BWW Interview: Expert Class Clown Kasey Mahaffy Transforms Seriously in FRANKENSTEIN
The California premiere of Nick Dear's adaptation of Mary Shelley's classic novel, FRANKENSTEIN, launches A Noise Within's 2019-2020 season August 11, 2019. Much in-demand director Michael Michetti helms Michael Manuel as The Creature and Kasey Mahaffy as Dr. Victor Frankenstein, presenting Shelley's tale from the atypical perspective of The Creature.
Having seen Kasey in ANW's stunning MAN OF LA MANCHA and the hysterical NOISES OFF, I jumped at the chance to interview this talented actor/performer.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Kasey!
So, a little birdy told me you've just returned from Hong Kong working on a play. How did all of it go?
Oh, man, it was wild! The play was THE HEART OF ROBIN HOOD. We'd done it in Beverly Hills a few years back, but this time we had to remount the show in about four days. It's a gargantuan physical task with advanced weaponry, eight fight sequences, and a 40-foot slide to make all your entrances. Sprinkle some hefty jetlag onto that, and you've got your work cut out for you! But to be there - in such an incredible city - at the time of such heightened protests, was wild. Something I'll truly never forget.
When did you became a Resident Artist of A Noise Within? 2016? 2017?
My first play with ANW was THE TEMPEST in 2014, but I was asked to be a Resident Artist in the spring of 2017. I had done four shows in 2.5 years, then they invited me. I think it was the KING LEAR/MAN OF LA MANCHA combo that sealed the deal. I played The Fool to Geoff Elliott's Lear, then Sancho Panza to his Don Quixote, together at the same time in rep. We had to rely on each other so much to make it through that spring. I'll never forget it.
What would you say the advantages are being part of a repertory company? Comfy as a pair of old slippers? Supportive like a devoted pup?
So I grew up in Oregon, and spent a lot of my youth in Ashland at the Shakespeare Festival. For years, I watched the same group of artists explore wildly different worlds and flesh out countless characters. And they did it all together, as one. That was always the goal; I wanted to be a part of a full-throated storytelling machine and explore those worlds with people I could call family. The fact that it actually came to fruition still floors me. I wake up every morning brimming with gratitude for the opportunity to live my dream.
One notable advantage to being a part of a repertory company is the opportunity to play such vastly different roles. I'm quite comfortable being one of the clowns of ANW. Comedy is definitely my jam. But every so often, I get a new meal to chew on. For example, Victor Frankenstein is unlike anything I've ever played - certainly on our stage. He's brooding, dark, and desperately driven. Nary a punch line in sight! How wonderful to have the opportunity to explore all these corners of our artistry.
Do all of the members still have to go through the cursory auditions? Or, since both Geoff and Julia Elliott know all of your work, do they just ask you if you're interested in a role?
It definitely depends on the production. I would say if Geoff and/or Julia are directing, the Resident Artists generally don't need to audition. They know us and our "animals" so well, they often just plug us in. If it's a guest director, however, who may not be as familiar with our work, we often have to read for them.
Have you worked with your FRANKENSTEIN director Michael Michetti before?
This is the first full production I've worked on with Michael, and it's been a long time coming. We've done a few readings together in the past, but nothing this fleshed-out. We're both immensely fond of each other as artists and humans. And if the rehearsals are any indication of what's to come, our subscribers are in for something pretty extraordinary.
Were you on his short list of ANW resident artists for Victor? Or did you still have to audition?
Well, you'd have to ask Michael that, but I do believe I was on his short list, yes. If not, make him lie to me and tell me I was.
I did have to audition for the role of Victor. Though he's familiar with my talents, and we've been wanting to work together for some time; he needed to see me read for Victor. He's unlike any character I've played here, and, I guess, Michael just wanted to make sure I could do it without making funny faces or fart noises.
Which of the many cinematic and theatrical versions of Frankenstein have you seen before?
Honestly - I've only seen Young Frankenstein. "Puttin on the Riiiiiiiiiiitz!!!" LOVE that movie. Mel Brooks is a genius. But that's it! And I purposely haven't watched The National Theatre film of our adaptation with Benedict Cumberbatch. I want to create a new world with Michael and Michael Manuel (our Creature). I don't desire any outside influences to affect what we've got going. Maybe I'll host a movie night after we close...
If you were to list Victor Frankenstein's attributes in an online dating profile, what would they be?
HA! Well, sadly, I'm not sure how impressive it would be. We all lie on those things. Victor would certainly have to. Some highlights:
What faults of Victor's might you omit?
Basically, most of his truth would have to be omitted to get a girl to say, 'Yes.' LOL! He is:
*Selfish lover? (gasp!)
In an alternate universe, under what circumstances would the three of your characters (Victor, Garry and Sancho) interact (i.e.; a swap meet? a horse auction? on safari?)
Oh, I love this! They're so wildly different, they'd have to interact in some type of meta-theatrical waiting room. Like a purgatory for disgruntled characters. Victor would be in the corner, manically jotting down observations. Sancho would probably alternate between intense snacking and singing campfire songs, and Garry would mistakenly try to run the whole damn thing - what a mess!
The movement and fight choreography I've seen in ANW productions have been intricate and most effective. Did you have any kind of physical moment background/training before?
I love ANW for this. Geoff and Julia often refer to these plays as athletic events. And no words were ever truer. Every play I've done here, I literally have to wring my costume of its sweat after the curtain falls. Theatre is Life and Life is adventure. We all try to remain in shape, eat well, and rest for whatever madness they have in store for us the next day. And I wouldn't have it any other way.
Who were your acting idols/mentors growing up?
I grew up in the 80's; Tom Hanks was THE biggest deal. So every day, I'd come home from school and turn on HBO. It was always The Money Pit or Big - hell even, Joe Vs. The Volcano. I was in awe of his work. I loved how open and approachable his characters were. And his comic timing! *Chef's kiss!*
Imagine my elation when I recently tied with him for the L.A. Drama Critic's Circle Award for Best Actor for my work in ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD here at ANW. That was wild! Now I think my mother uses that as her signatory line for all her emails.
Your theatrical resume lists a wide range of roles you've played. You've already mentioned that 'comedy is your jam.'
Comedy will always be home to me. But my favorite is serio-comedic material. Like Rosencrantz or even The Gentleman Caller in THE GLASS MENAGERIE. Make 'em laugh! Make 'em cry! Make 'em come back for more!
Of all the ANW roles you've done, do you have favorite? Any specific reason?
Ooph, that's a toughie! They've all been so rewarding. Sancho Panza (LA MANCHA) lives in a special corner of my heart. And I had waited 23 years to play Garry in NOISES OFF - what a gift that one is. How can I pick a favorite??! I can't Sophie's Choice my way outta this...
Any pre-show rituals or prep you religiously include?
By half-hour, I'm usually warming up my body and chugging copious amounts of coffee with Rafael. We're similar creatures. We like to play hard and fast.
What feels or attitudes would you like the ANW audiences to leave with after your FRANKENSTEIN curtain call?
I want this show to surprise our audience base. I want them to say, "Wow, I thought I knew the story of Frankenstein, but this was something truly different! And, my God, that was terrifying!"
That would suffice.
Thank you again, Kasey! I look forward to seeing your Victor manage his creation!
For ticket availability and show schedule through September 8, 2019: log onto www.anoisewithin.org