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STARTING OUT

How did you get started in theater?
Actually, the answer to this is a two-parter.  The first
on-stage experience I had was playing Brad in the
live show accompanying the Rocky Horror Picture
Show at the Lynbrook movie theater for about a year
while I was a senior in High School (1985-86, for
anyone who might have seen it in Lynbrook at that
time).

In actual theater, however, I got started in college.
I had done some lighting and sound work in high
school, and one day I saw an audition notice on campus for "A Midsummer Night's Dream".  So I went and saw the director, and said that I wasn't an actor, but if he needed technical people, I'd like to be involved.  Great, he said, and that was it.  A month went by, and I
didn't hear from him, so I went to go see him at his office, and asked if he
still needed me.  He said yes, but they hadn't gotten to tech yet.  However,
they had an actor drop out, would I be interested in taking a role?  I said
sure, and I had a blast.  I continued to be involved both on and off stage
for a while.  Doing both and trying to keep up with schoolwork as well was
killing me, so I knew I had to give up one or the other, and eventually
decided that I enjoyed being onstage more.

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 just enjoy it a tremendous amount, and did from the very beginning.

What was the first play you ever saw?  Ever performed in?
I think probably the first play I ever saw was either "Dracula" or "Annie"
on Broadway.  I saw both on field trips in elementary school, but I can't
honestly remember which came first.  As far as the first I performed in, see
my answer to "How did you get started in theater?" above.


Did you study acting?  If not, how did you get into it?
Actually, no, I've never had any formal training, although I have read a
great deal about several different techniques.


GETTING IN

What was your first audition?
My first audition was for "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum", in college.  I told the director I didn't want a large role, and didn't want to be onstage singing by myself.  I wound up playing Hysterium.  Go figure.

How do you choose what play you will audition for?  The piece itself, the
director, theater, you were pre-cast, etc.
All of the above.  I've done parts because I was pre-cast, I've auditioned
for parts because I loved the piece, because I liked the director, or to get
into a new theater.  Each decision is really different.

Speaking of pre-casting, tell us how you really feel about the subject.
I think it's a little disappointing for auditionees (unless you happen to be
the one pre-cast).  However, I do understand the rationale behind it, and as
long as the director/producer is up-front about it, I don't have a big problem with it.

What types of parts do you normally play?  Do you feel typecast?
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 "Steve Wangner" type?
This is a combination answer to the last two questions.  I hadn't really
thought about it, but looking back, I can honestly say that I've been very
lucky to have been given the opportunity to play a lot of very different
roles, so I can't really say what type of parts I "usually" play, or that
I've ever felt typecast.


CHARACTERIZATION

What is your approach to developing your character?
Each role is really different, but I tend to take it directly from the script.  It's really hard to describe the exact process, but when I'm reading a script, either on the page, out loud, in a rehearsal, or in a performance,  I just kind of let myself become that character.  I can't even honestly say that I work from the outside in, or from the inside out - I work on both at the same time.

Of all the characters you have portrayed, who is your favorite?
Wow, this is a tough one.  There have only been two roles I've ever played
that I would have played for as long as they would have kept the show
running - Hysterium in "...Forum", and Oscar Wilde in "Gross Indecency".

What do you think were your best roles?  your worst?  What roles offered you the greatest challenge and why?  How well do you think you met the challenge?
I can think of three (for the best roles, and greatest challenge, combined).

First, Leontes in "The Winter's Tale".  It's an emotional roller coaster,
encompassing jealousy, rage, a bit of insanity, love, repentance, etc.  It's
also one of the wordiest roles Shakespeare ever wrote.

Second, Arthur in "Camelot", for many of the same emotional reasons as
Leontes.  Also, it had the most number of solo or duet songs I'd ever had.

Third, Oscar Wilde in "Gross Indecency".  He was an incredibly complex
person, and it was a real challenge playing a character that wasn't just a
character, but also a real historical person.  The biggest challenge there
was creating the dramatic moments on stage, but also being true to Oscar
Wilde the person.

As far as whether I was successful in meeting the challenges or not, I think
so.  I've heard second-hand what some people have said about my performances (to others, so I know it wasn't just them blowing smoke up my butt), and it's been very complimentary.

As far as my worst role, I once played an Indian mystic (New Delhi Indian,
not Native American) in a play which toured some local libraries.  Wow, was
that play bad, and I sounded like Apu from "The Simpsons".

