I worked as a busboy/bar-back/dishwasher for a dive bar in Chicago, right out of college. It was the only job I could get that would allow me to take improv classes during the day and further my passion. I was told going in that I would just be the bar-back and restock the bar during service, but found out the day I started that I was also bussing tables and washing dishes. The customers treated the place like their personal dumpster, and the owners were never around. My manager Sherry made things bearable at times, but usually she was in the back room trying to get the owners on the phone to take care of some "VIP" patrons who would show up regularly on Wednesdays searching for them. During a typical evening, I would have beer bottles thrown at me, people would hock loogies onto a plate I was clearing, or trip me when I was loaded down with bottles, or glasses. A real gem of an establishment. The day I quit, I walked in and the owners and my manager were being led out by Chicago PD on charges of money laundering and racketeering, so I guess I can say I was employed by the Russian Mob for a very short period. The experience never turned me off from working in the service industry, but I made sure I met the owners and did my research on potential sites after that. Still, that was not the weirdest job I have had. I can tell you about that one another time, should curiosity take you.
What characters do you play?
I play 4 different characters. Bob, the franchise manager, Customer, a hungry patron of the store, Gregory, the corporate representative sent to check in on our protagonists, and Sandwich, a literal hero in every shape and form. Each of these characters help to add flavor to the zany world of American Hero while presenting challenges to Sheri, Jamie, and Ted that they are ill prepared to handle. Each character holds the mirror up to the other characters, showing their development as they fight back against a system that has failed them. Even Gregory, the corporate schill, provides them with opportunities to grow, even though he is touting the company line.
What do you think you will find challenging about playing these roles?
The biggest challenge for me will be creating 4 different arcs, one for each character, in a short amount of time. Usually within a play an actor can live with them and spend the entirety of a play exploring the path their character takes to growth or discovery. In this production, I have the challenge of walking 4 paths and having maybe 1 or 2 scenes to develop these distinct voices and mannerisms to inhabit the world of American Hero. Also switching from the character of Bob, who is described by the playwright as having an indecipherable accent, is both freeing (so I don't feel boxed in to one single accent) and daunting because I still need his lines to be understood by our audience.
What is this play about?
American Hero is a satirical view into life in the corporate structure and how fragile that facade truly is. It is also a story of perseverance over institutional obstacles that are meant to keep the worker stuck in a low paying, high stress structure. It's also a look at the modern culture of desperation for the thing that fuels the world: money. I love the pace of the dialogue and the distinct characters who remind me of when I worked in food service a little too well. I feel that the play begins with a clear thought on Corporate America and the ills it brings, but backs down from its critique quite quickly to serve the satire instead of the characters. However that turn is still extremely entertaining and will not disappoint.
Anything you want the audience to leave feeling and/or thinking about?
I would love our audience to come away with a respect for those who struggle in the service industry. Having worked in it, this play speaks to quite a few issues that arose to do with customer respect and individual effort recognition. I want the audience to know that those employees that put your food together are people too, with experiences, loves, and mistakes just like all people. Truly though, I just want them to laugh and leave the theater remembering that all aspects of life are truly comedic, because with all the darkness in this world, we all need to laugh in its face to truly stay sane.
What is your favorite line in AMERICAN HERO?
My favorite line is one of Jamie's. " Don't you get it? We've been abandoned! There's only one set of footprints!"