Category: Five Questions With…


Andrew C. Call

In honor of the opening weekend of SCT’s new production of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show. I decided this month’s Five Questions with… column would spotlight my friend Andrew Call. Andrew appeared in the 2001 production of Rocky Horror at the Vandivort playing the title role of Rocky, Dr. Frank’s creation. He then went on later that season to play Valentin in our production of Kiss of the Spider Woman. Also, while Andrew was in Springfield as a student he was seen in MSU’s productions of A New Brain, Ti Jean and Oklahoma.

I recently caught up with Andrew around his busy schedule in the Broadway production of Green Day’s American Idiot. Here’s my Five Questions with Andrew C. Call:

RPD: Andrew, my ‘Five Questions’ column was created in order that we can let our patrons here at Springfield Contemporary Theatre know a bit about where some of our past actors, directors and other regulars have gone since their last work at the theatre. So my first question is basically that…theatrically what all have you been up to since leaving Springfield?

ACC: I left Springfield in the spring of 2003 for the National Tour of Saturday Night Fever. I toured all over the country for a year and then went to Las Vegas and sat down with that production at the Sahara Hotel and Casino. In the fall of 2004, Saturday Night Fever closed and I went back to NYC. Two weeks later, I got called to play Riff in a production of West Side Story in San Francisco. I left for the west coast and three months later found myself back in Arkansas (where I grew up).

After a couple of months fishing with my dad and helping out my folks I got a call to fly out and audition for a new show called Altar Boyz. They flew me to NYC on a Friday; I saw the show on Sunday; I auditioned on Monday and got a call 30 minutes later (on my way to the airport) with a job offer. Two days later I found myself in Detroit in a rehearsal space. When the production closed in Detroit we moved it to Des Moines. However, I was only there a few weeks when I got the call to come into the off-Broadway company of Altar Boyz.

I only stayed in the NY Altar Boyz company for three months and booked my first Broadway show, High Fidelity. We went out of town with the show. Then came back and closed two weeks after opening on Broadway. That was my first of four flops on Broadway (followed by Cry-Baby, Glory Days and the revival of Brigadoon that never opened).

Andrew on Broadway in Green Day's 'American Idiot'

I went to London after all of this and worked on the English National Opera’s production of Candide. Upon my return from London I was cast in the workshop of The Untitled Punk Project that was to go on to become American Idiot. I was part of a one-week workshop. Then left before the big presentation as I was asked to play Marius in the Signature Theatre’s production of Les Miserables. Though I was asked to rejoin the production of American Idiot that opened at Berkeley Repertory Theatre and then transferred to Broadway. I am currently still performing with the show. A little long winded…but a lot has happened!

RPD: You’ve been with Green Day’s American Idiot for a while now. What has it been like working on a show through different stages of development on its way to Broadway? How much has the show changed along the way?

ACC: The show has changed a ton since we first started working. We did a few workshops where we fleshed out what the show was. It was really hard because we have very little book. Being that the show is mostly sung-through. We started by just playing around with a few things and then kept on playing and cutting and piecing things together that worked. Then we got a rough draft. So, basically, we had a script (the album) and we have to piece together this idea into the structure of this show. A lot of trial and error later, we found a cohesive story told through song and a few letters that makes this piece flow from song to song.

RPD: In several of the Broadway shows you have done, you’ve been in the ensemble and understudied other roles in the production. How much do you get to rehearse for the roles you are understudying? How often do you get to go on?

ACC: My first understudy experience was in High Fidelity. I had never rehearsed. We hadn’t been open long enough for that to even happen. One night the first weekend after opening the lead (Will Chase) was out sick. Will’s understudy, who happened to be one of the other on stage leads went on. As the chain goes, a swing would go on for him and that’s that. By the end of the first act it is apparent that the swing wasn’t prepared. At intermission the Production Stage Manager comes to me and asks if I know the role. I reply that “I can do better than what’s happening up there now.” So I went on in the leading role for the second act. No rehearsal. Five minutes of warning. And I killed it for two full songs and five scenes. Killed it. Needless to say, I was on for the next two performances. Then we closed. Thankfully, I was trained well at MSU and my experiencez in Springfield theatre helped me to be prepared for anything.

MSU Alumni Dale Hensley presenting Andrew with the traditional Gypsy Robe on opening night of 'American Idiot'

RPD: On opening night of American Idiot you received the special honor of wearing the Gypsy Robe. Can you explain to my readers this Broadway tradition? And tell us whom the special Springfield-tied person was who presented with you this honor?

