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And then, of course, in The Understudy, you have this great analogy comparing an understudy to one of Kafka's characters. Have you gotten any flack from Equity [the union of stage actors] for comparing them to Kafka's Castle?
Oh, no. [Laughter.] Honestly, I think that most audiences just react to the little bit they know about Kafka and most people don't really understand everything we're doing. I mean, some people do. It's a comic version of that disempowered terror that Kafka writes about so potently.
And it's not just that they're losers, because that would be an easy choice, it's that they're really struggling to make something of it.
They're fighting. They're fighters. You know I think that I am a populist, which I believe is the right thing to be if you're a theater artist. You said that thing about accessibility being a dirty word in New York—I think it is a tragic, tragic mistake for people to embrace that idea in theater. Because too much theater, I believe, sets the audience out and says basically, you're not welcome here. I don't think that's ever been an appropriate thing to say when you're inviting people in to pay a lot of money and share in your world and make a community for two hours.
I think theater is such a delight, even when it's tragic, there's something so beautiful and energizing about that experience. And it's intellectually provoking and emotionally and spiritually provoking. Why would you create a world where the audience that's been invited in can't participate? That actually seems like poor sense to me. My experience is that audiences are moved by people striving for something. One of the things that actors always talk about is that you shouldn't cry very much, that it's very bad to cry on the stage a lot, that what you want to do is suggest tears and move beyond it or have the performance on the brink of tears but not give in. And then the audience cries.
So the audience can let go where the character can't. That's fascinating.
Yes, it is fascinating. That's actually what I think the whole enterprise is about: to bring them with you and to let them feel what you're doing.
One thing that really stands out in the Roundabout's production of The Understudy is the casting. Starting with the character of Jake, I feel like Mark-Paul Gosselaar is perfect for that role and he plays it very well.
I think he relates to the guy. And you know, that's his first time on stage.