Happy Fathers’ Day to all the men out there who are fathers and stepfathers, or who fill those roles without the official title. In honor of all of you, we’re doing a special Sunday Brunch interview of a father and son who share a love of theatre. Paul (the father) is a working actor, while Stuart (the son) is a ten-year-old boy who recently had his first professional acting gig. (Those of you with ten-year-olds in your life will find Stuart’s responses refreshingly typical of his age.)
Tell our readers a bit about yourself. Who are you, and where do you come from?
I come from a family that has no theatrical background whatsoever – I didn’t even see a play until I was a sophomore in high school, but the first time I performed as an actor I knew it was something I wanted to pursue. Since my exposure to theatre came so late, I headed to college for more training. I earned my BFA in theatre from the College of Santa Fe in Santa Fe, NM, where I spent much of my time on the boards of the Greer Garson Theatre. I also trained abroad at the British American Drama Academy in London, England. I’ve spent more than half of my life as a working actor, fight choreographer, and director. I’ve also earned many a paycheck as a stage carpenter and techie in the world behind the scenes.
I’ve read that out of the great number of working actors, there’s only a small percentage who actually earn money for their craft, and an even smaller percentage who make a decent living solely from performing. I also know that you have a “day job.” Can you share your experiences and opinions about the state of the craft?
Oh boy. It’s true, it’s true! Over the course of my career, there’ve only been a handful of times that my income was enough to get by without the dreaded “day job” – and those times were all when I was single and childless! But my experience is probably different from most: I don’t have an agent (I never have), I don’t go on cattle-call auditions, I’ve never read for a TV or commercial opportunity, and I’ve only been on three film auditions. I have no desire to hawk sodas or car insurance and I find film work disconnected, so I stick to my first love – live theatre.
I tell anyone pursuing a career in acting to think about what it is they wish to accomplish, to think about what they would consider a successful career. The craft is always going to be there, in more manifestations than most actors can imagine. Just know what you like, know what you don’t like, and stick to your chosen path.
You recently had the opportunity to do a play with your son. Tell us about the play, and about the experience of working with Stuart. Were there any issues with the divide between “son” and “young colleague?”
It was a production of The Executioner’s Sons, which is based on England’s mystery of the Princes Edward and Richard, circa 1483. The play focuses on the family life of a 15th century executioner – which was my role – and the difficult choices he has to make in balancing family and career.
Stuart played my eldest son and we had a great time working together! During the drive back and forth from rehearsals he would initiate line runs, he had us practicing bits at home, and he still works on his English accent. My wife ran a theatre company before Stuart was born and kept it up until he was about three, so he’s been around the stage since before he could walk, and his focus on the work was remarkable. I can honestly say that the flow between our professional relationship and our father/son relationship was seamless. I hope to have a chance to work with him again!
You have a job, a performing career, and you’re also a husband and father. How do you balance all three aspects of your life? Do you think it would be more or less difficult if you weren’t an entire family of theater folk?
Ha! Precariously, at best. The challenge is to not do back-to-back-to-back shows. Having an all-theatre family doesn’t necessarily make balancing schedules easier, but it does go a long way towards the understanding and patience needed for such a high-demand lifestyle. All of us “get it” when it comes to rehearsals, tech-week, and a show’s performance schedule, and that helps when one of us has to miss something important to the others.
As a parent, I’m sure education is important to you, and arts education especially so. What would you do to change the way children are educated in your state? In the country?
Exposure, exposure, exposure! Kids should visit museums, see sculptors and painters at work, visit recording studios, they should attend concerts, dance and theatre, and then they should get the opportunity to try what they’ve seen. Programs to encourage creative outlets for kids are too few and too underfunded. That hands-on approach to arts education is the best way for them to develop as human beings, no matter what career path they eventually choose.
For parents who are NOT involved in music or theater, how do you think kids should be introduced to those things? Are kids ever “too young?”
Too young? There’s no such thing. Picking age-appropriate material can be a challenge, but no more so than choosing age-appropriate books or television shows. And I don’t think that there’s one “right way” to start kids off on a creative path, but parents do need to dump the idea of product-oriented exposure. Odds are your kid isn’t a prodigy, but that’s hardly the point. Suffer through their awful rendition of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on the piano, smile as you hear your kids fumbling through the one line they have in the school play—getting it “right” isn’t nearly as important as giving your child their own creative voice. As artists, we know that the growth and development of our art comes through a process of trying and failing, sometimes abysmally so.
What’s coming up for you? Where can we see you on stage/screen/etc?
I just performed for Kitchen Dog Theatre’s New Works Festival, in a staged reading of The Singularity, but the next project for me is my role as chauffeur for Stuart, as he’s appearing in the Children’s Chorus of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat this summer at the Dallas Theater Center.
Tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
I’m ten years old, and I’m in 6th grade. I love to build Legos.
Your parents have been involved in theater for longer than you’ve been alive. Did you ever want to follow other interests, or do you want to keep performing?
I kinda want to do both. I think I will continue to be in the acting business.
Recently you had your first professional acting job. Tell us a bit about it. I know you got to work with your father.
Yes. Me and my father [sic] did The Executioner’s Sons for Echo Theater, and it was fun because my dad played my dad.
Do you remember your first performance EVER?
No, I do not remember my first performance.
Tell us about a typical day for you.
First thing I do is eat breakfast after I wake up, then, sometimes I get to play with my friends before rehearsal and after rehearsal I eat dinner than play for a bit at home, then brush my teeth, then go to bed.
Where can we next see you on stage?
I’m in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for the Dallas Theater Center.
Joseph… opens on June 22nd and runs through August 12 at the Wyly Theatre, in Dallas, TX. Visit the Dallas Theater Center website for more information.
Photos by Kimberlyn Crowe