ACC: On opening night of American Idiot on Broadway I was given the Gypsy Robe. It’s tradition that dates back into the 20’s. It is given to the ensemble member who has the most Broadway chorus contracts to date. I was excited to receive such an honor. I was presented this robe by (S)MSU alumni Dale Hensley who had recently received it for La Cage aux Folles. It was a great night.

RPD: Was there anything about your Springfield theatre experience that prepared you for the life in the professional theatre that you have achieved thus far?

ACC: My experience with Springfield theatre taught me to always be prepared. Also to understand the normal things we take for granted. Be on time. Be prepared and have a good attitude. This was my whole experience in Springfield theatre. It was a very professional and had great production value.

Andrew C. Call as Rocky in SCT's 2001 production of Richard O'Brien's 'The Rocky Horror Show'

RPD: Thanks Andrew!

I have not disappeared loyal blog readers. The past couple weeks have been quite busy in mounting two productions in two different cities. While we have been getting a wonderful production of Song of Singapore on stage here in Springfield, I have also been busy directing the world premiere of a new play, Hanky Panky, as a part of the Kansas City Fringe Festival.

Herman Johansen

This brings me to around to the subject of my July “Five Questions With…” feature. (I know I’m a week or so late.) Over the past few weeks I have had the great privilege of reconnecting with a former Springfield Contemporary Theatre actor, director and co-producer, Herman Johansen as he was a member of the Hanky Panky cast.

Herman is another former Springfieldian that we often get asked about at the theatre. Springfield audiences may remember Herman from many productions he was involved with not only at the Vandivort, but also at Springfield Little Theatre and Tent Theatre. Here are my five questions with Herman:

RPD: Since leaving Springfield, can you give us a sampling of what you’ve been up to theatrically?

HJ: I moved to Kansas City in the spring of 2003 and was fortunate enough to get cast in the first show I auditioned for and it was at Kansas City Rep which is one of the largest professional theatres in the Midwest. Since then it’s been quite a journey…I’ve worked at several theatres in KC. in addition to the Rep: the Unicorn, New Theatre, MET, and some independent producers including this year’s Fringe Festival. I’ve also acted in five shows at the Great Plains Theatre in Abilene, KS and spent three summers doing summer stock in South Dakota at the Black Hills Playhouse. At BHP, I spent one of those summers as casting director and company manager as well. I’ve also been directing some, in and out of KC and even wrote an adaptation of a play that was produced at BHP. I’ve done some camera work, commercials and industrials and such. I’m in all three acting unions now: AEA, AFTRA and SAG.

RPD: After spending the past few weeks working with you, I know that you have upcoming projects lined up. Can you tell my readers a bit about what we might be able to see you working on soon?

HJ: The next projects I’ll be acting in include: Lend Me a Tenor at Great Plains Theatre, A Christmas Carol at the University of West Florida (as a guest artist) and The Odd Couple along side George Wendt at New Theatre in Kansas City. I am also producing a series of five staged readings in KC this fall. Then there are a couple of callbacks coming up this month that I’m excited about…

RPD: Can you briefly explain the journey you’ve been on to becoming a professional regional actor? For anyone wanting to pursue acting on a regional level what kind of advice would you have for them?

Herman Johansen in the Great Plains Theatre production of Harvey

HJ: The key is to audition. A lot. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? I’m constantly amazed at how many actors complain about the lack of work when they haven’t auditioned for anyone in a couple of years. It is easy to get discouraged and lazy, and those are dangerous things. To work regionally you need to audition in as many places as you can for as many theatres as you can. UPTA (Unified Professional Theatre Auditions) in Memphis and the Midwest Theatre Auditions in St. Louis were launching pads of sorts for me. That’s where I initially got cast in the projects outside of KC, which led to other jobs in directing and casting and such. I also audition in KC every time I can; even if the theatre has seen me before. I mail a lot of headshots and resumes out with cover letters to theatres, built a website (hermanjohansen.com) and other things to keep my name in front of people. As an example I got a call a couple of weeks ago from a casting director in Chicago who wants me to audition for some things up there in the near future. I had met her briefly a few years ago and stayed in touch. Who knows? I also read plays constantly. That is something my college acting coach, Howard Orms, instilled in me. That is so important and obvious, yet so many actors don’t do it. And I still work with acting and/or voice coaches when I get time.

RPD: Besides acting, I know that you also direct. From your experience as an actor, what do you take into the rehearsal room as a director? How does that influence how you work with other actors when directing?

HJ: As I get older I seem to enjoy directing more and more. Directing keeps me constantly engaged in every minute of rehearsals and all aspects of the show, which I find intriguing and fun. It is also a fantastic way to learn about acting! I sometimes see other actors with bad habits that I recognize in myself and resolve to correct.  Working as a casting director and watching over 500 auditions in a few hectic weeks was an eye-opening experience too.

