Interview: Ed F. Martin Leaving His Indelible Mark With His KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN

Next up at A Noise Within, Manuel Puig’s Kiss of the Spider Woman beginning April 1st

Norm Lewis, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Skylar Astin Join Sondheim Celebration At Hollywood Bowl

Next up at A Noise Within, Manuel Puig's Kiss of the Spider Woman beginning April 1, 2023 (with previews starting March 26th). Michael Michetti directs this classic two-hander with Adrián González and Ed F. Martin. Ed, a familiar face on the Los Angeles stages, managed to squeeze out some time between rehearsals to answer a few of my queries.

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

My goodness, thank you. I am humbled and excited to do this with you.

This is not your first time performing in Kiss of the Spider Woman. You played the Warden in the Bootleg Theatre production in 2008. At that time, did you ever dream of tackling your current role of Molina?

I DID NOT. And this is a new experience on many levels. The Bootleg production, directed by Nick DeGruccio, was gorgeous. But a completely different feel. That was the musical, with stunning production numbers. In this two-hander, it is just me and Valentin and a cold prison cell. The story-telling Molina uses to escape to a better place is all done with just the beautiful words of Manuel Puig. And this time, I am the good guy, um, girl - not the villain, ha, ha!

What other versions of Kiss of the Spider Woman have you already seen?

I only saw the movie, way back when it came out. After being cast in this production, I did not revisit the film, but I read the novel, in English and Spanish. The book is so rich, each language had its own poetic stamp, but I must say I loved the Spanish one more.

Norm Lewis, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Skylar Astin Join Sondheim Celebration At Hollywood BowlDo you make a conscious effort not to be like the Molinas you've already seen?

Absolutely! I want my Molina to be born and formed and fleshed out by the work I do in partnership with Michael as my director and the beautiful Adrián González as my Valentin. I love Molina, she is a complicated girl, and I want to slowly let my own life experience seep into the character. If I "use" my impression of other Molinas, I am stealing from their process; it would have nothing to do with what we are discovering in rehearsal, which has been intense. But I am in Heaven.

For the few that aren't familiar with this classic Manuel Puig work, what would your three-line pitch of it be?

Two people, polar opposites, slowly find their way to redefining what it is to listen, to learn, to respect, ultimately finding the true value of love, of connection, and of what it means to be human.

You are a staple of the Los Angeles stage. Besides being directed by Michael Michetti in My Barking Dog at Boston Court in 2015, have you worked with any of the 'Kiss' cast of creatives before?

I have not. This is my debut at A Noise Within, and I cannot tell you enough how thrilled I am that it is with this project. I am very proud of the company for bringing this timely play to the stage at a time when we are experiencing so much divisiveness in our country. The play touches on many issues that are shockingly relevant today.

Norm Lewis, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Skylar Astin Join Sondheim Celebration At Hollywood BowlIn an alternate universe, at what locale and under what situation would some of the characters that I've seen you play on the L.A. stages (Moisés Kaufman and Dennis Shepard from The Laramie Project, Toby from My Barking Dog, Barry Dylon from Daniel's Husband) interact? Let's throw Molina into the mix.

Well, proudly, my resume is filled with many roles from plays dealing sensitively with LGBTQ issues, from Boys in the Band, to The Normal Heart, Twilight of the Golds, The Laramie Project and Daniel's Husband. I would say Moises, Michael, Barry, Mickey and Molina all meet in Palm Springs for the weekend, in some sprawling ranch style at the foot of the mountains, and compare war stories of how we are faring in this crazy and uncertain time we are living in.

What was it like to revisit Moisés Kaufman's definitive The Laramie Project you did at The Colony Theatre in 2003 with its sequel The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center in 2013?
Wow, great question. It was like coming home again. On an emotional level, it was touching and devastating to give voice to the life experiences of these citizens in both productions. As you know, each actor will have a track of 6 or 7 characters in each play, so basically double that for me! I got to know and understand the point of view of so many people in a community challenged by such a significant event. Both productions left me with memories I cherish.

You've been a denizen of the Los Angeles theatre community since 1993 when you did The Boys in the band. What advances have you seen in this rarified kinship? (Diversity, opportunities, new Equity rulings.)

Norm Lewis, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Skylar Astin Join Sondheim Celebration At Hollywood BowlWell, let's look at right this minute! I am Queer and Latino, and playing Queer and Latino. L.A. theatre has been everything to me. I will do it for as long as they'll have me. I think L.A. theatre is a reflection of the city itself - so many cultures, so many stories, so many colors. And I have worked with very passionate directors, Michael, Stephen Sachs, Simon Levy, Jon Lawrence Rivera, all strong voices, not afraid to shed light on important topics affecting our local community and beyond.

What did you want to be growing up? An actor? An astronaut? Doctor?

An actor, an actor, an actor. There was never any other option.

What were your parents' reactions to you declaring you wanted to pursue an acting career?

They were supportive and proud of me from the beginning. They recognized it was my passion since I was 6 or 7 years old. My father took me on an open house tour of the theatre department at Auburn University in Alabama. He was an engineer, a humble, unaffected blue-collar guy - not exactly a theatre fanatic. He wanted me to get into International Business. When we were in the car, driving home, he said, "What do you think?" I said, "I am sorry Dad, I don't want to disappoint you, but I want to major in theatre." He said, with a straight face, "Son, you can major in bullfighting if you want, just be the best damn bullfighter you can be." Ha, ha, ha, kinda cheesy, but it makes me cry decades later.

Who were your early acting idols?

In film? In TV? In theatre? Too many. My absolute number 1, old or new is Montgomery Clift. Way ahead of his time, unaffected, real, emotional, complicated and gorgeous.

Norm Lewis, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Skylar Astin Join Sondheim Celebration At Hollywood BowlAs recently as 2019, you were credited as 'Ed Martin' in Daniel's Husband at The Fountain Theatre. What made you add the middle initial 'F' after all these years acting?

I believe the Fountain did use the F, and I have used it for many years now. Old, typical boring story of the unions already having an Ed Martin on their roster. So I added my middle name and used Ed Francis Martin... I agree with you, doesn't quite have the right ring to it, so I shortened it to Ed F. Martin.

What is the dream role you'd love to sink your acting chops into?

Years ago, it would have been Che or Seymour, but that ship has sailed. I really, really believe I could do justice to George in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" So somebody out there, I want to play George... wait, better yet... MARTHA. Oh, I would KILL that!

What's in the near future for Ed. F. Martin?

Enjoying the run of "Kiss" - I am being honest. I am consumed, and forever grateful to Michael and A Noise Within for giving me this opportunity.

Thank you again, Ed! I look forward to I'm sure will be a most memorable performance as Molina.

Thank you so much! See you there.

For tickets to the live performances of Kiss of the Spider Woman through April 23, 2023; click on the button below:


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