BWW Interviews: Gabe Bowling Talks MY BIG GAY ITALIAN WEDDING and Career
It's still summer in the city, meaning that the lights of Broadway are attracting tourists from all over the world to visit New York City, the Mecca of all things theater. However, theatergoers the world over enjoy steping outside of Times Square to take in plays and musical in more intimate venues. Nestled snuggly in the St. Luke's Theatre on West 46th Street is the funny and entertaining My Big Gay Italian Wedding, which has recently welcomed new cast member Gabe Bowling. Last week, I met with Gabe Bowling at Betti Bar at Hourglass Tavern to chat about the show and his career.
BWW: How did you first get started in theater and performance?
Gabe Bowling: Actually, I didn't do theatre. I was mostly just doing film, television, and commercials. I was playing, I'm a musician obviously, and I was playing in bands. To do theatre you have to have your weekends free, and to play in a rock band you have to have your weekends free. So, I kind of had the understanding with my agent that she would just keep me on film and television auditions. Then, at a certain point, MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET, which was playing live music and doing theatre, came along. She was like, "You have to do this." She pretty much forced me to go. I fought with her on it, and long story short, I booked it. That sort of sent me into the musical theatre world where I never thought I would find myself. [Laughs]
BWW: How did you come to be involved in My Big Gay Italian Wedding?
Gabe Bowling: Just a standard audition. My manager called me, and I had an appointment. I went in, and I guess they liked me. [Laughs]
BWW: As a heterosexual playing a homosexual character, did preparing for your role present any unexpected challenges for you?
Gabe Bowling: I just had to make out with a lot of guys. [Laughs] No. The thing is, I feel like one of the primary sort of principles of acting is that you are always trying to find common ground with your character. Most human beings sort of have the same emotional wants and needs, you know, regardless of how we go about getting them or what it is in the end that actually satisfies those. So, playing a homosexual versus playing a heterosexual, it really changes nothing except for who your love interest is within the context of the play. So, that one didn't really blow my mind too much. [Laughs]
BWW: You're also the "villain," if you will, in My Big Gay Italian Wedding? What is it like getting to play the guy everyone loves to hate?
Gabe Bowling: It's the best because if you're doing your job properly, people hate you. [Laughs] I like playing the bad guy because advocating for the bad guy is fun. Finding reasons why your actions are warranted and sort of taking your messed up motivations and legitimizing them is something that we actually do in our day to day lives, whether we like to admit it or not. We do things that we know maybe are not the best choice, or maybe that are wrong, and we have to justify why we do it. It's kind of naughty, and it's kind of fun to be able to do that as a presentational thing because it allows you to sort of be justified in your wrongness. [Laughs]
BWW: The humor in My Big Gay Italian Wedding is current and topical. What is it like performing in a show that offers such room for improvisation?
Gabe Bowling: It's nice. I mean, we're pretty married to the script for the most part. There are certain things that have to happen. I'm relatively new in the show, so if the other actors throw something at me that I'm not expecting I don't necessarily appreciate that yet. [Laughs] But, as a whole, I've done other shows where there's some wiggle room, and it's fun because it allows you to play. It also keeps you focused. You know, you never get bored. You'll never settle in what you're doing because you have to be present and focused.
BWW: What is your favorite moment in My Big Gay Italian Wedding?
Gabe Bowling: My favorite moment. [Pauses] Well, I'll answer this in two parts. My favorite moment to play is my opening scene, when I discover that this boy that I am ultimately in love with is getting married to somebody else. It is fun to play that change in emotion. I enjoy that. I think that it's fun to go from upbeat and enthusiastic to being emotionally crushed in one fell swoop. That said, I've got to say when Marissa Rosen does her version of the "Ave Maria," that's my favorite part of the show. But, I have very little to do with it. [Laughs]
BWW: My Big Gay Italian Wedding has been running Off-Broadway since 2012, and has been seen by many people. Why do you think audiences should see the show or come back to it if they already have seen it?
Gabe Bowling: Well, it's one of those shows that they keep fresh. I feel like from week to week, you're not going to see exactly the same show. The cast also has a relatively high turnover rate. There are always people who are booking a tour, leaving, and replaced by somebody else. And, as big of a cast as it has, every new actor kind of brings their own fresh spin on each role. It's kind of a constantly evolving show. It's never just set it and forget it, like most shows. For most Broadway shows, you can see it on a Tuesday in August then go back in October and you will see relatively the same show. With this one, the same stuff for the most part is going to happen, but there are guest stars and there's a little bit that gets added here or there, so it is always changing. It keeps you on your toes. [Laughs]
BWW: In addition to acting, you're also creating original music with your band Drink Me Up. What does the future hold for Drink Me Up?
Gabe Bowling: Well, we are, I would say long overdue to release at least another four song EP. We have another music video that we are planning right now. We just have to find the time to do it because we are both so busy auditioning and ideally working. [Laughs] But yeah, we're writing. We have a lot of stuff to record. Also, our producer lives in LA and now we're both in New Yor,k so we either have to fly him out here or go out there. So, long story short, we're overdue to put out more material period, but it's coming. I assure you.
BWW: Lastly, what advice do you offer to others hoping to make a career in the arts?
Gabe Bowling: I would say don't set a time line for yourself that is unrealistic. That's not to say that you shouldn't set goals. I hear a lot of people that use the term "make it." "If I don't make it by the time that I am twenty-three, then I'm going to go to my Plan B." That is fine. I don't know what making it means for them. I learned a number of years into doing this that my goal is to stay employed so that I can continue to do what I love because I actually love doing it, not because I love the idea of someday making it and doing it on some huge level. It's really, really difficult as everybody knows. There's constant rejection. You are always trying to prove yourself. You have more failures than successes if you look at it in the sense of what you're going to book versus what you try to book. So, if you go into it with the intention of doing what you love, and not trying to make money, achieve fame, or whatever, the rest kind of falls into place. When you go into an audition, you don't go in to try to give them what they want. You go there to do what you do in front of people and should they so choose you, so be it. If not, then no big deal. You move on to the next piece. My advice would be that you can't let yourself get frustrated; you can't get down on yourself for not booking things. Don't set unrealistic goals and make sure that you are always improving on your craft. And, that should be something that you enjoy doing.
Be sure to catch Gabe Bowling in My Big Gay Italian Wedding while you can. It's light-hearted, comedic zeal makes for a perfect evening of fun, frivolous theatre. My Big Gay Italian Wedding plays every Saturday evening at 8:00 p.m. at the St. Luke's Theatre, 308 46th Street (just west of 8th Avenue). For tickets and more information, please visit http://stlukestheatre.com/ or call (212) 246-8140 or (212) 947-3499.