Now, as to what I take in the room with me? I direct like I like to be directed as an actor.  I also have great faith and confidence in good actors to discover a lot of stuff on their own. So my blocking pace is fast and my process is quite collaborative. I like to lay down the basic foundation as quickly as we can and then flesh things out through repetition. I also know most of the things that go on in an actor’s mind; what they’re afraid of, what they struggle with, what they find frustrating. Some directors who have never acted seem to have styles that are more about the directing process than the collaborative process of exploring with the actors and technicians.

Herman Johansen with Ryan Hayes and Zack DuRant in the Springfield Contemporary Theatre production of American Buffalo

RPD: You spent so many years living, working and doing theatre in Springfield. Can you share with us some of your favorite memories of that period of your theatrical life?

HJ: Wow, between (S)MSU, Tent, SLT and the Vandivort I do have a lot of good memories.  I’d say some of my favorite projects, in no particular order, were My Fair Lady with Kim Crosby and Mick Denniston, Later Life at the VCT, which turned out to be Howard Orms’ last show. I loved doing American Buffalo at VCT, too. And I was very proud of Agnes of God, which I directed there with a fantastic cast. Free Man of Color at Founder’s Park directed by Mick and produced by Rob and Sally Baird was a highlight, too, even though I had actually moved to KC by then. I always enjoyed working with Mick; his directing process was very in-sync with my acting process. I’m Not Rappaport was one of the most challenging shows I had ever tackled and I loved doing it.

RPD: Herman, thanks again, for sharing so much from your experience with my readers. I encourage everyone to get up to Kansas City some time and see Herman at work.

Patrons and friends often ask us at the theatre about actors, directors and others who have worked at the theatre in the past, but whose work they haven’t seen lately. Often we do keep up with many of our past folks that have moved on to other places and other projects. Whenever possible we try to even get out of town to see some of their new projects. As a special feature on this blog, I would like to monthly feature one such person whom we have been asked about and let you know what they are up to these days in a new column I call “Five Questions with [Insert the Name of Your Favorite Past SCT Performer Here].”

This month I am thrilled to start this column off with a dear friend and colleague, Kyle Dean Massey. Besides currently appearing on Broadway, you can also catch Kyle singing, dancing and backing up the legendary Liza Minnelli in the recent film Sex and the City 2. Here are my five questions with Kyle Dean.

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Kyle Dean Massey

RPD: Kyle, many of our audience members may remember you from your performances on the Vandivort stage at the Emcee in CABARET or as a member of the cast of the Sondheim revue PUTTING IT TOGETHER. Other’s may remember your wonderful turn as Tom Wingfield in Springfield Little Theatre’s production of THE GLASS MENAGERIE. What exciting theatrical projects have you been up to lately?

KDM: For the last year I’ve been performing on Broadway as Gabe in the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical NEXT TO NORMAL.

RPD: Your current performance in NEXT TO NORMAL is so much different that that of Aaron Tveit who originated the role. What can you tell us about that process of taking over a role in an existing production? How much room were you given in a short rehearsal span to find the role for yourself and not just imitate what Tveit was doing?

KDM: Well, being a replacement is difficult in that you usually have about 2 weeks to learn your role. And oftentimes you’re replacing someone who has been involved with the show for years.  So it’s great in those situations to have a preexisting “model” from which to work.  With that being said, it also gives you the freedom to say, “Hey, that’s been done and explored…what if I tried this?”  All roles have a set of boundaries that you have to work within.  And it’s really about finding ways that you connect with each scene and each character that makes it your own.

RPD: Can you explain to my readers the extra challenges that you face on the road as a part of a national tour that may vary from being a part of an off-Broadway or Broadway production in New York?

KDM: Besides the obvious hardships of being separated from loved ones, being on the road can be difficult because it can sometimes act like a trap.  In this business you’re always looking for what’s next. Even starring on Broadway I still have at least 4 auditions a week.  And when you’re on the road it is very difficult to get back and forth to New York for auditions.  And it’s nearly impossible to get a new job if you don’t audition.  When I was on the road I would make whirlwind trips to New York City and back in a single day.  It’s exhausting; but it’s something you have to do if you don’t want to be doing the same show for years and years.  For me that’s the essence of creativity, being a performer and being an artist: always trying your hand at new things.

What most people end up doing is just leave a show on the road to pursue new employment.  But that can also be a struggle because performers on the road, especially ensemble performers, make a significantly larger amount of money on the road than on Broadway.  So leaving that can be a hard and sometimes scary thing to do.  And that’s the challenge.  In New York, your gig on Broadway becomes your “day job”. And at the end of the day you get to go home to your loved ones.

RPD: Would you mind telling us what an average week in the life of a Broadway actor these days entails?

