How have the first performances of the show gone?
I've been really pleased with the shows so far.
What has the response been from audiences?
Considering the standing ovations for Dean and Megan, I'm reasonably certain at least a dozen people have liked the show :-) Actually the audience response has been very kind.
What drew you to The Graduate?
When I choose shows, I look for two things. One, will this be artistically interesting, and two will it be fun working with this particular group of people? It's a huge time investment, so both things are important to me. In the case of this show, I was drawn to working on such a classic, and I knew I'd like working with Mary and Marty.
What is your experience with the material? Have you ever seen the play? The movie?
I knew the basic story from it being a common cultural reference as I grew up, but I've never seen the movie or a production of this play before. Once I was committed to the show, I decided to wait to see the movie until after the show ran so that I wouldn't subconsciously imitate others' ideas about how the characters should be.
What do you think makes this story such an American classic?
We live in a culture where each generation has the freedom and the burden of creating their own world view. This play portrays that. So it has classic themes of coming of age through rebellion against authority, sexual exploration, and then coming to some sort of mature resolution. And that's just one take. There's all kinds of material to explore around our conflicting attitudes towards sexual expression, and I think also towards materialism.
What are some elements to the CST production of The Graduate that you think add a different or fresh twist to a well-known story?
Well, I think Dean has a much more handsome nose than Dustin Hoffman. But don't tell Dusty that, he gets very insecure when I talk like that.
How have the cast and crew come together on this production?
From my perspective, the cast and crew were great to work with from word go. Dean, who plays Benjamin, is a generous actor who gives you a lot to work with and is willing to try different takes on the characters. Amy, "my onstage wife," has been awesome to work with, and the directors provided a supportive environment to develop the characters. I mention how great those because I work most closely with them, but this cast has been fantastic, both in terms of talent and ability, as well as just being great people to spend time with.
What is your favorite scene in the show? Favorite line?
Just for sheer fun: Ben's first date with Elaine in the strip club. His trying to sabotage the date gets me every time, and I never tire of Lady Ginger. Artistically for my character, my favorite moment is actually a very sad one. Ben returns from his "walkabout," and his father is so hopeful that Ben will return a fully grown man who appreciates the value of a hard day's work. When that's not what happens, Frank feels all of his dreams have come to an end, that he's a failure as a father, and that has irreversably gone off track. The moment is I think masked under the humor of what's going on at that time for the audience, but it resonates with me. I remember that moment as a father. Now, I see how my step-son was laying the groundwork to be his own person, and how he went on to make me unbelievably proud. But Frank doesn't see that yet. He just feels the death but without the resurrection yet. It's a poignant moment for me.
One character in The Graduate utters the famous line, "One word - plastics." If you could describe this play in one word, what would it be.
I'd start with the line where Ben says, "I'm through with all this ... I don't know what it is, but I'm sick of it. I want something else." I see the play as being that journey. So I'd sum it up with a word that's not in the play, "Quest."
What makes Chicago Street Theatre such a unique venue?
For me, it's the blend of the passion and zeal of volunteers, who do this just because they love to, combined with the very professional standards and practices of CST. I believe that's a recipe for compelling shows and excellence on the stage.