Before we announce the winners of the 2013 Boston My Theatre Awards, we’re proud to present our annual Nominee Interview Series.
Two-time My Theatre Award nominee Jared Walsh, nominated for Best Actor in a Musical for his work in Brandeis University’s production of tick, tick . . . BOOM!, joins us for an inside look into his acting process, some of his personal philosophies and values, and an exciting exploration of his emerging versatility as a performer.
Jared, it’s great to have you back with us. You were nominated for a Best Actor in a Musical My Theatre for 2011. Can you update our readers on some of your latest projects since your last interview in 2012 [for the 2011 My Theatre Awards Nominee Interview Series]?
It has been a wild couple of years since my 2011 My Theatre Award Nomination for Spring Awakening with F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company. My band Barricades came out with a full length album “With Perfect Aim,” which is available on iTunes, Spotify, and Soundcloud. It has been a great process and we’re glad with how it came out. As far as theatre goes, since Spring Awakening, I’ve been a part of some amazing productions: Sheldrake in Sunset Boulevard (Next Door Center for the Arts), Gabe in Next to Normal (Marblehead Little Theatre), the Balladeer/[Lee Harvey] Oswald in Assassins (F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company), Toby in Sweeney Todd (Next Door), and Jon in tick, tick…BOOM! (Brandeis University). I am currently playing Gabe again in Next to Normal, this time at Next Door, which closes on January 25, 2014.
Sounds like you have some great, on-going relationships with various local Greater Boston theatre companies. For instance, you seem to have a long-standing working relationship with Joey DeMita, director for tick, tick . . . BOOM! What is your process like with him? What are some of the positives of returning to work with the same director? Any negatives?
Joey is an absolute joy to work with, hence why I keep auditioning for shows that he is directing. We have a good working relationship and sort of have the same general idea of how a show or a character should be moulded. The thing about Joey is that he always has a clear vision of where he wants a show to go. He is consistent and sticks with the plan that he sets out from the beginning. There is a reason why F.U.D.G.E. , and specifically Joey, have been nominated for so many awards for the past few years.
Yes, Joey’s informed process and his outstanding work-product always stick out for me when reviewing his productions. Talk to us about the rehearsal process for tick, tick . . . BOOM! From what I heard, it was a very abbreviated process. How did that impact your finished product?
Oh man, it was nuts. Jackie [Theoharis] (also a 2013 Boston My Theatre Award Nominee for tick, tick . . . BOOM!) is an amazing performer and, any chance I get to work with her, I jump at the opportunity. This project was her senior thesis at Brandeis [University]. tick, tick. . . BOOM! is a show that I’ve always wanted to do. I wasn’t originally slated to be involved in the project but, a few weeks before the show was set to go up, Jackie called asking me if I wanted to play Jon. At first, it was only supposed to be for the Saturday matinee because the actor originally playing Jon couldn’t perform during that time. Eventually, he decided it would make more sense for me to just take all three performances. This was two weeks before the show . . .
Going into it, I knew a few songs (“Why”,” 30/90”, “Louder than Words”) but I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. When I got the script, it seemed as though every other page was a Jon monologue. I hunkered down and we rehearsed every night (and Saturday afternoon) for two weeks, and I think by the end of the run I had about 95% of all the words. I summarized the rest. I will never, ever again complain about learning lines. It was a learning process for sure.
Yikes, that sounds like a ride! You had amazing chemistry with Jackie [Theoharis]; no surprise there! Had you worked together before? How did you establish such a strong back-story and relationship with her for your Jon and Susan?
Like I said before, Jackie is amazing and it is really easy to work with her. It is really easy to establish chemistry with someone who works in a similar way that you do. In real life, we bounce off each other so it was easy to translate that on stage. In Spring Awakening, it was easy for me to “act” because everyone else (Jackie included) was so amazing. Half the time I was just listening and marveling at my fellow actors. It’s easy when they’re giving so much. It was the same with tick, tick . . . BOOM!; Jackie is phenomenal and a pleasure to work with.
Did you find that you shared any similar traits with Jon? Some people say that tick, tick . . . BOOM! Is largely autobiographical homage to Jonathan Larson. Did you do any research into Larson?
I’m heading to a place in my life where Jon is perpetually. I’m in my late 20’s now and I am sort of figuring out my lot in life. With the music, and the acting, and struggling to get by, it was easy to relate to what Jon is and well, was. I know the story of Jonathan Larson, and appreciate the impact he had on musical theatre as a whole. He managed to change the landscape of what a musical is supposed to be. It’s inspiring and extraordinary the impact he had in the short time he had.
Do you have a best friend like Michael? An ex-girlfriend like Susan? A family like Gabe’s?
We all have friends who have sacrificed what they love to be successful in another field or expertise. We all have had exes who want something else, or more than what you’re willing to give. We all have families with issues that are sometimes beyond our control. That’s what makes theatre so amazing. That’s why I gravitate towards it. I’ve been very lucky to be where I’m at in my life. I try not to take things for granted. It can be gone so fast that you don’t even realize it has passed.
I totally understand. Only can do so much with the time we have. But it seems like you’re making the best of it. How do you think you’ve grown as a performer in the last two years? With what do you continue to struggle?
