Friday, April 14, 2017

2017 Interview - Patrick Mulryan

Actor Patrick Mulryan, a member of the Fiasco Theater Company, is currently playing Jack in their touring production of Into the Woods at the Ahmanson through May 14. He took time from his busy schedule to talk about the role and his blossoming theatre career.

Patrick, you are having such a great time playing Jack that the joy you are feeling transcends the footlights. What is your honest impression of him? Define his character traits and flaws.

One thing I love about Jack is that he feels things very deeply: joy, sadness, excitement, fear, the whole gamut. It's a feast for an actor. He has a big heart and leads with his heart instead of his head...which can get him into trouble. He, like many of the other characters, doesn't think through the potential consequences of his actions.

Jack has a hard life. He and his mother are very poor and his father abandoned them. He loves his mother dearly, but longs for adventure and escape. This gets him into trouble, but ultimately gives him the experience he needs to grow up.

Talk a little about his relationship with Milky White and what it truly represents to you.

The relationship between Jack and Milky White is one of the aspects of this production I'm proudest of. Because of his difficult circumstances, Jack has a very active fantasy life. His only friend in the world is his cow and he cares about her deeply. That's why it makes sense in this production that Milky is played by a young man (my brilliant scene partner, Darick Pead). Of course Jack would realize his cow as a fellow boy who can be his partner in crime!

One of my favorite moments in the show is “I Guess This is Goodbye” when Jack has to sell Milky White. I hope the audience really feels how much these two matter to each other and how hard it is to say goodbye.

Is this your first Sondheim musical? If not, what have you done before? What does Sondheim achieve better than any other composer in your opinion?

This is my first Sondheim musical as a professional actor. In college I played Bobby in Company and John Hinckley in Assassins.

Sondheim achieves an incredible balance of intellect and heart in his writing. Every song is so smart and at the same time so moving. As an actor, it's a privilege to sing his music. As with all the best composers, if you truly sing what's on the page, you have no choice but to be affected by it as a human being in the same way the character is being affected by it.

The entire ensemble of this show are really having a sensational time together. Did you do this show back east and in London as well? Talk a little about the cast, the comaraderie and the teamwork in Into the Woods.

I've been with this show since the first workshop in 2012 and subsequent productions at McCarter in Princeton, Old Globe in San Diego, Roundabout in New York, and Menier Chocolate Factory in London. It's been an amazing experience to be with this production since its inception. I'm eternally grateful that Fiasco asked me to be a part of it. From the beginning, we conceived this as an actor-driven ensemble production and created all the moments together in conjunction with our incredible design team. We all care deeply about storytelling which drew us to this piece in particular and we were all involved in conceiving how to tell this story together as an ensemble each night.

The cast at the Ahmanson is an incredible, joyous, and generous group of artists. We have an amazing time creating this story afresh each night.

What sets this production of the show apart for me is in fact this ensemble that bring an in.the.moment unpredictable spontaneity and excitement to it all. How did the troupe rehearse? Did your director encourage improvisation? How was the process different from most?

The process was different in that we all worked together to create each moment in the show. We would brainstorm as a group and then play and improvise on our feet until we found a version for each scene/song that felt like it best told the story of that moment and that at the time was fun for us to do!

What's up next for you onstage or on film, TV? Many offers should be coming your way.

I've been workshopping a new musical about Henry VIII written by the incredible Michael Radi in which I play the King himself. I'm also the vocal coach for a one-woman production based on the poem Goblin Market that will be playing off-Broadway in NYC and then traveling to the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival this summer.

Who are your idols in the business right now? Do you have a mentor? And...actors/directors out there? Do you have any favorites? If so, why these choices?

I'll see anything Mark Rylance does. He plays with such irrepressible joy and humanity. Directors on my dream list to work with are Bartlett Sher, John Tiffany, John Doyle, and Steven Hoggett.

Is there a role that you have your mind set on playing at some future date? Or do you follow the adage, whatever will be, will be?

My dream role is George in Sunday in the Park with George. “Move On” and “Finishing the Hat” are two of the best songs ever written. I also want to play Joe in Angels in America and Edgar in King Lear.

Back to Jack. I'm so happy he and Milky end up together as a family. It's one of the purest relationships in the play. Your feelings?

They love each other unconditionally. No matter what happens, they're a team. I think they're a beautiful example of what's at the heart of Act 2: when we're faced with difficult circumstances, we need to band together.

Anything you care to add?

This show is incredibly dear to my heart. When we were performing at the Old Globe in San Diego, my brother Tom passed away. I had to perform the day I found out. The entire cast and crew were incredible. Everyone had my back and was there for me on one of the hardest days of my life. This show was the most difficult and wonderful show to perform on such a day. It deals so directly with loss and how we come together and move forward in the face of difficult circumstances. Everyone in the cast and crew came together to support me that day and buoyed me up. I am forever grateful. My brother Tom was a big guy. My family often referred to him as the Gentle Giant. Now every night I dedicate Jack's solo, “Giants in the Sky,” to my brother, the gentle giant in the sky. 

It's such a gift every night to hear the brilliant Sondheim lyric:

Sometimes people leave you
Halfway through the wood
Do not let it grieve you
No one leaves for good
You are not alone
No one is alone

Thank you so much, Patrick, for taking time out to do this. I hope to see more of your work in the not too distant future.

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