Recently Associate Artistic Director Tyler Dobrowsky posed several questions to resident actor Charlie Thurston, who will be playing the pop musician at the heart of Lauren Yee’s new play, The Song of Summer, onstage this spring at Trinity Rep.
Tyler Dobrowsky: What makes you excited about this project?
Charlie Thurston: So many things! Not only will this be the first time I work with the effortlessly cool Taibi Magar [Brown/Trinity Rep ’14] who has been pretty busy, you know, winning Obies… Not only is the cast incredible — I mean Joe “the hunk” Wilson, Annie “the fierce” Scurria, and Tina “I’ve heard so much about how charming and talented you are for years” Chilip. Not only is Lauren Yee one of the most dynamic young playwrights out there whose electric dialogue might literally blow up the theater (Okay, not literally, but it’s very snappy)… BUT I get to play a rock star again. What more could a fellow ask for?
TD: Do you like working on new plays? What other new plays have you worked on in your career? Is it a different kind of process than a play that’s already been produced?
CT: I’m a big fan of the new play process. This is not necessarily true for all actors, because working on a new play creates additional challenges. The most obvious being that the play continues to change right up to opening. Getting ten pages of new dialogue the day of a preview can make even the strongest guts a bit nauseous. So you have to be a bit more flexible. I dig it because it means I get to be a part of generating something completely new and fresh and responsive to the present moment in history. And while it’s nice to work on the great works of Shakespeare, and Dickens, and Chekhov, those old dudes are long dead and buried. For this show, I got to see one of the rising stars of the American theater, Lauren Yee, work in real time. And she is no joke, people. She is wicked smart and watching her make substantial rewrites in a matter of hours… I’ve truly never seen anything like it. Here at Trinity Rep, the new plays I’ve worked on are Social Creatures, Melancholy Play, The Completely Fictional — Utterly True — Final Strange Tale of Edgar Allan Poe, and, most recently, Faithful Cheaters, by our resident playwright, Deborah Salem-Smith.
TD: You were so wonderful in Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage a few years ago, and now you’re playing another rock and roll guy. Do you enjoy playing those kinds of characters? Are you naturally drawn to those kinds of characters? What kind of characters do you enjoy playing?
CT: I didn’t know I liked playing rock stars before Beowulf, but it turns out I do! Beowulf, because Curt Columbus’ production really embraced the aesthetic of a live rock show, I studied the physicality of some of the great rock stars in history, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, Sid Vicious, to name a few. You know when you’re a little kid and you are listening to one of your favorite songs and just let loose physically, totally let your freak flag fly? Well, I got paid to do that. This one will be a bit different as I won’t be doing as much rocking out. With this one, I’ll get to dive more deeply into the psychological effects of fame. So like when Britney shaved all her hair off, or when Justin Bieber was seen crying at Disney World, that kind of thing. In this country we are totally obsessed with famous people. So it’s a worthy subject to explore. How it affects their sense of self, their loved ones, and also, why are they famous? What is the root cause or source? As far as characters I like plying, I’m all about variety. Getting to play all different kinds of roles makes my job the most challenging and fun.
TD: This play is about a musician who writes the “song of the summer.” Do you have some favorite songs of the summer?
CT: I’m not sure if these came out in the summer, but they were definitely huge hits that were practically on repeat on the radio: “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars… so good! And this one is a bit less iconic: “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye. I swear to you that in a couple month period, I heard that song 100 times on the radio. And I still like it.