Monday, May 5, 2014

Spotlight On...Reed Birney

Name: Reed Birney

Hometown: Seaford, Delaware; Wilmington, Delaware; Williamsville, New York

Education: Two years at Boston University

Select Credits: New York premiere of Sarah Kane's Blasted; Circle Mirror Transformation; Annie Baker's version of Uncle Vanya; Picnic

Why theater?: It's all I ever wanted to do. I remember being 5 and speaking to a group of grown ups and saying I wanted to be an actor and their laughing and looking at each other with a slight sense of panic.

Tell us about Casa Valentina: It's a most beautiful play by Harvey Fierstein about straight men in 1962 going to the Catskills to secretly cross dress. It's a story you have never seen before. And it's about the cost of living an authentic life. Something that speaks to us all. It's hilarious and heartbreaking.

What is it like being a part of Casa Valentina?: It's as dreamy a job as I could ever hope for. A gorgeous play, beautifully designed, directed by the astonishingly brilliant Joe Mantello, with as perfect a playing ensemble as I have ever worked with. We laugh all the time. I had been in the chorus of Shenandoah for one week in 1976 with John Cullum at Wolf Trap and I have a picture of us in that on my dressing room table.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I am interested in stories about the human experience, duh. But I love brilliant naturalistic acting. I don't care for the big show-off types. Either playwriting, directing or acting. I don't think you can ever be swept away by a story if you're aware of the artist. A lot of people are impressed by the show-off gymnastics by folks in our business. But give me Judi Dench any day.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: I outgrew every single one of my dream roles without having played one.

What’s your favorite showtune?:
Hmm. Lots. One that comes to mind immediately is "Bergerac" from Cyrano.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Judi Dench.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I guess it would depend on what era of my 40 year career the movie decided to cover. But I imagine the film would be called “It’s About Time”.

What show have you recommended to your friends?:
Why, Casa Valentina, of course. I'm very proud of us.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: The score to "The Sundowners" by Dmitri Tiomkin.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?:
Ice cream.

What advice would you give to aspiring theater artists?:
If you're a Lifer then there's nothing to do but accept it and enjoy the ride. Don't waste your life in despair. Have faith and keep working. Be in a great class if you're not in a show. make friends. Have an awesome life.

What’s up next?:
Not sure how long Casa Valentina will run, I'm on this ride til the end. But I trust the next thing's gonna be a lot of fun, too.