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BWW Interview: A PLAY IS A POEM's Peter Jacobson - From Seedy Nightclub Owner & Wily Film Exec to Iago & Richard III

BWW Interview: A PLAY IS A POEM's Peter Jacobson - From Seedy Nightclub Owner & Wily Film Exec to Iago & Richard III

The world premiere of filmmaker/playwright Ethan Coen's A PLAY IS A POEM currently lives on the Mark Taper Forum stage, produced by Center Theatre Group, in association with Atlantic Theater Company. A collection of five short plays from Ethan Coen's unique take on Americana had been connected together by the interstitial musical musings of Nellie McKay. Neil Pope directs the talented ensemble of Ro Boddie, Max Casella, Micaela Diamond, Peter Jacobson, Jason Kravits, McKay, Saul Rubinek, Miriam Silverman, Joey Slotnick, Sam Vartholomeos, and C.J. Wilson.

I had the opportune chance to ask one of Ethan Coen's always-working players Peter Jacobson a few queries.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Peter!

What crazy forces of the universe initially brought your involvement with this world premiere of A PLAY IS A POEM?

Tony Shalhoub must have been out the country. And I know Neil from my days (long ago) working at Atlantic Theatre Company.

Have you worked with any of this cast and creatives before?

BWW Interview: A PLAY IS A POEM's Peter Jacobson - From Seedy Nightclub Owner & Wily Film Exec to Iago & Richard IIINo. I've known many of them for years, but never worked with them before.

You play two characters - seedy 40's nightclub owner Johnny Branco (A TOUGH CASE) and a high-power film exec named John (INSIDE TALK) - in two of the five plays within A PLAY IS A POEM. If you were submitting an online dating profile for them, what characteristics of each would you include?

Executive: Somewhat creative, and extremely patient.

Johnny Branco: Apparently loaded, and one hell of a mustache.

What character flaws of each would you forget to include?

Executive: I like this guy. I'd be lying if I identified any real flaws.

Johnny: High sleaze factor, and one hell of a mustache.

BWW Interview: A PLAY IS A POEM's Peter Jacobson - From Seedy Nightclub Owner & Wily Film Exec to Iago & Richard IIIIn an alternate universe, under what circumstances would you find these characters you've played - film exec John and PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE's Charles Dabernow Schmendiman - interacting? At a disco? In line for the next available bank teller? Fishing on a pier?

Wow! One is a put-upon, yet wily movie executive; the other a total goofball inventor. The universe would definitely have to be alternate. I'd love to watch them dancing together anywhere. Or maybe in couple's therapy.

You are a constantly working actor on TV and in films. What attracts to you act on the theatrical boards?

I started out as a stage actor, four years of graduate school, and then seven years on stage in and around New York. Coming back to it after many years has been truly enjoyable. The lengthy rehearsal process, character and moment-to-moment analysis, discussion, trial and error. It's what acting is all about. And then of course, the thrill and satisfaction of the real-time relationship with your audience. And I forgot how much of an athletic process the whole thing is.

BWW Interview: A PLAY IS A POEM's Peter Jacobson - From Seedy Nightclub Owner & Wily Film Exec to Iago & Richard IIIHow old were you when you decided you wanted to be an ac-TOR?

Probably not until I graduated college and committed to four years of acting school. So 22-ish.

When did you realize your father newscaster Walter Jacobson was on TV? Did he take you to work with him? Or did you first catch him on your television in your living room?

My dad became a nightly anchorman when I was about seven or eight. I LOVED going to work with him. There was a stretch of years as a kid when I would finish my homework in time to go with him to the newsroom probably four nights a week and watch him do the news.

Did seeing your father on TV inspire you to act?

I don't think seeing him on TV made me want to be an actor. But I did enjoy watching him put on his makeup and how he handled himself in front of a bunch of cameras. So maybe there's some inspiration in there somewhere...

Did you ever want to follow in your father's anchorman footsteps?

BWW Interview: A PLAY IS A POEM's Peter Jacobson - From Seedy Nightclub Owner & Wily Film Exec to Iago & Richard IIINever wanted to be a news anchorman. But I have always dreamed of being a sports reporter, or anchor.

What would the present knowledgeable Peter Jacobson advise his younger self embarking on the first day of Juilliard in the mid-1980s?

Get in the habit of letting go of stories and pictures about what my life as an actor is supposed to look like. It can only ever be utterly unpredictable. So get ready for that. Learn to be ok with that.

Have you kept in touch with any of your co-members from Juilliard's drama division's Group 20?

I have kept in touch with a lot of friends and colleagues from Juilliard.

What would you love for your next theatrical project to be? Any particular director or playwright you'd fancy to work with?

BWW Interview: A PLAY IS A POEM's Peter Jacobson - From Seedy Nightclub Owner & Wily Film Exec to Iago & Richard IIINothing occurs to me at the moment. I only have eyes for the one I'm in. But I certainly do look forward to more stage work; whatever, wherever, and with whomever... (OK, I'm still dying to play Iago and Richard III).

What reactions from the Mark Taper audiences to A PLAY IS A POEM would make you most happy?

I couldn't be happier with the reactions we're getting. People seem to be loving our show.

The night I was at your show, the audience resoundingly gave all of you a standing O! Thank you again, Peter!

For ticket availability and show schedule through October 13, 2019; log onto www.centertheatregroup.org




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From This Author Gil Kaan