Interview: Brandon Hearnsberger of LEND ME A SOPRANO at Alley Theatre

Brandon Hearnsberger talks about the world premiere comedy Lend Me a Soprano!

By: Sep. 27, 2022
Interview: Brandon Hearnsberger of LEND ME A SOPRANO at Alley Theatre

Lend Me A Soprano, the new world premiere comedy by famous comic playwright Ken Ludwig (The Three Musketeers and Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express) has arrived at The Alley Theatre. The play is set in 1934, when the clever and combustible Lucille Wiley, Manager of the Cleveland Grand Opera Company, is ready to welcome world-class soprano Elena Firenzi for her one-night-only starring role in Carmen. (Source: Alley Theatre)

Brandon Hearnsberger is grateful and delighted to return to the Alley. Earlier this year, he appeared in 4th Wall Theatre Co.'s Gloria, directed by James Black. Previous Alley appearances include The Farnsworth Invention (title role), The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Othello, Mrs. Warren's Profession, The Unexpected Guest, A Christmas Carol, Cyrano de Bergerac, Treasure Island, Much Ado About Nothing, A Moon for the Misbegotten, Journey's End, and Hamlet. Eight productions at the Houston Shakespeare Festival. A Noise Within: Much Ado About Nothing. Classical Theatre Company: The Empire Striketh Back. LA's A Drinking Game: The Princess Bride, Beetlejuice, Clue. Dallas Theatre Center: The Lover. Unity Theatre: The Odd Couple, Arsenic and Old Lace, The Compleat Works of Willm Shakspr (Abridged). He has voiced dozens of characters in video games such as Medal of Honor, Final Fantasy, Starfield, and Nintendo's Fire Emblem Heroes.

Brandon sits down with interviewer Alric Davis to talk about the creation of this new work, mental health and Shipley's supremacy!

Describe the show in a single sentence.

This show is simply a screwball comedy with heart.

Very nice! You're getting to work with Ken Ludwig, a theatrical titan in his own right, on a new version of his own work. How has the process been creating this role? How collaborative has this process been?

Ken could not be more gracious, he approaches this whole work as collaborative as possible. To bring a classic work back to life and flip the genders has been so great to see. Earlier in the rehearsal process, I was having a hard time with the first scene in which Jerry talks about Jo's character about her dream to be an opera singer. The initial scene came off a bit rough, I expressed that and Ken came back with a new scene the next day!

Tell me about your history with the show and the character you play now.

I played Max in Lend Me a Tenor in college and seeing this gender flip has really surprised me how much it has deepened the play. It's given it more heart and meaning and it's much funnier. Jerry, who I play in this new version, was originally the character Maggie. Maggie was sweet, realistic and cute but there's something so much funnier having a male in the role.

This is a revisionist version of the original play Lend Me A Tenor, a classic comedy, and this is a new female leaning angle-speak if you can about the importance of female voices brought to the forefront. How have you as a man navigated being in the show in this way?

The way we have women in these main roles now, it's not just centered around a Grumpy dad, but it's a badass businesswoman running a business in the 1930s. Ellen Harvey in the role has such a quiet authority that is so fun to watch. Eleanor Holdridge, our director, has taken out the catty competition and made it about women supporting women. It adds such depth and beauty to the play. Lend Me a Tenor makes you laugh and Lend Me a Soprano makes you laugh and cry a little bit. I work hard to keep myself together while crying backstage.

The last play I saw you in was Gloria for 4th Wall Theatre Company, a very intense dark comedy. How do you navigate acting in such extremely contrasting processes? What do you do to center yourself despite the roles you play?

You have to look out for yourself in playing a mentally difficult role. Keeping your mental health intact is key to being an artist. But with a play like this is pure joy. The play itself is incredible but the best part is the group of people - the room is one of the most fun I have ever been in. They are all great human beings, and our director is so amazing and the trust is so there. I've been doing a lot of voice-overs so to come out of the hole and perform with my whole body - has been so much I

What is your wildest dream for this show? What do you want audiences to leave with?

I want them to laugh and cry! I want them to be surprised and I want them to experience the joy that we've been experiencing during the rehearsal process. I want them to relish in this beautiful play, this is why we show up in the theatre. This show is a new blueprint and model for progressive theatre and female-driven comedies and representation.

Rapid fire questions-Dunkin' Donuts, Krispy Kreme or Shipleys?

Shipleys, hands down! I'm from Houston.

Beef jerky or pork rinds?

Beef jerky!

Brunch or happy hour?

Ooh happy hour. $18 for eggs?! Nah!

Coffee or tea?

Coffee! Drinking it right now!

What is the best noncurse word insult?

Calling someone a "dope"!

What is one thing you regret spending money on?

Ah, I'm pretty good about that, but if I had to say something- probably my insane collection of guitar pedals. For many years I just obsessed about guitar pedals but never actually played guitar.

What never fails to make you laugh?

The comic genius that is Alexandra Silber. Because of this experience with her, I will be making choices that will be her choices! They say "Steal from the best", I'll be stealing from her!

The Tony Award-winning Alley Theatre is presenting the world premiere production - Lend Me A Soprano, written by Tony-Award winner Ken Ludwig. This show runs September 16 - October 9, 2022, in the Hubbard Theatre and is directed by Eleanor Holdridge.