Douglas Morse

with Seth Duerr and Derek Smith

Role: First Knight

Grandfather Films

I played a viciously anti-Semitic Maltese officer, the second-in-command to Tony-nominee Derek Smith's Duke Ferenze.

You can view clips of my performance (and swordfighting!) here.


EXPEDIA.COM - "RON SWANSON"

National Radio Ad - Demo (Voiceover)

May 19, 2011

Role: Ron Swanson

Expedia put together this in-house recording to determine whether they wanted to create a radio spot with Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation).

I booked the spot when I had a terrible cold, and my voice had dropped to a lower register.  When I came in to record, the engineer couldn't figure out why I sounded so different than I did on my audition.


THE PILLOW BOOK

Workshop Production

June 4, 2011

by Anna Moench, dir. Mike Klar

with Kristen Harlow and Claire Gresham

Kids With Guns

I adore Anna's play, which made this particular project a bittersweet experience.

Kristen, Claire and I were hired to workshop Kids With Guns' upcoming production, with the understanding we'd likely be used in it. After our workshop, however, Mike stepped down from directing the show, and the new director, eager to put his own mark on the production, brought on an entirely new cast.


METHODS OF REACHING EXTREME ALTITUDES

Closed Reading

June 15, 2011

by Gary Winter, dir. Daniela Topol

with Carlo Alban, Brian D. Coats, Crystal Finn, Andrew Garman, Maria-Christina Oliveras, and Jocelyn Kuritsky

Role: Fritz Lang

The Lark Play Development Center


WALTZ FOR ROSEMARY

Staged Reading

June 29, 2011

by Michelle Meyers, dir. Cara Scarmack

with Philip Callen, Mathilde Dratwa, Priscilla Holbrook, Kevin Hoffman, and Jon Krupp

New Dramatists


HOME/SICK

Production

July 6-August 3, 2011

written and created by the ensemble, dir. Jess Chayes

with Edward Bauer, Kate Benson, Anna Abhau Elliott, Luke Harlan, and Emily Perkins

Role: Tommy

The Assembly @ The Collapsable Hole

Hands down one of the most ambitious, complex, personal, political and satisfying projects of my life to date, HOME/SICK chronicles the rise and fall of the bomb-making radicals in the Weather Underground.

Reviews: New York Times (Critics' Pick), Backstage (Critics' Pick)


PORT TWILIGHT

Closed Workshop

July 13, 2011

by Len Jenkin, dir. David Chapman

Studio 42

You can read a short account of the process here.


RENEGADO

Closed Reading

August 10, 2011

by Damon Krometis

Role: Gazzet


NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND

Independent Film (Short)

September 8-16, 2011 (Principal Photography)

written and directed by Marco Seeli

Inspired by the Dogme 95 Manifesto, Marco shot this film himself with a handheld camera (and no additional sound or lighting equipment) on location on a subway platform. The only other actor in the film was a homeless man Marco knew from the neighborhood.


HUNKY DORY

Staged Reading

October 12, 2011

by Aaron Wigdor Levy, dir. Jess Chayes

with Edward Bauer, Frank Harts, Brian Hastert, Melissa Miller, and Emily Perkins

Role: Wade Renzler

Extant Arts

I played Wade Renzler, an ultra-conservative shock jock on a mission to bring down "The Liberal Elite" by any means necessary. Renzler became the model for the conservative radio announcer I voiced in Goldor $ Mythyka a year-and-a-half later.


LEGEND OF THE WORD

Concept Recording (Musical)

October 18-21, 2011

book and lyrics by Isaac Klein, music by James Stewart

with Will Connell, Andrew Pastides, Ashley Robinson, and Trevor Vaughn

Isaac and James have written a new creation myth, something like a cross between the book of GenesisThe SilmarillionHair, and Ready to Die.


     

 

 

ANT FEST -

SALAMANDER LEVIATHAN

Performance (Musical)

October 31, 2011

by Krista Knight and Barry Brinegar, dir. Jess Chayes

with Dan Moyer, Emily Louise Perkins, Alison Scaramella, and Steve Stout

Role: Salamander Leviathan

Ars Nova

We teched this full-length musical in a single afternoon.

I played the title character, a lonely lumberjack who makes a deal with The Devil (Steve Stout) to find love. Love soon arrives in the form of a beautiful woman (Emily Louise Perkins), but no sooner has she settled in than Salamander discovers suffering and death are not far behind.

It was a hell of a lot of fun.


FALL WRITING RETREAT

Closed Workshop

November 5, 2011

new plays by Sevan Greene and Augusto Frederico Amador

The Public Theater Emerging Writers Group


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HOME/SICK

Benefit Performance (Excerpt)

November 13, 2011

written and created by the ensemble, dir. Jess Chayes

with Edward Bauer, Kate Benson, Anna Abhau Elliott, Luke Harlan, and Emily Perkins

Role: Tommy

The Culture Project, 2011 Benefit


COMPANY

Regional Production (Musical)

November 30-December 18, 2011

music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by George Furth

dir. Leslie Unger

with Erik Agle, Jennifer Lauren Brown, Amanda Bruton, Scott Caron, Brian Detlafs, Hillary Ekwall, Keisha Gilles, Ryan Speakman, Meredith Swanson, and Victoria Thornsbury

Role: Larry

Playhouse on Park (West Hartford, CT)

Company marked my first Sondheim musical since college, when I played the title role in Sweeney Todd, directed Assassins, and even ran a spotlight for A Little Night Music.

I'm an obsessive Sondheim fan. His musicals have staggering range, depth, and wit, and I'm always grateful to work on anything he's written.

 (photograph by David B. Newman)

(photograph by David B. Newman)


THE ONE, PERCY ENT

Staged Reading

December 13, 2011

by Tariq Hamami, dir. David Bruin

with Christopher Cartmill, Virginia Krull, and Austin Mitchell

Snapdragon