Monday, September 5, 2016
Spotlight On...Ian Whitt
Hometown: Rushville in the New York Fingerlakes (Population 600, largely inhabited by Mennonites, farmer, hunters…) Think horse and buggies, literally, not figuratively.
Education: Larry Moss, Upright Citizens Brigade, Bob Krakower, Former Actors Theatre of Louisville Apprentice (Humana Festival), Bachelor of Science SUNY New Paltz. NYSSSA - Lanford Wilson.
Select Credits: New York Theatre: Atlantic Theatre Co, Abingdon Theatre Co, and Theatre for the New City. Company Member at Brave New World Repertory. New works by Charles L Mee, Lucas Hnath, Anne Washburn, Amy Witting, and Frank J Avella. Film: "Nick and Nicky" (opposite Sean Young) and others.
Why theatrer?: I grew up next door to a 200 year old burned down opera house that had been condemned at the turn of the century, so my early recollections of theatre carry a certain legendary quality. My debut was at age two when I played a sheep in the church nativity scene. Can you believe my sister was cast as baby Jesus? My sisters all did the school plays and sang and danced, and back in the day my dad was George in Our Town and my mother was in The Boyfriend in school. At age 14 I had a school psychologist who once asked me what I liked to do, and I said I liked acting. She suggested “why don’t you do that as a career?” I found that acting naturally inspired me to be my best self. It forced me to take care of my body, push myself productively, and helped me to find a sense of responsibility to my community.
Who do you play in Lured?: Dmitry, a young “ruggedly handsome” Russian (this is according to the character breakdown).
Tell us about Lured: Lured depicts and explores the workings of Occupy Pedophilia, a vigilante group that lures gay men via dating apps and then exposes them on the internet. Many of these videos depict torture and in some cases this has led to deaths.
What is it like being a part of Lured?: Lured is a total passion project. When Frank Avella brought me in for the initial table read, I had incredible reservations due to the extreme content and my relationship to the real life events. My first friends in NYC were Russian refugees living here under Asylum, having fled Russia after being persecuted there. Some had encountered vigilante hate groups like the one depicted in Lured, others had been beaten by Russian police themselves in public. The forced me to recall painful memories of a close friend of mine who was actually lured by a group outside of Philadelphia where he was brutally disfigured and murdered. The lack of media coverage surrounding these cases truly disturbs me, and so I am funneling that frustration into my work.
What kind of theater speaks to you? Who or what inspires you as an artist?: New play development, to which I was first introduced at Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival and working with Lanford Wilson at NYSSSA. Now a lot of my favorite theatre is coming out of my friend Nate Miller’s theatre company Lesser America. My favorite hangout in NYC is the library at New Dramatists. Oh inspiration can come from such random places and finding a muse can be so hit or miss. Lately I’ve been on a kick where I’ve been rewatching The Simpsons. It may have been inspired by seeing Anne Washburn’s Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play at Playwrights Horizons. I’m about twelve seasons in and so far I’m taking the whole ride, and I’ve been listening to Lucien Hughes’ SIMPSONWAVE, the song I’m listening to most being Home - Decay. Apart from that, I’ve been listening to a lot of rap artists lately like Logic, I’ve been going to the Shamhala Meditation Center here in Chelsea, and I’ve been heavily experimenting with Essential Oils.
Any roles you’re dying to play?: I like the idea that an actor would want to play a role so badly they are willing to die for it. There’s a story there.
What’s your favorite show tune?: "Nasty Man" from George White’s Scandals. My first month in NYC I performed a new musical on Rudy Vallee called Vagabond Lover at the Ziegfeld Society (Executive Producer Mark York) and that song that was performed by Merrill Grant. We later did Ziegfeld’s Cavalcade of Stars alongside Lee Roy Reams, Anita Gilette, Sarah Rice and Walter Willison, and I associate all those classic tunes we did at the Ziegfeld Society with all the excitement that authentic Broadway Theatre delivers. When I think “show tune” it’s gotta be from that era. The new stuff is beautiful too, I love contemporary, but it almost requires a new brand other than “show tune.”
If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Jhonen Vasquez.
Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Hopefully an unknown and underprivileged actor will play me. It will be called “WHITT.”
If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Definitely the Festival of Dionysus in Ancient Greece.
What show have you recommended to your friends?: I usually point friends and family to Upright Citizens Brigade since it’s in my neighborhood, but apart from that I think everyone should see everything.
What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I’ve recently fallen in love with photography and spend a lot of time cruising Adorama and B&H. I’ve done some filmset photography and also photographed members from the Permanent Mission from Pakistan at the United Nations on a number of occasions which was a blast. But it is an expensive vocation!
What’s up next?: I’m in the process of shooting feature film called "Nick and Nicky" starring myself, Sean Young, and the writer/producer Patrick Askin. I also have a Holiday film project I’m working on, and a screenplay of my own. In the meanwhile, I will be spending a lot of time with my ukulele and writing on my own.