by Justin Brady
This month the Phoenix Theatre brings to stage The Lyons, a dark comedy marking the farewell performance of Diana Kondrat who has been performing at the Phoenix for 25 years. In my interview with another Phoenix Theatre regular, Scot Greenwell, he reflects upon Diane as a fierce mentor, wrestling with important issues through theatre, and what movie he would like to recast with Indy actors.
Any favorite experience from work you have done in Indianapolis?
Scot: Every project is special for its own reasons, but my first show at the Phoenix, Urinetown: The Musical, is still near to my heart. There was some magic there. Also, I cherish anytime I get to work closely with my dear friend Claire Wilcher on stage. It's happened several times, but Into the Woods, Parade and ...Forum stand out. She is one of my favorite people, so there is such joy in the work, having her as a scene partner.
Can you describe the role of the Phoenix Theatre in Indianapolis?
Scot: I'm so grateful it exists. The Phoenix brings to our city those stage works that are hot off the presses. The stories told on the Phoenix stages are about us, now, in 2013. It's likely that if you see a show there, you'll be moved somehow because it's always a raw, visceral experience. The work isn't fluffy or stuffy; it's engaging and fun. Social issues are always being wrestled with there, from race and class to climate change and energy consumption. The Phoenix is plugged in to today's world.
Tell us a little about the Lyons and what made you want to be part of this show?
Scot: The Lyons is about a New York City family coping with the imminent death of its patriarch. Early in the play, the soon-to-be widowed Rita notes that we don't really know what people are like behind closed doors. It's ironic because the next two hours allow the audience a surprising glimpse into the lives of her own family. When I read the play, I knew Diane Kondrat would be playing Rita. I absolutely loved the character of Curtis, her son. The dialogue is some of the best I've read in years, and the play's trajectory is interesting. I felt strongly about it; I wanted this role.
You have worked a few times now with Diane Kondrat. What influence has she has had on you as an actor?
Oh my... I told her yesterday that when I first saw her onstage, it didn't seem like the first time because she was so honest, so emotionally raw, such a clear communicator of the character. She was beautiful, so alive! To share the stage with her forces you to step up because she is powerful. She is smart, maternal, and wickedly funny. She taught me the Meisner technique, which includes some treacherous exercises, and I couldn't have been guided by a bolder, more fierce mentor. She's certainly someone for whose approval I've always hoped. I'm happy she's happy to be moving, but I'll miss her like crazy.
What do you like about theatre scene in Indianapolis?
I think our best asset is the passion shared by individual theatre artists, and their commitment to making Indianapolis more vibrant and dynamic. It's so easy for people, including ourselves, to write us off, as if we have no value simply because we aren't in Chicago or New York. I think the opposite; I believe we're quite valuable and necessary, and not just for entertainment. We're a strong group of talented people. Theatre is a powerful medium, and artists in Indianapolis reflect, enlighten and provoke their audiences as profoundly as anywhere else in the country.
question: If you could recast the leads of any movie with local actors - what
movie would you choose and who would you cast?
I should fantasize about this more because this is tough. But just spitballin' here... Clue, one of my favorite movies, could feature Bill Simmons as Professor Plum, Rob Johansen as Mr. Green, Brian Noffke as Colonel Mustard, Jen Johansen as Miss Scarlet, Constance Macy as Mrs. White, and Claire Wilcher as Mrs. Peacock. I'd wanna play Wadsworth if I weren't directing it.