[My struggle] was [with] lines until this show but that fear certainly has gone away! Spring Awakening taught me a lot about who I am as a performer. We invested so much of that show as a collective unit and that’s what made it special. With Joey’s direction, we were able to create something. I’ve sort have taken that with me from that show. Sports are always a part of my life, and the thing I miss most about playing is being a part of a team. I’ve taken that team mentality with me to the stage, and I try to make everyone feel a part of something special. We cannot take for granted what we do. I continue to struggle with fully investing myself in the craft. I still doubt myself, and regret choices I’ve made on stage, in auditions. I need to be smarter yet fully entrench myself in the acting process.
Speaking of the acting process, you’re in a production of Next to Normal with Next Door Theatre right now as Gabe, right? How was preparing for and performing the role of Gabe different from that for Jon? You played Gabe recently with Marblehead Theatre too, didn’t you? How was reprising a role with a different company and cast?
Gabe and Jon are very, very different. First off all, (spoiler alert!) Gabe is a ghost and Jon is not! Beyond that artificial and horrible attempt at humor, they both have the same needs and wants. Both want to feel, to be in tune with life, to be accepted in what they are trying to accomplish. It’s what we all want! We all want to be happy, we want to create, we want to accomplish. That’s why we’re “Alive.” (Terrible . . . )
I think you mentioned in 2012 that one of your dream roles was Gabe in Next to Normal. How was playing one of your dream roles not once but twice? Do you think a third time is the charm for you? You also mentioned wanting to play Jamie in The Last Five Years and do Parade too. Have you revised any of your dream roles since then?
Awesome! You really appreciate what you are doing when you get to reprise the role. The music in this show is so special and so riveting that you can’t help be happy when you are around it and are performing it. Part of the reason I auditioned and took the role again was because I’m hitting the point that I won’t be able to play Gabe anymore. Late 20’s do not bode well to pass as a teenager (even if he is a ghost). I don’t think I’ll be able to be a part of this show again until I can play Dan or the Doctor (which I would welcome completely!). Jamie and Parade are still top of the list. I’ve started to get more and more into Sondheim as I’ve diversified my musical theatre knowledge. Bobby in Company is now #3 on the list.
Bobby would be a great role for you. And you’re getting to be the perfect age to start to play it! What motivates you as a performer? As a person?
The people I share the stage with and the process of creating a story and life on stage. The bonds you create with your fellow actors in a good experience make all the difference in the world. I want to be a part of the Boston theatre scene and watch as it continues to grow. I want to learn and grow as an actor, a performer and a person. You learn a lot about yourself when put in a situation where people are watching you onstage.
Have you thought about directing in the future? Why or why not? If so, is there anything that you would want to direct? Would you have a venue in mind? A particular vision?
I have thought about it before. The opportunity really hasn’t come my way and I’m so harsh on myself I’d be afraid of not ever being happy with an end result.
A big theme in tick, tick . . . BOOM! Is doing what you love with your life and not wasting time. What are you doing today, or have you done in the past, that you could have never imagined doing five years ago? The musical is also about not being afraid to fail or grow older. What do you hope to have accomplished in the next five years?
Honestly, I just want to be healthy and happy. I want to be in a place that I’m able to do what I want and not have regrets about it. I want to share my time with people who want to share their time with me. I want to perform and share the stage with actors and learn from them. I couldn’t have imagined doing all the things that I’ve been able to do. The fact that I can handle my schedule is amazing to “senior-in-college” me. I’d like to travel more, and experience more of the United States. I know so much about the history of the country but I feel like I’ve only seen a small chunk of it.
Sounds like you have a good grasp on your life and work. About what do you dream? Do you have nightmares about anything?
I used to have a recurring 28 Days Later zombie dream but that has gone away. I don’t know what it ever meant or what it was supposed to mean. I don’t often dream. I have dreams, but I don’t often dream.
I remember that you said that you perform in a band. Can you tell us about your work with it and any upcoming projects? Do you write your own music? How do you balance working with a band and performing locally?
My writing has taken a step back over the past few years. I regret not putting in the time to get better at guitar and solidify my writing process. Like I said before, we came out with our first full-length album this summer, “With Perfect Aim.” It has received great response and we’ve been on local radio stations and a couple of national podcasts (the Film Vault). We’re just looking to continue playing and growing as a band. Scheduling everything has proven to be a challenge over the past few years but we all seem to make it work. If everyone is on the same page, it is easy to be flexible.
Do you have any other upcoming theatre projects?
In March, I will be performing in “White Chapel: The Jack the Ripper Musical,” written by multiple IRNE award nominee/winner Steven Bergman and the F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company. I’ve grown close with a lot of the F.U.D.G.E. regulars, but I am pumped to be a part of an original work. The last time I was a part of something original was my senior year in college. A friend of mine wrote a musical that the Musical Theater Guild performed and it was a blast. [“White Chapel: The Jack the Ripper Musical”] opens the last weekend of March at the BU Playwrights’ Theatre.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers?
Thank you again for reading about and supporting local theatre. Thank you to My Theatre for nominating me again. I really, truly appreciate it and can’t believe it sometimes that people enjoy coming to see me perform. I am humbled and appreciate everyone I’ve worked with because without them, I wouldn’t be the performer I am today without them. They make me look good and make my job easier.