DANNY WOLOHAN is Sam in Annie Baker’s 2014 Pulitzer Prize winner, The Flick—now playing through January 10 at the Barrow Street Theater in Manhattan. His Off-Broadway credits include: Verité (LCT3), Pocatello (Playwrights Horizons), An Octoroon (Soho Rep), The Patron Saint of Sea Monsters (Playwrights Horizons), I’m Pretty Fucked Up, and Baby Screams Miracle (Clubbed Thumb). Film: Tallulah. TV: "Veep,” “Boardwalk Empire,” and “Trauma,.”
SV’s Bob Shuman and Chris Pineda, of Philip Rinaldi Publicity, corner the actor for an exclusive interview.
So Danny, where are you from?
I'm a proud native of San Francisco, California.
West Coast actor?
One of the great things about being from SF, is that if I ever feel like NYC is too expensive, and I can't make my acting career work in the Big Apple, San Francisco is even more expensive. I might as well suck it up and keep hustling right here.
How long have you been working in the theatre?
About twenty years.
Where, how did you train?
I had excellent training at San Francisco State University. Rhonnie Washington, my first and best teacher, gave us many different tools to attack a script, among them the 12 guideposts from Michael Shurtleff's Audition, which I have always found very useful for organizing my thoughts about a scene or play. The other great thing about SF state, was that you could reserve theatre space and put on your own shows, which I and my friends took full advantage of. This led to my firm belief that the best way to learn how to act, is to do it: Film a scene in your room with your friend, put on a play in a parking lot, just do it. What you learn about storytelling in front of an audience can't be taught in any classroom, and my college gave us the opportunity to learn those lessons.
Describe the show you're currently in.
I would describe The Flick as a great work of art that should be seen and not summarized.
How have you come to empathize with your character, Sam, who some could contend has unsavory aspects?
I love this question–
You are clearly able to identify with his pain–
I would find it much harder to empathize with a character who didn't have unsavory aspects, because I've never met anyone like that. Sam is a unique, complicated, flawed human, with a lust for life and with many of the hopes and fears and dreams we all have. He is a joy to play.
To what extent did you discuss themes, analysis and the meaning of the play in rehearsals?
I don't usually discuss themes or analyze the meaning. . . .
Most of the work is about exploring the relationships of the characters, the event of the scene, tactics, stakes, and arc of the character. It’s like not looking at the forest, but instead trying to be the best, most real and living tree I can be. I trust the director and writer to arrange the larger picture and everything it communicates. In that way I know less about what the total effect is–or what the overall message and meaning of the play is–than the audience who comes to see it.
How does your life change, when you are in a show?
Doing a play 8 shows a week is always a big undertaking, but when the play is a wonderful 3-hour epic like The Flick, it's almost all consuming. You have to be very careful to eat well, get your sleep, take care of your voice, exercise. In order to be ready to go, when the stage manager calls places, it means thinking about what's best for the show, even when you are nowhere near the theatre.
Would you recommend that others become actors—are there any qualities that you believe would help some survive and succeed?
I’d recommend that everyone try acting at some point, and not just because of all the love and joy and adventure it brings. Breaking through the characters we've all created to live our daily lives, to become a different, usually hidden version of ourselves, is such a glorious, free feeling. It can be a key to feeling love and empathy for everyone around us.
So go ahead, act!
As far as acting professionally, I say this: If you want to try it, try it. If you love it, you'll keep trying it. Is it a hard life? Yes. Is there financial security? Not that I've found. But in the world I see, all lives are hard lives and security of any kind, for the most part, is an illusion. So you might as well try and enjoy the limited time you spend here. If acting gives you joy, then come do some plays with me.
What’s a better idea than a cattle call?
In terms of an ideal audition situation, I'm sure it differs for everybody. I once had the privilege of auditioning for Trevor Nunn, and he ran an amazingly good audition. We sat together, one on one, and talked–about anything and everything, life, acting, my family–for almost 15 minutes before he gently asked if I wanted to do a monologue. I gave a great, relaxed audition. I realize directors don't usually have time for that much conversation, but if they don't, I suggest getting rid of the idea altogether. Usually directors try and fit in 15 seconds or less of awkward chitchat, right before you do your sides, and that should be banned. Let me do the acting I've been preparing for, and we can have a tiny, awkward conversation if we see each other on the street sometime.
What’s a better idea than graduate school in the Arts?
Though I didn't go to grad school, it sounds wonderful to me–and if a person can afford it, then by all means go. But it isn't the only path. If you want to be an actor, act, and you will learn from doing.
What’s the worst job you ever took to keep yourself afloat as an artist—and how long did you stay in it?
I've done a lot of terrible jobs in order to support my vocation as an actor, and it's hard to pick the worst. Among the nastiest was customer service for a dental insurance company. Pretty quickly it became clear that it was company policy to lose people's claims, to delay payment. This meant that from 9-5 every day I would wear a headset and receive a nonstop avalanche of rage from decent, hardworking people being screwed over by my employer. I'll never forget working on Christmas Eve and taking the last call of that day. I told an elderly couple that I would transfer them to my supervisor, which was in reality just a voicemail box. They were screaming at me, "You’re a liar! You're a goddamned liar!" It was brutal, and I only lasted 4 months.
JUST FOR FUN
What’s the first play you ever saw?
The first play I ever saw was, like for a lot people, A Christmas Carol. It was scary and wonderful. I love that story and look forward to being a good Scrooge someday.
Tell us about a pre-show ritual you have.
Nowadays, an essential pre-show ritual is a gentle meditative yoga session. It helps my body loosen up and prepare for the performance; it connects me to my breath and washes away the stresses of the day.
What’s your favorite after-theatre indulgence?
At this point in my life, I've quit almost every indulgence that exists, but after the show is over, I love slipping into a great book for the train ride home. Right now I'm reading Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies and, within seconds of opening the pages of her book, Danny–and all the mistakes he made on stage that night–are just gone.
What is your zodiac sign, for the record?
I'm a Gemini, I'm single, and I'd love to marry into wealth. I guess I'd also settle for true love.
Mr. Wolohan, thank you.
Visit the Barrow Street Theatre at: http://www.barrowstreettheatre.com/index.asp
Copyright © 2015 by Danny Wolohan (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.
Press: Chris Pineda/Philip Rinaldi Publicity
Stage Voices Publishing for archived posts and sign up for free e-mail updates: http 2015:// www.stagevoices.com/ . If you would like to contribute a review, monologue, or other work related to theatre, please write to Bob Shuman at Bobjshuman@gmail.com.