What role do you wish you could have a second shot at and get it right this time?
I can't really think of any.  I don't really think I'd make different choices in any role I can think of that I've played.

What roles or types of roles would you most like to play in the future?
Anything anyone's willing to cast me in.


MOTIVATION

How do you feel when you perform? What motivates you to keep on doing what you're doing? During opening night jitters each one of us has said, "Why do I do this to myself?"  Why do you do it?
Another combination answer for the last three questions.  I do it because I
really enjoy doing it.  I spent a lot of time when I was growing up trying a
lot of different forms of artistic expression - writing, drawing, music, just about anything you can think of.  It wasn't until I found theater, and especially being on-stage, that I really found the area of the arts that really gives me satisfaction (and I've been told that I'm decent at).


SHARING

What is your favorite theater story?
A friend of mine was working at the Manhattan Theater Club as Master Stage
Carpenter during their initial production of "Putting it Together", which
starred Julie Andrews, Stephen Collins, and Christopher Durang.  We actually talked this friend of mine into going up to Julie Andrews and saying
"Oooooh, I loved you in those Wheat Thins commercials!".  She had no idea
what he was talking about (it was Sandy Duncan in the Wheat Thins
commercials.  Of course, we knew that, and so did my friend, but that was
the point).  After it was explained to her by someone else, she actually
thought it was funny.  My friend still gets Christmas cards from Julie
Andrews.

Did you ever miss an entrance, drop enough lines for it to be noticeable,
crack up on stage?
Miss an entrance, no.  Come in from the wrong entrance, yes.  Drop enough
lines for it to be noticeable, not that I can remember.  Crack up on stage,
never to the point where I couldn't continue.

What was your worst theater experience?
See my remark about playing an Indian Mystic, above.


What's the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you on stage?
Making an entrance in "She Stoops to Conquer", I literally fell onto the
stage, having tripped over something in the entrance.


OTHERS

Why do you perform at the theaters you do?
Mainly because I enjoy the people I get to work with, and because they keep
asking me to come back.

Do you think regional theater will continue to grow on L.I.?
Let's hope so.  We definitely need to do the kind of plays that are going to
get younger audiences into the theaters, though, if we're going to have any
hope of having audiences in another generation.

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? Who is your favorite performer? favorite L.I. performer?
I almost feel like I shouldn't answer this question...I know I'll leave somebody out, or someone will get offended that I didn't list them.  So everyone reading, don't be offended - I'm answering these questions at 11:30 on a Sunday night after a long weekend.  However, I'll name a few.

Most rewarding for me to work with : John Anderson, Annmarie Fabricatore
(forgive me if I'm spelling any names wrong here), Ron Stroman.

Favorite to watch : Rob Jones - always talented and incredibly entertaining.


LIFE ISSUES

How do you maintain your career and do theater?
It's tough.  Fortunately, I now have a job that I can be somewhat flexible with my schedule.

Why do you spend so much time toiling in L.I. Theater?
Unquestionably, it's the sex, drugs, and alcohol at the cast parties.

Do you find that your family supports your love of theater?
Yes, they've been very supportive, although getting them to see shows I'm in
is like pulling teeth.

How has performing enriched your life?
Two ways :
   1. I've met some incredible friends.
   2. It gives the creative side of me an outlet.  For a someone who's a
       computer programmer by day, letting that side of me out is important.


FUN

What brings you the greatest joy?
Being with friends and family and having a good laugh.

What really irks you?
Too many things to list.  I have soooo many pet peeves.

If you won LOTTO tomorrow you would.
I don't think I would do much differently.  I'd go bonkers if I retired.  I'd probably buy a house, and just live comfortably.

Is it true that you'd really rather be rich than good looking?
Yes.

What's your favorite word?
All of them.  I love language.

When you reach the pearly gates what do you want St. Peter to say?
I don't have to hear him say anything...if I actually get that far, I'll be amazed!


FUTURE PLANS

Do you have any projects on the horizon that you want the readers to be
aware of? Please give details)
I am involved in a production of Sartre's "No Exit" in Manhattan.

Given your choice of parts in plays, which play and role is your heart's
desire?
Hamlet.  It's the role of roles for anyone interested at all in classical theater, and I still have another year or two before I get too old for the role.
An Interview with...Stephen Wangner
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