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An Interview With...Marc Courtade

STARTING OUT

How did you get started in theater?
It has been off and on since high school.  A local all girls high school back in my home town of beautiful Buffalo was desperate for males and invited practically anyone to do their shows.  I always got a part.

What hooked you? Was it your first school play-movie-first time seeing a
Broadway Show?  What inspired you to be where you are today?
I remember my oldest brother had the original cast album of "My Fair Lady" when I was quite young, and I thought it was the hottest thing since peanut butter.  Where would most of us boys of a certain age be without Julie Andrews?  The first Broadway show I saw was "Cabaret", near the end of its original Broadway run.  Sally was played by Tandy Cronin (guess who her parents are?).  I could not believe anything could be so beautiful.  I am not sure where I am today.  I seem to keep moving.

What was the first play you ever saw?  Ever performed in?
I can't remember the first play I ever saw, so it must not have made an impression.  I missed my debut as an elf in the first grade Christmas pageant due to illness.  I was 14 when I made my stage debut as the crown prince in "The King and I".  Being small, I fit in with the sixth graders.  It told everyone I had the title role (you are the king for the last 15 seconds of the show, after all).

Did you study acting?  If not, how did you get into it?
I never studied acting.  I have studied voice for many years.  I was a part of opera workshops that did not really did not care if you could act/move/ match pitch.  I realized I had to do a better job in a lot of aspects than more naturally talented colleagues.  I learned to be off book ASAP, sing in tune and know the music backwards and forwards.  I could always be called on short notice to fit into a role someone else dropped out of.


GETTING IN

What was your first audition?
Music Department at SUNY at Buffalo.  I stank singing a Verdi aria for a mature voice with my thin, nasal twenty year old "tenitone" voice.

How do you choose what play you will audition for?  The piece itself, the director, theater, you were pre-cast, etc.
There has to be a worthwhile part (not a major part, but a worthwhile part) for me; my chorus boy days are over.

Speaking of pre-casting, tell us how you really feel about the subject.
I have never been pre-cast, and I probably never will be.  As long as I know about it before going to an audition and wasting my time, it does not bother me.  It is the nature of the beast.  Certain parts almost demand it.

What types of parts do you normally play?  Do you feel typecast?
I get the comic side-kick.  It is nice to be thought of as a skilled comedian, but I would kill to do more leading male roles.

Looking back on the roles you've been cast in, do you think there's a certain kind of role you get cast in repeatedly?  When directors look at a certain role, what do you think they see as a "Marc Courtade" type?
Absolutely.  If there is a comic character part it goes to me.  Also, if a piece is musically difficult, nine times out of ten I will come to mind (certain chromatic thing I just can not do, so don't ask!).


CHARACTERIZATION

What is your approach to developing your character?
I honestly do not consider myself an actor (some of you who have worked with me will have no argument with this).  I consider myself a musician, and approach my parts from a musical standpoint.

Of all the characters you have portrayed, who is your favorite?
Max in "The Sound of Music" or Tommy Albright in "Brigadoon" (my one and only "leading man" part).

What do you think were your best roles?  your worst?
Best - the above two.  Worst - Magaldi in "Evita".  Too much riding on 14 high G's, my absolute max note in public.

What roles offered you the greatest challenge and why?  How well
do you think you met the challenge?
Tommy Albright.  I actually had to act or my leading lady would have blown me off the stage.  She was radiant!  Also, Tommy is on stage the entire second act; I learned a lot about pacing.  I am pleased with the job I did, and my good friends (the one's who support me in what I do, but will still tell me if they don't like what I am doing) are still very complimentary.

What role do you wish you could have a second shot at and get it right this time?
Pirate King in "Pirates of Penzance". 

What roles or types of roles would you most like to play in the future?
More full out singing parts.  In another universe where a 5'6'' Alfred
Drake would get leading roles I would do Hajj in "Kismet" or Fred in
"Kiss Me Kate"   Now that I have slammed into middle age, I'd love
to do Herbie in "Gypsy" or Horace in "Hello, Dolly!".  I would also
love to try the Baker in "Into the Woods" and Pilate in "Jesus
Christ, Superstar".


MOTIVATION

How do you feel when you perform?
I absolutely love it.  I feel truly alive when I perform.

