Note: Please see end of post for NEW information about remaining shows…
“Have you seen the show?”
It’s a question recently posed to me by actor Stanley Bahorek, who’s between Tucson and Phoenix runs of “[title of show]” with Arizona Theatre Company. The show opens Thursday night at the Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix.
He wasn’t referring to his current gig, but the first bit of acting he did—which was in middle school. Bahorek shares that his first audition was for the school production of “Annie,” and he must have nailed it.
Bahorek was cast as the riotous renegade Rooster Hannigan, one of a trio of cons poised to profit by claiming the orphan Annie as their own. Worthington, Ohio theater wasn’t on my radar at that point (it is now), but I’ve seen plenty of other productions of Annie.
Bahorek surmised as much, suggesting I might need every finger and toe at my disposable to count the many ways. If I hadn’t glimpsed it sooner, this was a sure sign. This fellow is fabulously fun.
I’ve been gently asked to avoid overplaying this fact, but feel I must share it nonetheless. Bahorek confesses to saying the following to his mother when he was just ten years old: “I want to be an actor.”
“I’ve been performing all my life,” reflects Bahorek. I get the feeling his toothbrush might have served as a microphone on more than one occasion, but that’s pure speculation on my part.
Bahorek followed the declaration to his mother with a question: “Is that okay?” Happily, he shares, his parents were very supportive. Some kids leave dreams of dentistry or dinosaur hunting when they catch the theater bug—but Bahorek seems to have been born with it.
It didn’t hurt that as a middle school and high school student, he had oodles of friends doing theater, preparing for or entering university theater programs. And so, thought Bahorek, “why not?”
He’s quick to credit the theater teachers he studied with in public school settings—sharing just how dedicated they were to giving kids opportunities. (Legislators take note: If you want to lower Arizona’s high school drop-out rate, return rich arts experiences to all our schools.)
Bahorek was thrilled when accepted at the University of Michigan, renowned for its stellar musical theater department. “That,” quips Bahorek, “sealed the deal.” He raves about their “excellent training,” adding that some of his best experiences occurred during his time there.
I asked Bahorek whether he had any advice for high school students researching universities and preparing for theater program auditions.
Here’s his first tip: “Take piano.” It’s an essential component of hearing and speaking the language of music. (Take note if your child is considering Arizona School for the Arts—which includes two hours of piano each week as part of its middle school curriculum.)
“Read plays and see as much theater as you can,” suggests Bahorek, who recalls seeing “all the touring shows” while in high school. “Get to know both classic and contemporary work.” Know current playwrights—plus those from “pre-1965.”
“The greater your breadth of knowledge,” says Bahorek, “the better your foundation.” The more a person is exposed to, he explains, the better he or she becomes at selecting monologues and vocal performance pieces for auditions.
Bahorek seizes this opportunity to share with me his hope that plenty of young people will come to see “[title of show].” While show advisories note the mature content of the piece, Bahorek likens it to a PG-13 rather than R-rated movie.
He notes that there is some swearing, but that it’s done in part of raise the issue of whether swearing is or isn’t acceptable. “It’s never graphic,” he says, “or gratuitous.”
With two kids in college and another preparing for a career in theater, I’m way past worrying about episodic exposure to swearing—especially within the context of the arts.
“I would have loved this show in high school,” shares Bahorek.
Bahorek describes “[title of show]” as a play about four people in New York, two of whom are writers. I’m hooked already but will happily provide more info for those of you who aren’t yet familiar with the frequent foibles and follies of being, or being with, a writer.
“The show has a great premise,” says Bahorek. “The writers end up writing a show about them writing a show.” Not that writers are ever prone to navel-gazing, mind you.
Bahorek fondly recalls his experience with seeing “[title of show],” describing it as “charming, ingenious and funny.” Like many musicals, he reflects, it’s about dreamers and their dreams. “You fall in love with these characters—their dreams, their chutzpah.”
There’s a moment near the middle of the show, Bahorek adds, when you really start to see what it’s all about. It’s during a musical number called “Die, Vampire, Die!” The vampires, he says, are the little voices in our heads that tell us we’re not pretty, talented or good enough. “Once you get to that point, you’re really pulled into the story.”
I asked Bahorek how he came to be involved with the Arizona Theatre Company production of “[title of show]”—“The old fashioned way,” he told me, “by pounding the pavement.” He auditioned for the show in New York with David Ira Goldstein (now celebrating his 18th season as artistic director for ATC).
Bahorek says he was familiar with ATC’s sterling reputation and suspected a January/February gig in Arizona might not be such a bad thing. He recalls meeting Goldstein and feeling right away that the two had a connection.
“We had a little too much fun,” he recalls. “He told jokes, I did a few songs.” Bahorek says Goldstein struck him as seriously smart, adding that he loved the way Goldstein spoke about the show.
So what does he think of Goldstein now that they’ve worked together? “He’s excellent to work with,” says Bahorek, “and he treats his actors really well.” If there’s a recipe for the perfect show, I’m sure artistic excellence and fun are near the top of the list of ingredients.
I can’t wait to see what this cast, crew and creative team cook up together…
Note: “[title of show]” will be presented by Arizona Theatre Company Feb. 18 to March 7 at the Herberger Theater Center. Tickets available at http://www.arizonatheatre.or or 602-256-6995. Some performances feature student, senior and active military discounts. “Pay What You Can” for this show is Feb. 21 at 7pm, subject to restrictions and availability. Group rates/fundraising packages/rush tickets may be available. Please check details before attending.
Feb. 23 update from Arizona Theatre Company…
The post-show discussion following the March 4th 7:30pm performance will feature the show’s creators (also its original stars) Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell, as well as the original keyboardist and musical arranger Larry Pressgrove. Discussion will also feature ATC artistic director David Ira Goldstein. Larry Pressgrove, the original ‘Larry’ for the show’s off-Broadway and Broadway runs, will play the role onstage for ATC’s March 3-7 performances. Returning ‘”[title of show]” patrons can receive 50% off regularly-priced tickets for their second experience of the show. For details, visit www.arizonatheatre.org or call 602-256-6995.