Call Redialed: NEW Brian Charles Rooney Interview: "Into The Woods" at Out of the Box Theatrics
Brian Charles Rooney is one of today’s most diverse actors of our time. His acting and vocal range are like no other. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to catch up with him as he is about make theatrical history!
Brian is taking on the role of “The Witch” in Out of the Box Theatrics’ revival of James Lapine/Stephen Sondheim’s mega-hit musical Into The Woods. In this immersive production, produced by Liz Flemming & directed by Ethan Paulini, the show will play at various venues around the city including Jefferson Market Library, Rizolli’s Bookstore and The Cell Theatre.
Into The Woods follows a “Baker and his wife,” who wish to have a child; “Cinderella,” who wishes to attend the King's Festival; and “Jack,” who wishes his cow would give milk. When the “Baker and his wife” learn that they cannot have a child because of a “Witch's” curse, the two set off on a journey to break the curse. Everyone's wish is granted, but the consequences of their actions return to haunt them later with disastrous results. This thrilling new production will be an Into the Woods like you have never seen.
Into The Woods will play from October 26-November 4 at multiple venues (listed below) throughout the city. Click here for tickets!
Jefferson Market Library - October 26, 27, 28 all at 7pm (425 Avenue of the Americas, NYC)
Rizzoli Bookstore - October 30, 31, & November 1 all at 8:30pm (1133 Broadway, NYC, between 25th & 26th Street)
The Cell Theatre - November 2 at 7pm, November 3 at 11am, November 4 at 7pm (338 W 23rd St NYC)
1. This October you are starring in Out of the Box Theatrics' Immersive production of Into The Woods. What made you want to be part of this particular production? I had seen a few of the shows that were part of Out of The Box Theatrics' inaugural season last year, and I was thoroughly impressed not only with the performances, but the direction, and especially the design. Immersive productions present unique design challenges, but in each case the challenges were met, and I was honestly inspired by that.
Add all of that to the fact that Into The Woods is one of my favorite musicals, and that I have always wanted to play “The Witch,” and you have the perfect storm.
Now, playing “The Witch” used to be something of a pipe dream, but I've carved out a niche for myself in the business that has afforded me the opportunity to play roles typically played by cis-gender females. What has been particularly comforting is that when I tell people that I'm playing this role, there is an immediate acceptance, and a lot of support shown. I'm grateful for that, and I can't wait for people to see the show.
2. What do you think will be the most fun about performing this show as an immersive piece? I've done a lot of shows where Ive had the chance to break the fourth wall, so to speak, so things like directly addressing the audience, or maintaining an unspoken awareness of and connection with the audience, are familiar to me. An immersive production takes that kind of experience to another level, because the audience is basically on stage with you, but all the while, YOU are in the audience…there is no formal separation. I think immersive theater is potently relevant right now, because it challenges the audience to be fully participatory for the entire show…That can be challenging because the segment of humanity that uses social media and smart technology is sometimes seen as losing its ability to focus. I believe immersive theater can gently oblige an audience to not only pay attention, but to willingly participate as observers/listeners. As a storyteller, there is nothing more valuable than a willing audience.
3. What challenges do you think it will present to you as an actor? I think the most literal challenge is that this form of theater does not rely on the common proscenium-presentational style of staging, so things like staging for sight-lines, or the light/sound design are handled differently.
4. What should audiences know about this production before arriving to see the show? That they will be entertained, but they will also be obliged to participate emotionally…That doesn't mean we're going to pull you up on stage and make you hunt for the hair as yellow as corn, or the slipper as pure as gold…However, I wouldn't recommend sneaking a look at Facebook, or sending a text during this particular production.
5. With the show moving between a few venues, are you nervous you are going to create your own Into The Woods by going to the wrong venue? Hahaha. Honestly? A little LOL!! I do hope that people understand that the venue changes depending on the night. I have made sure to make that very clear on my events calendar on my own website. If you choose a particular night, the venue is listed clearly. I hope that doesn't annoy anyone, but it's an adventure, and I think we are all deserving of the spoils that come from a little extra effort nowadays!
6. What do you love most about Into The Woods? That it will likely resonate forever. Yes, it's based on fairytales, but it has a modern sensibility and relevance…And it's becoming so beautifully malleable in a way. Without undermining the integrity of the writing, this team is doing something experimental with this production, and I think that is inspiring and exciting.
