BWW Interview: Clark Gregg Navigating From the Marvel Universe Back to David Mamet's
An enduring member of the Marvel universe (both cinematic and TV) as Agent Phil Coulson, Clark Gregg will be making his Los Angeles stage acting debut in his long-time friend David Mamet's new play THE CHRISTOPHER BOY'S COMMUNION. Slated for an eleven-performance run at the Odyssey beginning February 13, 2020; this cast includes: Fionnula Flanagan, Dominic Hoffman, William H. Macy, David Paymer, Rebecca Pidgeon and John Pirrucello.
I managed to catch Clark for a quick phoner.
Clark and David go way back to their college years at New York University. When Clark arrived at NYU in 1985, his friend Mary McCann initially encouraged him to meet David and William H. Macy. "Mary's who's now head honcho at the Atlantic Theater Company. She had gone to this summer workshop run by these firebrands from Chicago, Macy and Mamet. She came back saying they're starting a section at NYU, you gotta try and get in to it. Luckily, I did. We had classes together all fall."
The four of them, along with an enthusiastic ensemble of student artists, then founded the Atlanta Theatre Company. At the end of that fall semester, David announced a good news/bad news scenario. His adaptation of THE CHERRY ORCHARD had been picked up to be produced in Chicago, which meant the end of their theatre group at NYU. David did offer up the option: "You can come with us, if this entire class wants to move in the next two weeks to Chicago, we have arranged classes and internships at The Goodman Theatre. So all of us, I think 35 out of 37 people just moved en mass to Chicago and froze our butts off. Worked at Goodman, took classes and had fun."
Despite his long working history with David, Clark has never been directed by him.
"I ran the Atlantic Theater Company for three years while he was on the board, so there were countless projects then. Since then, there's been four or five movies. But I haven't acted in a play he directed maybe ever. So this is a first."
With his decades-long relationship with David, Clark's audition for COMMUNION consisted of David's "email saying, 'Do you want to do this?'"
Clark is used to secrecy in scripts, being in the Marvel universe, so David's protectiveness of COMMUNION is nothing new to him. "He doesn't want to give up anything people are going to see . Even the writing of the play, he has an aesthetic that really involves not condescending to the audience. This piece is nothing like I've acted on stage. He really lets the audience put the pieces together by just watching what's going on. There's no exposition."
When I asked for maybe a three-line pitch for COMMUNION, Clark deflected with, "Let Dave do that. If anyone can give a three-line pitch, it would be Dave."
Clark did manage to share a morsel of information on COMMUNION: "What I will say is there is a very loose basis on a famous murder case in New York in the 80s."
Clark finds COMMUNION rehearsals "incredibly fun. A moving piece with the funniest humans alive. A lot of laughing in between heavy stuff. Been working on television, haven't done a play five or six years. Just really nice to be in a rehearsal room among friends."
As for mounting the L.A. theatrical boards, "I have done almost none of it. I've directed a play here called DISTANT FIRES (at the Coast Playhouse) with some very wonderful actors, but that was a long time ago (1993). I've done theatre acting in New York. This is the first time I'm doing a play in L.A. And I'm wondering why I haven't done it before, I'm having such a good time."
Revitalized with the theatrical board bug, and with his daughter now a senior in high school; Clark's open for another stint on the theatrical boards. "She graduates in the spring and leaves in the fall. I've already talked about what might be fun to come to New York to do."
Although COMMUNION is Clark's L.A. theatrical acting debut, he did take part in a benefit reading of THE NORMAL HEART for the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center in 2010 directed by his father-in-law Joel Grey. Clark had directed Joel in his 2008 film Choke. Clark has nothing but warm words for Joel. "Amazing! It's a thrill to watch him. So vital! So passionate! Just starting a journey that would go on to New York and lead to this incredible production of FIDDLER in Yiddish. He's quite a director."
Fun fact: the Brazilian jiu-jitsu moves Agent Coulson displays can be credited to David. "David introduced me. He took me down to the place where he was practicing jiu-jitsu just before we were promoting Spartan. He said you should do this and I got hooked."
Clark's determination and continued hard work earned him his black belt.
Check out Clark's acting determination and hard work as he tackles his role in THE CHRISTOPHER BOY'S COMMUNION.
For ticket availability and show schedule through February 23, 2020; log onto web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/1024006