BWW Blog: Adam Lendermon of Maltz Jupiter's A CHORUS LINE - Interview with 'Zach'
"I want you to tell me your name, real name if it's different. And I'd also like to know where you were born..."
My real name is Brian Ogilvie; I didn't change it even though no one in the business can figure out how to pronounce it (it's oh-GILL-vee). I'm from Houston, TX, and I'm 32.
"What made you start dancing?"
I had to learn to dance for my high school show choir (though it was actually what we in the business would call "moving"). After I got over the initial shock of learning how to walk and step-touch in rhythm, I started to enjoy it. I also took a very basic tap class my sophomore year. But I never got serious about dancing until I was in college-with plans to be an actor-and realized that if I ever wanted to work in this business, I would have to dramatically expand my skill set. So I started taking ballet and got much more advanced in tap. Though I was never going to have the facility of a true ballet dancer, I did manage to become a very good tapper, and the bulk of my employment over the last ten years has been in tap shows.
What is your first memory connected with A Chorus Line?
The summer before my last year in college, I met an incredibly gorgeous girl while working in summer stock in PA. I fell hard, and when I went back to school in the fall, I quickly made plans to visit her over the winter break. It turned out that she was to be playing Cassie in A Chorus Line at a theatre in Ft. Lauderdale. My first time visiting this beautiful girl was also to be my first time seeing this amazing show. I'll spare you the details of my personal reunion, but my experience seeing the show was unforgettable. I'd never imagined that anyone could attain such a high level of ability in all three disciplines (acting, singing, dancing). And I couldn't believe that an entire theatre full of people were so interested in a story about an audition. I thought only people in the business would care about it, but everyone can relate to putting oneself "on the line" for something he/she wants desperately. It was the intimacy, honesty, and vulnerability of the dancers on stage that grabbed me and tugged on the audience's emotions. And seeing this wonderful girl dance Cassie's solo was pretty spectacular too! I'll never forget it. After that weekend, A Chorus Line would always hold a special place in my heart. FYI, I married that girl a few years later, and we just passed our sixth anniversary this past September.
How do you relate to the character on the line that you are playing?
Zach, like me, began his career dancing in the chorus of lots of shows. Like me, he always dreamed of doing more: acting, directing, musicals, plays, movies. His ambition and will to succeed is incredible, and it seems nothing can stand in his way. His entire career has been spent looking ahead to the next project, the next step upward. But all of that endless clawing for the top comes at a price. Years ago, it cost him his relationship with Cassie; it may cost him his own health; it may even destroy the career of one of the dancers in his audition. I'm happy to report that I'm still married and healthy, but I have had to learn over the years that blind, unending ambition must be tempered with an awareness of the here and now. It's OK to enjoy where I am right now, even if I have big plans for the future. In fact, it's essential. Without my wife, friends, and family, to remind me to smell the roses every now and then, I could easily find myself going down Zach's road. It's so easy for me to tap into his state of mind in the show, and then to feel blasted back to reality by Cassie's intrusion into what he feels is his domain. He's just a fascinating character, and I love playing him!
Who has most inspired or nurtured you as an artist?
The people who have nurtured and shaped my career are too numerous to count. My parents have always been behind me 100%, I have had many, many wonderful teachers over the years, and my wife is a constant source of inspiration and support. It's impossible to say truly who has had the greatest effect, but I'll expand upon one teacher in particular. I first met Joan Rosenfels when I visited New York, the summer I turned seventeen, looking for acting training. I can't remember how I got her name, but the first time I visited her scene study class, I was hooked. I've been with her ever since. She's single-handedly responsible for getting this uptight, Southern, Christian boy to strip away all of the emotional armor and presentational showiness I used to believe was acting, to allow myself to simply stand on stage and tell the truth. It was no small task, and there's still more to do. She taught me how to listen, how to play actions instead of emotions, how to map out beats in a scene, and how to bring my fullest self to the work. I go back to class any time I have a couple of months in between shows. She is, without a doubt, a "tough love" kind of teacher, but she's one of the most nurturing people I know. Quite simply, I would not be an actor without her.
What is your favorite story to tell about something that has happened to you onstage?
I was in the ensemble of a show in New York, which I won't name here, but it was one of those shows that required a ton of costume and makeup changes for the ensemble. We went straight from the craziest dance number in the show and quick-changed into three-piece suits, old age makeup, and stick-on facial hair. We then went back on stage, sweat still streaming off our faces, to stand and listen to a VERY long scene. On two-show Sundays, this was almost too much to bear, so one had to find a mental happy place in order to get through it, but you had to be sure to wake up in time for all the men to button the scene by loudly exclaiming "Agreed!" One day, one of our gentlemen got particularly deep into his meditation, and when there was a brief silence in the scene, he panicked that he had missed the cue. So all alone, completely in the clear, and with all the conviction he could muster, he suddenly shouted, "Agreed!" The scene ground to a halt as everyone, including the principles, tried in vain to stave off laughter. I'm sure the image of an entire company of actors facing upstage with shoulders shaking uncontrollably was the perfect picture of unprofessionalism. It wasn't our finest moment, but I'm proud to say that we got it right for many hundreds of performances both before and after that day. And it made for a great story.
"What do you do when you can't dance anymore?"
Well, it seems strange to say, since the bulk of my career has involved dancing, but I've never had a great love affair with it. I've always been an actor first, and I've danced because it was necessary to find work. Admittedly, I've come to enjoy it very much. There's a camaraderie among dancers-who are the hardest working people in show business-which doesn't exist anywhere else. I will miss that. But when the day comes that my body can't do it any more, I guess I'll be left with my first love: acting. I love telling stories and forging connections with other people on stage. Keep your fingers crossed for me that I'll be able to find that kind of work when I no longer have my tapping feet to rely on!
Brian is so grateful to be making his debut at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre and to join the line of incredible actors and dancers who have performed this beautiful show over the years! He was a member of the closing Broadway Company of Mary Poppins where he understudied Bert and Robertson Ay. His most recent Florida appearances were as Eddie Ryan in Funny Girl at Vero Beach Riverside and in the World Premiere of Cagney! at Florida Stage. Other credits include the First National Tour of Irving Berlin's White Christmas, and regional productions of Spamalot, The Drowsy Chaperone, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and 42nd Street. Brian also appeared in the first season of HBO's True Blood. His favorite role is that of husband to Dana Winkle, his wonderful leading lady. Thanks to Josh for the opportunity. And thanks to Mom and Dad, who continue to amaze and inspire. @brian_ogilvie www.BrianOgilvie.com
From This Author Guest Blogger: Adam Lendermon