7. What do you relate to most about your character? What is one characteristic you are glad you yourself do not possess? I think “The Witch” sees people for who they are, not just because of her magical abilities, but because of his intuition. I think I relate to that pretty strongly...well, not necessarily the magical abilities part LOL! He has a good sense of humor, even though she is someone who has lead a very challenging and unhappy life… she has a very strong sense of self, but he has had to live a life of difficulty and suffering because of that. Yes, the pronouns are purposely varied...
8. Why do you feel parents relate to this story so much? One of the strongest themes of this musical is family, and more specifically the relationship between a parent and a child. That theme is another reason I was excited to do the show. I won't go into the history of my own family, because I would rather an audience experience the story and relate to it in their own unique way.
However, I think the theme of men as parents is something we don't talk about enough. We talk about men as being breadwinners. We talk about men as being coaches, bosses, soldiers, entrepreneurs, etc…We talk about men as being fathers, of course, but we don't talk about men as being primary caregivers. Even companies and stores that cater to parents prioritize the mom…It is assumed that men are not as skilled, and can't, on their own, provide the type of parenting that yields a happy, stable, and hopefully well-rounded child emotionally. I know that's a generalization, and there are certainly countless people who don't think that way. However, I do believe, especially in American culture, that men who have the desire to be a parent are often obliged to keep their sensitivity and vulnerability, hidden.
It's a loaded issue, to be sure.
9. When has there been a time in your life when you felt like you were running through the woods with no end in sight? Every day…And I don't think that's a bad thing! In fact it's a wonderful thing!
10. It feels "Children Will Listen" has either been quoted or performed a lot more recently in this troubling times we having been living in. What do you think is the most important thing we can do to set an example of goodness for the children of today? We need to teach children to embrace their instinctual tendencies towards being empathetic beings. It is easy for society to neglect a child. It is easy to be selfish and prioritize one’s own needs and desires over a child’s. We need to do more as a country, as a culture, and as individuals to not only enrich our children by providing them with quality education, but to enable them, as they mature, to empathize with others. Empathy is power. It leads to the betterment of society. Empathy is something we sorely lack at present.
More on Brian:
In a critically acclaimed performance that Entertainment Weekly said "ignited the stage," Brian Charles Rooney made his Broadway debut as “Lucy Brown” in The Threepenny Opera for The Roundabout Theatre Co., co-starring Alan Cumming, Cyndi Lauper, Jim Dale, Nellie McKay, and Ana Gasteyer.
He was lauded by The New York Times for his performance as Dionne Salon in the hit Off-Broadway musical, Bedbugs!!! He won the New York Musical Festival's Outstanding Performance by a Lead Actor Award for his portrayal of “Lee/Miss Blanche” in the new one-man musical, Miss Blanche Tells It All, and was featured in the recent concert presentation of the cult-favorite When Pigs Fly, directed by Mark Waldrop, with costume designs by the legendary Bob Mackie!
Brian has won the Connecticut Critics Circle Award for "Best Actor in a Musical" as “Candy Darling” in Anna Jacobs & Maggie Kate Coleman's musical POP! at Yale Repertory Theatre, directed by Mark Brokaw, and co-starring Randy Harrison (Queer As Folk); and two other New York Musical Festival Outstanding Performance Awards: Bedbugs!!! (2008) & Bayonets of Angst (2014); as well as the FringeNYC Award for Outstanding Performance as “Satan” in the new rock musical, Winner Take All (2011), directed by John Carrafa.
Brian joined Kristin Chenoweth and composer Andrew Lippa, at Lincoln Center, in I Am Harvey Milk, an oratorio celebrating the life of the famous activist. He has appeared as a soloist in Martin Charnin's new theatrical revue, Rodgers &..., a retrospective of Richard Rodgers' monumental body of work at the Emelin Theatre; and in the Carnegie Hall Concert Production of Guys & Dolls, starring Nathan Lane & Megan Mullally.
He was a featured soloist with UK Pop legend Petula Clark on the North America Tour of The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber. He received a Carbonell Award Nomination for his performance as “Homer Collins” in Floyd Collins at The Actors' Playhouse, in Coral Gables, FL; as well as a Metro-Carolina Award Nomination as “Jinx” in Forever Plaid at The Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte, NC. He played the title role in Bat Boy! The Musical at Charleston Stage Co., in Charleston, SC.
His Television credits include Camelot, Live from Lincoln Center and Sondheim! The Birthday Concert, both directed by Lonny Price for PBS at Lincoln Center.
In 2007, Brian won The Kurt Weill Foundation's Lys Symonette Award for Dramatic Excellence. He has appeared in concert at 54 Below & Joe's Pub, and as a soloist with the Oregon & Seattle Symphony Orchestras.