Earlier this spring, the very generous folks at Lincoln Center Theater asked if I’d like to represent the company of OSLO in a special feature to be included in the Tony Awards one-night-only edition of PLAYBILL, highlighting artists making their Broadway debuts this 2016-2017 season.
What an honor to be featured alongside so many wonderful talents, from very fresh faces to respected industry veterans…and, my dad would have gotten a real kick that I share the article with the inimitable Danny DeVito.
Check out all of ‘Broadway’s Newest Faces’ at the online feature, here.
After last summer’s Off-Broadway production of OSLO at the Mitzi Newhouse won both the Lucille Lortel and the Obie, it’s been astounding to watch this spring as the Broadway production at the Vivian Beaumont has been awarded every Best Play citation of the season: the New York Drama Critics’ Circle, the Drama Desk, the Outer Critics Circle, and the Drama League. So, we were all on some pins and needles tonight, as there was stiff competition for the Tony from SWEAT, INDECENT, and A DOLL’S HOUSE, PART 2.
The majority of the cast and crew (who weren’t nominated and in attendance at Radio City) were gathered at the LCT viewing party at PJ Clarke’s, along with the cast and crew of the also-nominated LCT production of FALSETTOS. What a sweet and ecstatic eruption took place when John Lithgow read out, ‘OSLO’, as the winner of this year’s Tony Award for Best Play. The magic carpet ride continues…
Last night, the Lincoln Center Theater production of JT Rogers’ OSLO directed by Bartlett Sher opened on Broadway at the Vivian Beaumont Theater to an ovation and ecstatic reviews (‘…has become the colossus it was always meant to be…a thrilling production…’) and tonight, the very good Friday of Easter weekend, I made my Broadway debut in the role of Yossi Beilin.
You can’t make these things up.
We’d had an unusual preview period, already, with my pal Angela Pierce going on the first Sunday matinee (only the 4th public performance) for dear Henny Russell, stuck on a disabled 7 train in Queens. The following week, my buddy Jeff Still went on a few times for an ailing colleague, and, to our collective delight for him but our concerted dismay at the circumstance, he’s been playing the role ever since.
Tonight, I got the last-minute call-to-arms. We’re all exhausted, this show is a 3-hour monster, we’d just finished the long march to Opening, rehearsing all day then playing at night, I’d had my hefty fair share of bourbon to celebrate the occasion, then family in town for an unseasonably hot afternoon in the Park, I had not found that half-hour for a short snooze before the show,and then an hour before curtain, as I’m leaving home, my phone buzzed. Adam Dannheisser was stuck on a train in Jersey and we didn’t know if he’d get into the city in time. There’d been a power outage at Port Authority, coupled with a gun scare (turned out to be a taser) at Penn Station. I got to the theatre, we ran through one quick furniture move, and with fifteen minutes to go, our amazing ASM, Howie Tilkin, showed up to tell me, ‘He’s not gonna make it. You need to get dressed.’
Yowza. I’ve never understudied before, let alone covered four principal roles in a ‘colossus’ such as OSLO, never walked out, with no rehearsal, onto a Broadway stage and into the middle of a massive and finely-calibrated machine before a packed house expecting to be ‘thrilled’. It’s a testament to the strength of this acting company, to the leadership of Bart Sher, and to the crack stage management team that the evening was such a success. Across the street at P.J. Clarke’s, hoisting a few after the show, none of the friends and colleagues who were in the audience that night had any idea who the understudy was…and, Michael Aronov mentioned to me, ‘Dude, you were calmer than we were. After a while, we all forgot that an understudy was on.’ Glad and grateful to have done the job I was hired to do and, by all accounts, done it well. On to tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow!
Onstage with the great Jefferson Mays. Photos by my pal, T. Ryder Smith.
I’ve spent the past month on the gorgeous campus of Princeton University, playing ‘Tariq/Tim’ in the McCarter Theatre’s LAB Spotlight production of Heather Raffo’s NOURA, featuring the playwright, herself, along with Dahlia Azama and Haaz Sleiman. Sincerely grateful to the crack team at the McCarter for a most hospitable stay, as well as to photographer Brad Resnick for these images. It’s been a year since I began workshopping this piece, through incarnations at CSC, EpicTheatreEnsemble, and Noor Theatre here in the city, with jaunts to Kansas City Repertory and the Arab American Museum along the way. I’m now on to other scheduled projects, but wishing Heather and the gang much success as they forge NOURA’s future, beginning with the world premiere production at the Shakespeare Theatre in D.C. in 2018.
Ali Abbas’ whipsmart brainchild, ‘The Ridge’, about a quartet of 20-something Muslim superheroes living in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, has been picked up to series by AmazonStudios and will begin shooting in NYC in the fall. The pilot episode has been retooled as the ‘Origin Story’ and begins streaming June 1st on AmazonPrime. You’ll catch me later in the year in a featured role as ‘Kareem’, father to one of the super-powered foursome…who’d do just about anything for his darling daughter. Anything. Keep ‘The Ridge’ on your radar!
We’re now deep into rehearsal for Karen Case Cook’s re-imagining of the Euripidean tragedy, in which I’m playing the ill-fated ‘Jason’. 24 springtimes ago, I was cast as the ill-fated ‘Pentheus’ in a production of The Bacchae at the fledgling Actor’s Express in Atlanta. All these years later, wild serendipity breathes again…these Greeks have been so good to me. Running in repertory with American Moor, April 16th ~ May 3rd, it’s Medea and the Furies.
I’ve been saying this is the year of dads and uncles, and the trend continued apace with today’s shoot: the pilot episode of ‘The Ridge’, Ali Abbas’ crazyhip and whipsmart new series about the complexities of human nature, the Islamo-American dream, and twenty-somethings with amazing superpowers. (How does he get all of that into the same telesphere..? When it gets picked up, we’ll find out!) The action unspools in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, and I play ‘Karim’, dad to one of the principals…a pretty strict Muslim who discovers how far he’s willing to go to help his daughter, Aneesa. Directed and photographed by Saro Varjabedian and produced by Monte Bezell.
They aged me up a bit (on-the-spot and lickety-split.) Here’s Saro and the crew setting up a shot and one of the archive photos of ‘Baba’.
This Saturday evening, I’m appearing in an intriguing double-bill. Readings of two plays, one a meditation on secrets, violence, and vulnerability, ‘A Chance Encounter’, by Syrian writer Mohammad Al Attar, the other an hysterical, desperate account of recent austerity measures in Greece, by playwright Lena Kitsopoulou, ‘The Price’.
The video below is all Greek to me, but it does give a glimpse into Kitsopoulou’s theatrical quirk:
One night only, (07/26) at The Wild Project, as part of the Between the Seas Festival.
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