What motivates you to keep on doing what you're doing?
I do like to improve as a performer.  I love to rehearse so I can get better (I stink at auditions), and I enjoy fine tuning during the run of show.  Really, though, I haven't got a clue.  I just do what I do because it is what do.

During opening night jitters each one of us has said, "Why do I do this to myself?"  Why do you do it?
I really do not get nervous.  I do not internalize my character, so there is enough of a separation between me and whoever I am portraying (it's an introvert type thing).  The only times I have been jittery were when I was unprepared or unsuited to the repertoire.  At this point of life, I will not allow myself to be in that position.


SHARING

What is your favorite theater story?
I don't really have one.  I love to hear them, but I am not a great story teller.

Did you ever miss an entrance, drop enough lines for it to be noticeable,
crack up on stage?
Actually, no.  I have been fortunate.

What was your worst theater experience?
Magaldi in "Evita". Too much vocal work for too little return.

What's the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you on stage?
Cracking five time in one performance during "Evita' (yes, I counted 'em).  Some days I can be in disastrous voice, especially when I am tired.


OTHERS

Why do you perform at the theaters you do?
I will perform pretty much anywhere that anyone will have me, give me something rewarding to do, and treat me with respect.  I say no a lot, mostly to parts that have no challenge for me, or that I feel incapable of doing.  I will also not work with "lecturers" more than once, if I can help it.

Do you think regional theater will continue to grow on L.I.?
Of course.  If we don't grow, we die.  There will be natural attrition, but theater will thrive as long as there are creative people.

Who are some of the actors you've most admired or who have been particularly rewarding to work with? Who's the best (in your opinion) that you've done a show with?
Sonya Tannenbaum (truly gracious and supportive to a mere chorus boy in my first time on stage in years), Amy Wright, Christina Bonatti (my radiant Fiona!), Gino Vitale, Carol Carota, Denis Murphy, Scott Earle (big fun in "The Sound of Music") are the most recent.  I am sure there are lots I am forgetting.

Who is your favorite performer? favorite L.I. performer?
It's funny, I can not think of one leading man currently performing theater.  I still love the ever radiant Julie Andrews, and the still funny Lucille Ball (now, how many of us learned comic timing from "I Love Lucy?").  In the opera world right now: Katarina Dalayman, Placido Domingo, Karita Mattila, Bryn Terfel and Deborah Voigt.  I like to think I have learned a modicum of diplomacy, so I will not mention and LI performers by name.


LIFE ISSUES

How do you maintain your career and do theater?
I am not sure sometimes.  I have to be really organized in what I am doing in all facets.  I also require less sleep than I used to.

Why do you spend so much time toiling in L.I. Theater?
I am really cranky when I do not perform for long periods of time.  It adds a balance to the rest of my life.

Do you find that your family supports your love of theater?
My other half is extremely supportive.  He encourages me to do whatever shows I want.  Like I said before, I am really cranky when I am not performing, so...

How has performing enriched your life?
I have worked with some wonderful people, and made some good friends.  It also keeps me focused on what is really important in life.


FUN

What brings you the greatest joy?
A good night at the theater or opera.  Remembering all my Sondheim lyrics.  A job well done.  Cooking a six course meal.  Creativity.

What really irks you?
Unprepared colleagues.  People who waste my time.  Overly critical people.  Colleagues who know better than the director and tell you how you should do your performance.

If you won LOTTO tomorrow you would.
Keep on doing a lot of what I am doing (except for the 9-5 part).  I am basically very contented.  I like to think I would be philanthropic, and spread the wealth around.  I would also do more volunteer work.

Is it true that you'd really rather be rich than good looking?
Having been neither, I couldn't say.  Given a choice, I would take good looking for the first fifty years of my life, and rich for the remainder.

What's your favorite word?
Gratitude.

Assuming that there is a heaven, what do you want to hear when you get there?
"God enjoys how you sing Schubert's 'Ave Maria' in A-flat, and can't wait to hear you."


FUTURE PLANS

Do you have any projects on the horizon that you want the readers to be aware of?
I am doing Adi in "Milk & Honey" in January, another comic part.  I am also doing the operatic Fox in "Pinocchio" for the next two months.  Lots of fun.  I am free after that, so all you directors out there, this is your chance to be the first to pre-cast me.

Given your choice of parts in plays, which play and role is your heart's desire?
Sweeney Todd.  All modesty aside, I would sing it VERY well.  The rest would come with a good director.