Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Spotlight On...Ben Otto

Name: Ben Otto

Hometown: Glastonbury, CT

Education: BA in English from Fordham University, Minor in Creative Writing

Select Credits: Pipeline Theatre's BYUIOO, Fresh Ground Pepper's Shoot the Freak, Leading role in the web-series "Pepper and Paul"

Why theater?: For me theater has always held and demanded a kind of intimacy that I know I crave in my life. It's so much more exciting to me when I know that my audience is right there with me. I can hear their laughs, I can feel their emotions just as much as my own. There becomes a kind of mutual responsibility with a good audience and even when they get uncomfortable or bored or whatever they might become, it’s evident and I can adjust and move forward. I like it because I discover just as much as those who come to see the play.

Tell us about Debutante: The play is so beautiful and so simple, but has such richness to it. These characters are all struggling in some way to come to terms with the reality they live in and the place that they fit in the world. Most of the characters in the play come from this place of really potent naivetĂ©, but through a kind of domino effect of situations combined with an especially pressurized time – both for the girls during the preparations for their debut and for the society at large with the financial crisis – we watch the characters unravel the world around them and eventually try to find their place in it.

What is it like being a part of Debutante?: I've been involved with the project pretty much since the beginning so it's become a passion project for me. The cast that we have and the actors we worked with before have all been so integral to the development of the play and of the characters. Playwright Ryann Weir and director Annie Tippe have been amazingly fearless leaders too and I've always felt supported and encouraged to experiment and test things out. Our presentation at ANT Fest was phenomenal and got great reactions from all who saw it. I'm excited that more people will get the chance to take in this fantastic new piece of work.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: As an actor, I've always appreciated character driven work, whether it be experimental or more traditional. I've worked on a lot of different types of shows with a lot of different types of companies and the work that I get most excited for is work that presents a challenge or a new possibility to society. Art is the lens through which we allow ourselves to see the world and express our feelings about it, so, for me, the wider the scope of understanding and contemplation, the better. The most powerful theatrical experience I've ever had was watching Mark Rylance in Jerusalem. When he took his bow I've never felt more connected to an artist. I want to do that.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: I have a lot of guilty-pleasure roles that I think about. This fall I had the privilege of playing my first villain in Pipeline Theatre's BYUIOO and I really loved it. I also have always loved Patrick Bateman from "American Psycho" and other off-beat male lead type roles. When I was younger I gravitated much more toward male ingĂ©nue-type roles but now that I'm getting older that stuff seems so trivial. I like stuff that requires that you play around in the mud.

What’s your favorite show tune?: This is where my sensitive side will come out: The first play I ever did was a community theater production of Carousel. It made me realize the power of theater and what people coming together to tell a story can do. SOOO I'd say "You'll Never Walk Alone" takes the cake. I love the message of the lyrics and the unbelievable progression of the music. It always reminds me that my hard work will not be for nothing, no matter the result.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: The list is really long but definitely Christian Bale. I've watched that guy since "Newsies".

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I haven't done anything worth filming yet so I can't answer that. I also selfishly don't trust anyone to play me. Maybe I'll pull an "8 Mile: someday and play myself, haha

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I saw Sarah Ruhl's Stage Kiss recently and recommended that all of my actor friends see it. Her language is just insane but I felt honored that she would write a play that was a tribute to actors and what they go through.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: "Scenic World" – Beirut

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Probably being alone in my apartment and having "art-gasams", just putting on music or playing music and allowing myself to be fully expressive. It's a nice little exercise when you can make it happen.

What’s up next?: Spring will be interesting. I'll be on the West Coast for a few weeks doing some exploring. I've also been working with Theatre Reconstruction Ensemble on developing their project You on the Moors Now and hope that my schedule permits me to continue that involvement. Otherwise, just continuing the search!

For more on Ben, visit