Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Spotlight On...Walker Vreeland

Name: Walker Vreeland

Hometown: Baltimore, MD

Education: BFA from Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, Walnut Hill School for the Arts.

Select Credits: As a radio personality, best known for having hosted The Afternoon Show on Long Island’s 102.5 WBAZ-FM. Annually voted Best Personality in the Hamptons from 2013-2016. NY Theater: Erostratus, Just So Stories (Theaterworks USA), Our Life & Times (MAC and Bistro Award winner). Workshops: Little Women (with Deborah Gibson & Elaine Stritch). Regional: From Ship to Shape (Bay Street Theater), Arthur’s Christmas (The Vineyard Playhouse). Touring: Just So Stories, A Christmas Carol. Featured on MTV, VH1, and his films include: Sex Farce and Thinking Out Loud.

Why theater?: Because I can't stay away. And I've tried.

Who do you play in From Ship To Shape?: I play myself.

Tell us about From Ship To Shape: From Ship To Shape is an autobiographical monologue about a breakdown I had in my mid-twenties. In 2003 I took a job as a singer on a cruise ship but I could never have imagined the voyage that lay ahead. Boarding the Bermuda-bound ship would be the beginning of a mental breakdown so severe, I would wake up months later in 1 of the 101 beds at Johns Hopkins Hospital's Mood Disorder Psychiatric Ward. From Ship To Shape is a tragicomic account of struggling with mental illness in today’s world. It's about losing your mind while chasing your dreams, the journey in pursuit of healing, and how a cruise ship can push you over the edge.

What is it like being a part of From Ship To Shape?: It's been a very unique experience. Acting your own words and your own life is more challenging than you might think. It's such a deeply personal story and because I'm so close to the material and the lived experience, there are blind spots. One of my big challenges has been understanding what it is I've actually written. That may sound counterintuitive but it just goes to show how different the writing process is to the acting process. So much of writing is unconscious- it just pours out of you- and then you go back and, draft after draft, you craft it so that the story structure is as seamless as possible. But as an actor, obviously I need to be 100% conscious of what this story is about, what my relationship is to everything I say and how each act and sequence serves the monologue as a whole. There were some things I wrote about that I was completely unaware of until I started working with a good director. One thing my director Milton Justice has had to say to me multiple time in rehearsal is: "Ok Walker, so what the writer is doing here is..." It's been an adventure.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love great storytelling. Whether it's a play, musical, experimental piece or solo show, if the writing is solid, and the characters are people I can care about (i.e. see myself in), I'm engaged. I've always been a huge fan of Spalding Gray, the late monologist who more or less originated the genre of the autobiographical monologue. He was my primary inspiration when I sat down and tried to create a monologue out of disparate journal entries. Since his death, I've had the privilege of getting to know his widow Kathie Russo. Our paths crossed while we were both working in radio and she's become a friend and huge supporter of my work which means a lot to me.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: Right now I'm thinking about these: Flan in Six Degrees of Separation, Bruce Bechdel in Fun Home, Captain Walker in Tommy, Irwin in The History Boys, Mendy in The Lisbon Traviata, Gary in Veep: the musical. (No, HBO's Veep isn't a musical yet but can you imagine? I'm not going to write it so for God's sake, someone write it!!!)

What’s your favorite showtune?: "No One is Alone" from Into the Woods.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Frances McDormand or Holly Hunter. Because they’re both examples of actors who have the skill and stamina to do film, television and theater. Because they are devoted to the craft, are completed disinterested in celebrity and have really healthy boundaries when it comes to the press. They have such respectable careers because for them, it’s all about the work. Nothing else.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Haha. That's funny. It would be the film adaptation of my play From Ship To Shape. If I couldn't play me I suppose Quvenzhané Wallis could handle it. As long as she doesn't act like an asshole on set. (Just kidding about Quvenzhané Wallis. Miles Teller could play me, as long as he doesn't act like an asshole on set.)

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Dustin Hoffman in Death of a Salesman. (Or Liza in Liza with a Z.) These are hard decisions.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I’m recommending that my friends get the DVD of Imelda Staunton in Gypsy. Holy *%@#.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I feel guilty about nothing. Not pizza too late at night or Law and Order: SVU or being gay and obsessed with Liza Minnelli or that prison show on MSNBC. Life's too short and precious to feel guilt about what you like and love. Okay fine: my guilty pleasure is all the wasted time I spend on stupid social media, which is disguised as a pleasure but it really just numbs the mind and turns us into hungry ghosts: never getting enough, but never truly satisfied. I think it’s alright to feel some guilt about wasted time on a screen.

What’s up next?: Next is the New York premiere of my solo show From Ship to Shape! After which I hope it returns to NY for a longer engagement and then goes on tour.

For more on From Ship to Shape, visit