BWW Interview: Zachary Infante in THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY at TRT

Two River Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director John Dias and Managing Director Michael Hurst, continues the 2017/18 season with the world premiere of The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder. Directed by Ken Rus Schmoll, it has been adapted for the stage by and stars David Greenspan. The show will be performed on the Red Bank stage from February 17 through March 18.

The Bridge of San Luis Rey was published in 1927 and won Thornton Wilder the first of his three Pulitzer Prizes. Wilder was the only writer to win Pulitzer Prizes for both fiction and drama. He was also honored for his plays Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth. Set in 18th century Peru, the novel is about five travelers who fall to their deaths when they are crossing a bridge that breaks without warning. "There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning," Wilder wrote in its famous final words.

Broadwayworld.com had the pleasure of interviewing Zachary Infante who plays Esteban in The Bridge of San Luis Rey.

Infante is a native of Roselle Park, New Jersey. His credits include Off-Broadway: Big River (dir. Lear deBessonet) and Do I Hear a Waltz? (dir. Evan Cabnet), both for New York City Center's Encores!; Pericles (dir. Trevor Nunn), Tamburlaine the Great (Drama Desk nomination, Outstanding Revival of a Play, dir. Michael Boyd), and A Midsummer Night's Dream (Francis Flute, dir. Julie Taymor), all for Theatre for a New Audience. Regional & International: Rent at Cas di Cultura, Aruba's National Theatre (Angel, dir. Nicola Murphy); Fingersmith at the American Repertory Theater (dir. Bill Rauch); Somewhere at Hartford Stage (dir. Giovanna Sardelli); Peter Pan at Paper Mill Playhouse (dir. Mark Hoebee). Film & TV: School of Rock (dir. Richard Linklater); Carrie Pilby (dir. Susan Johnson); Alpha House; Gotham. BFA in Drama from NYU Tisch (CAP21 & ETW).

What was your earliest interest in the performing arts?

I'd have to say it began at Roselle Park Summer Camp's theater program around the age of five (Thanks mom and dad). I had a whirly and passionate director by the name of Linda Green, who introduced me to all sorts of musical theater. She was a British native, so listening to her was like Shakespeare to my ears.

Linda managed to turn dancing in circles with my sister in the living room into a genuine passion for storytelling on the stage. However, my sister, Megan, was technically my first director, so she must be credited for her unknowing tact and precision. Her style was Martha Graham meets Gina Rodriguez meets Lucille Ball. Pretty much genius all around.

Is there someone, in particular, who has been a mentor for your career?

Thankfully, I've been given the opportunity to have many mentors throughout the years, and the greatest gift has been their diversity. I recently spoke to Evan Cabnet, who has directed me at New York City Center, about my passion to create and develop new work. He reassured me that I can be true to myself and pursue the many passions I have - to act, produce, direct, and educate. There is no need to stifle any passion as more will be revealed in time.

And Shakina Nayfack has recently come onto my radar as an arts activist who truly jives with the spirit world, and so I'm making sure I listen and book coffee dates with her 'cause girl is busy changing the operation of creation. #manifestpussy

On a familial level, Carrie Russioniello, a visual arts educator and dear friend of mine has always show a deep passion and generosity towards others. She's been an example of selflessness and service that I continue to learn from.

As someone who was born and raised in NJ, how did that influence your interest in theatre?

My high school theater director, Eric Witkowski, introduced me to the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards, and soon after I was in love with their programming at professional houses like The Paper Mill and community theaters like Plays-In-The-Park, C.A.S.T., Cranford Dramatic Club, and the Pineda Summer Conservatory. They each had a profound impact on my desire to share stories.

Being so close to the city was an beautiful circumstance, but I couldn't always afford to go to Broadway shows. When I could, I'd come into the city very early with friends and wait in line at the South Street Sea Port TKTS Booth. We'd spend the day exploring the city, whether it was a museum or a park, and the gem of the day would come with seats, sometimes in the nosebleeds, at Sweet Charity, Curtains, Fiddler, or Hairspray. You name it... Well, anything on the TKTS list that is!

What advice do you have for people wishing to get involved in the performing arts?

Buckle up 'cause you're in for a wild ride. The gratitude I have to be able to surround myself in a community that encourages personal and cultural growth is astounding. I tell my students that repetition is the mother of skill, and, to me, that means having the willingness to give myself a shot everyday. Oh, and practically - to pray, meditate, and find a good therapist. For me, the job is understanding human behavior, and there's no better way to do that than to seek deeper clarity of ones own thoughts and actions.

Tell us about some challenges of your role as Esteban.

As Esteban, I've noticed a vast range of experience that has to take place in such a short period of time, and that's presented it's challenges. That movement and drive is part of David Greenspan's brilliance. His writing requires a certain dynamic and spontaneity that I love, but my greatest challenge has been balancing that with stillness. Esteban has a moment of great stillness in the play, and Ken's direction is reminding me that all I need to do is bring myself to the moment. Candidly, I'm learning that my first thoughts are often academic and psychologized, but after writing or discussion I'm able to step with more ease in the life of the character. Esteban's heart is a of a simpler texture, as Wilder writes, and it's an heart opening journey as an actor to discover that reality.

Why do you think that The Bridge of San Luis Rey is an important play for our times?

Our times call for us to engage in dialogue with our neighbor, whether we agree with all their opinions or not. The Bridge of San Luis Rey gives the audience an opportunity to laugh, a way to look at how they live their lives, and a chance to see how the universe works. That's the great objective of the theater in all nations, and I believe David's adaptation grants us a lens to look through Wilder's eyes on the age old questions of human connection, empathy, loss and resilience.

How do you like working at TRT?

This place is lit! I've crashed into love with my cast and company, but the whole TRT community is really rallying around this project! From costume shop to operations, I can really tell there's a family into which I've been welcomed. It was amazing to be able to see Matt Barbot's El Coqui Espetacular and the Bottle of Doom, and witness the range of programming fostered at this company. Sometimes I feel a bit like Paddington Bear in theatre, but here at Two River, I'm grateful to be seen, heard, and embraced.

Anything else, absolutely anything that you want BWW NJ readers to know!

Come with an open mind and, take my word on this, there is something for every type of theatergoer in this show. Our designers will transport you into 1741 Peru, yet the world of the play may appear to suspend time. Red Bank is a vibrant city with plenty to do around so bring a friend, your neighbor, and your neighbor's friend. We're ready to embrace your curiosity, and hope you will join us!

For more information about Zachary Infante, visit his web site at www.zacharyinfante.com and follow him on social media @zachinfante.

Performances of The Bridge of San Luis Rey will begin in Two River's Marion Huber Theater on Saturday, February 17 and continue through Sunday, March 18. The Theater is located at 21 Bridge Avenue, Red Bank, NJ. 07701. Tickets are available by calling 732.345.1400 or by visiting https://www.tworivertheater.org/. The lead production sponsor for the show is Brookdale Community College.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Zachary Infante

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