KDM: Ha!  Okay.  Straight from this week’s calendar.  When is that day off?

Kyle Dean Massey in NEXT TO NORMAL on Broadway at the Booth Theatre

MONDAY
Noon: Wake UP!
1:30pm: Gym.
4:00: On-camera interview for BROADWAY PREVIEWS (the previews of Broadway shows that play in hotel room and planes in New York City).
7:30: Call time at theatre for evening show.
10:30: Receive backstage guests.
10:45: Onstage talkback to theatre students.
11:15: Home for dinner.
Midnight: Rehearse sides for audition tomorrow.
2:00am: Bedtime

TUESDAY
8:00am: Wake UP!
10:00:  Call time for press photo shoot.  Makeup/wardrobe/breakfast.
11:00: On set for shoot.
Noon: Break for lunch.
1:00pm: Audition for new Brad Pitt film MONEY BALL.
2:00: Gym.
3:00: Rehearsal for Joe’s Pub Concert happening on Wednesday.
5:30: End of rehearsal.
6:00: Company meeting at theatre.
6:30:  Call time at theatre for evening show.
9:30: End of show.
10:00: Finish signing autographs.
10:30: Home for dinner.
11pm-2am:  Rehearse new music for concert, read script and learn sides for audition tomorrow.

WEDNESDAY
[Editor’s Note: Wednesday is NEXT TO NORMAL’s single weekly day off of performances. However, this is the schedule for Kyle’s “day off.”]
9:00am: Wake UP!
9:30: At home rehearsing for Joe Pub’s concert/audition.
1:00pm: Audition for HBO pilot.
3:00: Back home for more rehearsal.
5:30:  Rehearsal with band at venue for concert.
6:30: Press photos for Playbill and BroadwayWorld covering concert.
6:45:  Meet & Greet with VIP ticket holders.
7:00: BROADWAY IMPACT SUMMER CONCERT SERIES featuring the Broadway cast of NEXT TO NORMAL. [Editor’s Note: Check out this clip from the concert.]
9:00: End of concert.
9:15:  Meet friends for dinner…YAY!
10:45:  Home to rehearse/research for audition tomorrow.
3:00am: Bed.

THURSDAY
8:30am: Wake UP!
9:30: Review audition material.
10:30: Leave for GOSSIP GIRL audition.
Noon:  Lunch!
3:00pm:  Attend special reading presentation of Broadway-bound musical CATCH ME IF YOU CAN.
6:00:  End of reading.
6:15: Nap in dressing room at theatre.
7:15: Coffee & showtime!
10:30: End of show, get notes from director.
11:00: Finished signing autographs/head home.
11:30: Eat.
Midnight: Glance at material for Monday’s audition
3:00am: Bed.

FRIDAY
11:30am: Wake UP!
All day:  Drop off laundry, finally cook something, spend time with lonely dog and catch up on a week’s worth of e-mail & fan mail.
6:30:  Head to work.
10:30: End of show.
11:00:  End of autograph line, head home.
11:30: Eat. Watch Top Chef from three weeks ago.
2:00am: Bed.

SATURDAY
10:30am: Wake UP!
12:30pm: Head to work for first show.
4:30: End of first show, sign autographs, gym, eat.
7:00: Back at work for second show.
10:30: End of second show.
11:00: Finish signing autographs, head home.
11:30: Eat…. and look over those audition sides…again.
2:30am: Bed.

Kyle Dean Massey in the Springfield Contemporary Theatre production of PUTTING IT TOGETHER.

SUNDAY
10:30am: Wake UP!
11:15:  Leave for BROADWAY CLASSROOM WORKSHOP.
Noon:  Meet with theatre students who will be seeing NEXT TO NORMAL at the matinee.
2:30pm:  Call time for first show.
5:30:  End of first show…. no autographs today… too tired.  Grab food.  Work on material for audition tomorrow.
6:30:  At theatre for second show.
10:00:  End of second show.
10:30:  Finish signing autographs.
11:00:  Meet friends!
2am: Head home & bed.

RPD: Was there anything about your Springfield theatre experience that prepared you for the life in the professional theatre that you have achieved thus far?

KDM: Oh yes!  I was always doing something in Springfield!  And that’s what was so wonderful: having the opportunity to do so much!  If I wasn’t doing something with the university there was the Springfield Regional Opera, The Landers & The Vandivort to keep me busy!

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Thanks so much Kyle Dean for taking the time to share with my readers. Whew! Didn’t that schedule just wear you out to read it?

For more information on things Kyle has been up to between leaving Springfield and his current role in NEXT TO NORMAL. Check out Kyle’s bio on Playbill.com or visit his website.