Brian Tichnell Stars as THE GRADUATE in LA Theatreworks Current Radio Play Tonight
The internationally acclaimed L.A. Theatre Works is bringing its unique, hybrid radio theater-style production of The Graduate to the McCallum Theatre tonight, February 25 at 8:00 pm.
The sly and witty coming-of-age story of a young and innocent college grad seduced by an older woman was a theatrical sensation when it premiered at the Gielgud Theatre in London's West End, then transferred to Broadway. For three decades, L.A. Theatre Works has been the leading radio theater company in the United States, committed to using innovative technologies to preserve and promote significant works of dramatic literature and bringing live theater into the homes of millions. LA based actor Brian Tichnell plays the slightly neurotic Benjamin Bratton in this critically acclaimed production. I had the opportunity to chat with Tichnell about the production. Here are a few excerpts from that conversation.
D: Let's start by talking a little bit about you. Where are you from? Where did you go to school? Just the general "you".
BT: Yeah. Sure. Well. I'm originally from Mississippi, Grew up in a small town called Petal. Like the flower, not the bicycle. (He laughs). And then I went to the University of Mississippi. Got my BFA in acting there. Went on to grad school at the California Institute of the Arts, Got my MFA there. And then I graduated about two and a half years ago. Since then ... I've resided in Los Angeles, doing the whole freelance acting thing. I've worked a little in television and I do as much theatre as I can. This is my first tour with LA Theatreworks. It's been a blast.
D: How many weeks are you on the road with The Graduate?
BT: Nine weeks total. This is our second leg. We were out for about a month in October-November and this leg we're out the entire month of February.
D: So, what drew you to this role of Benjamin Braddock.
BT: Well, the truth is ... I got a Facebook message from the casting director. She knew me form some other plays I had done in the area. She was looking for actors that people had worked with and liked. I went in and read the sides - the audition material - and I just remember connecting immediately to kind of his point of view, which I think is kind of - it's a common point of view but it's also the kind where you could go one way or the other - the way he sees the world -- and I think I was kind of able to ride the line between, you know, intelligence, neurosis, confidence - and he's kind of feeling all those things at once, and I just really connected to the material immediately, And then I auditioned for the director and ah ... I was really feeling it ... and I just knew when I left that I was gonna get this. Because, I don't know, there's something about Benjamin Braddock that my soul connects to - the whole character. He's a bit selfish and I can kind of understand that. Especially when you're coddled by academia - you kind of create a sense of justifying your actions towards people and I can connect with that,
D: What makes the LA Theatreworks production such a unique theatrical experience?
BT: Well, it's the premiere radio theatre acting company. It's a bit like a play - but we're at microphones and we perform "out" instead of to each other .. but we wear costumes and have a bit of blocking and there is some interaction - we don't have any props - any props we would use we mime and we have a sound effects table in the back so the sound effects are made live while we act at the microphone. The reason it's so great - I mean, A. there's the novelty - seeing how a radio play might have gone down back in the 20's and 30's and 40's when that was a huge medium, but also there's something about it - when you're unencumbered by trying to realistically portray something the audience is allowed to put the picture of what is happening in their mind, and our goal is really just to lay the script out for them. When you're watching it you really hear and see the story play out before your eyes. I think the way we sort of minimalize it gives it a special clarity.
D: Because the film is such a classic, with such unforgettable performances, do you find that to be a challenge for audiences?
BT: I get lots of hate mail. (He laughs) It can be a problem for someone who really loves the film, but you just have to ... I just play the character the way I play it and don't think about Dustin Hoffman. If there is a challenge there, I don't meet it directly. I don't think about it. I just play the role the way I see it.
D: What have you, personally learned from this experience so far?
BT: Oh, sure. Well, now I know what South Dakota feels like. I've learned that. (a beat) I don't know if I've learned ... hmmm .. . there's something about entering into Ben's problems which I relate to so much, having graduated recently - there's something about dealing with all that --- expressing it night after night that helps me, as a young man trying to become a man in reality, get over it. Really being able to lay it all out there. Life is not fair. It's grotesque. Being able to express it over and over and over again has kind of helped me move on from that point in my life. When I started doing this play I was there ... I was just about to sleep with my parent's friends wife (he laughs) ... umm, but honestly, his frustrations were mine and this play has really helped me move past it.
D: What is your favorite part and your least favorite part of touring?
BT: My favorite part is - I like Americana. I like just seeing all the different parts of America. Even the places that are really small and everybody says "there's nothing to do". I think that's cool. I really like all that. What I don't like - ummm, we fly a lot and flying can get - going that high and that much altitude in a month - the travel can get a little draining. Its par for the course. It's not that bad, There's really not much I don't like about this experience. I miss my girlfriend.
D: I know you're just starting out your career - but what's a highlight so far?
BT: Well. I'm about to ... there's a show coming out on April 6called Silicon Valley on HBO and I play a recurring role on that show. And I also got to do a role on Newsroom on HBO. And, you know, I think I said in college "I'd really like to be on HBO" - and so far I've gotten to do about five episodes on that network. Just being on television is a career highlight for me. Especially being from a small town in Mississippi - that seems almost insurmountable - and that's about as far as I ever thought I'd go.
D: Okay, so give me a couple of roles you'd like to play.
BT: Oh, sure, When I'm older - I know for a fact when I get older I want to play George in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe". Richard Burton's role. Umm. I would really love to play Macbeth. I actually got to play Hamlet a couple of years ago for a regional theatre. I'd like to just do a Chekhov play. Anything. I'm dying to sink my teeth into anything Chekhov.
D: Coming from a small town, what advice might you give to young actors who have similar dreams of pursuing a career in professional theatre?
BT: Sure. My advice would be - you gotta do what you gotta do. If it's in your heart then do it. Let me back this up, I really know what I want to say. If you want to ... okay ... if you want to become an artist, take the path where you get to hone your craft and create yourself as an artist. Whether you go to University, whether you go to grad school, whether you go to a college that has a lot of accolades or whether you go to the smaller college right in your backyard - if you are going to be an actor, use that time to cultivate yourself as an artist, Because it's there that you live out your dream - where you are safe and allowed to express your artistic aspirations. Because one you are out of that academic situation, you realize that it's a business. And from then on you're a businessman or woman. Use that time to cultivate your artistic self so that you are then prepared to go out and make a living.
D: Finally, what do you hope audiences will take away from this evening in the theatre with THE GRADUATE?
BT: Mostly, I just hope they have a great time. It's fun. What we really discovered -- we really didn't rehearse it as if it were a comedy, we really rehearsed the reality of the circumstances - but what we discovered is that the play is really very funny. And people have a great time. That's what you're gonna get when you come. You're gonna laugh. You're gonna gasp. You're gonna root and cheer for Ben or Mrs. Robinson or Elaine - you're really gonna have a good time.
The McCallum Theatre presents LA Theatreworks' THE GRADUATE for one performance, February 25 at 8:00 pm. For tickets for further information visit www.mccallumtheatre.com