Thursday, August 7, 2014

Spotlight On...James Leach

Name: James Leach

Hometown: Mechanicsville, Virginia

Education: BA Foreign Affairs & Drama from the University of Virginia; British American Drama Academy; Upright Citizens Brigade; 1 Year BFA Acting Program at New York University (Stella Adler Studio of Acting)

Select Credits: Sir James Tyrrell in Richard III, Clov in Endgame, Jeremy in The Ducks Migration

Why theater?: Theater forces me to understand things specifically and make sense of it all. When the whole world destroys itself and there are only a few of us left, we will have nothing left to do but carve a stage into a mountain like the Greeks and reinact the whole thing and listen to everyone tell their story to even know what happened.

Who do you play in The Mormon Bird Play?: I play Clifford. He is a young Mormon boy in Salt Lake City, Utah who must confront doubts about his sense of worth.

Tell us about The Mormon Bird Play: The Mormon Bird Play takes place in an allegoric dream-world where an ugly and mute 10 year-old named Ivona arrives from Gooding, Idaho to live with her Mormon cousins in Salt Lake City. These children in the play have been left to figure out the world using their understanding that Mormon theology is truth, but Ivona begins to reflect the ills of the culture that surrounds her. The work explores the Mormon faith, the children born into it and all of the good and bad that comes with growing up with the expectation that you abide by strict theology.

What is it like being a part of The Mormon Bird Play?: This is my first time acting on stage in a few years and I am very excited to have the opportunity to tackle a play with such a specific vision and voice. Our director, Roger Benington, has a breadth of knowledge about the ideas and practices specific to Mormonism that underpin the play. I grew up in a very conservative small town in Virginia and I understand a lot of what makes people tick who are born and bread on tradition and authority. One learns early to be skeptical and have a good sense of humor. It was great to explore characters living in that kind of environment. The ensemble of actors are all fresh out of school and were a pleasure to work with the last month and a half.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Theater that can take big ideas and universal emotions and put them simply is really beautiful to me. Theater that can tell a single story that captures the empathy of the entire audience and makes them face those emotions when they least expect it and take that out into the real world with them. Theater that makes audiences face the humanity of the most inhuman and misunderstood people in society. It has to make someone angry if it's telling any kind of truth! That's the kind of theater that keeps me alive!

Any roles you’re dying to play?: Tom Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie, Prior in Angels in America, Teddy in The Homecoming. These are all playwrights that I respect very much!

What’s your favorite showtune?: "You Gotta Have a Gimmick" from Gypsy!

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I ran lights for a play by Richard Foreman at NYU where people were dropping suitcases full of boxes and sitting on pianos. I still think about that play and I would love to act under his direction!

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: The film about my life would be a gutter mondo film directed and produced by John Waters. It would be called 'Uppity Faggot' and it would only be shown in the last seedy movie theater in Times Square. I would be played by Divine because she's so committed to her craft that she would eat dog poop off the street. I love that!

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Recently I told all of my friends to see Raisin in the Sun before it ended its run.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: "Love of My Life" - Queen

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Whenever I am back in the South I have to get a big greasy Cookout tray from Cookout where they give you a mountain of greasy food and a jumbo soda for $5!

What’s up next?: I have just moved to New York City and I plan to stay here for the people and culture for as long as possible! I have a scholarship to take classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade and I am very excited about that!