BWW Interview: Ben Curtis, From 'Dell Dude' to 'Connor Stephens'
Actor Ben Curtis has come a long way from the days when he was the "Dell Dude" and advertising spokesperson for Dell Computers. His catchphrase, "Dude, you're getting a Dell" became fodder for comedians and was often repeated in colloquial conversations. Curtis became instantly recognizable thanks to the advertising campaign that ran for a good three years.
Curtis made his Off Broadway debut in a play called Joy at the Actor's Playhouse in 2005 and received some fine notices for his work in the production.
After his run in Joy, Curtis appeared a production of Lillian Hellman's Another Part of the Forest in which he gave a critically acclaimed performance as Oscar Hubbard. He also appeared in a musical called The Orange Star Dinner Show. It was a comedy/farce based on dinner shows with a Southerrn kitsch," he remarks in a recent phone interview. "It was a really wild, over-the-top hilarious musical that was created and directed by Ken Roht. He is a brilliant director and it gave me the opportunity to play beside Laren Elder from Hair. I played a very effeminate cowboy and I enjoyed the whole experience."
Curtis also became an associate producer of the film Spy The Movie, which was the actor's first feature film. He played a leading role opposite Vinnie Pastore and Frank Vincent from TV's The Sopranos, which was a learning experience beyond compare. "I was the main producer for a film called We Are the Hartmans in which I also played a leading role opposite the legendary Richard Chamberlain. "Everyone on the film wound up winning some sort of award for it."
The actor also mentions that he did a film a few weeks prior to this interview called Beauty Mark. "I played opposite Laura Bell Bundy and was cast as an abusive, alcoholic, boyfriend. It's an incredible film based on a girl's account of how she was molested by a Catholic priest and how she gets retribution. It took place in Louisville, Kentucky, which is where we shot it."
Currently, Ben Curtis is preparing for a significant role in a play called The Crusade of Connor Stephens which he calls "one of the most powerful plays I've ever been part of." He describes it as a work a la Tennessee Williams and Sam Shepard, It's written and directed by Dewey Moss; an award winning playwright. Dewey has proven himself to be an incredible writer and director, His work and his heart really show in this play."
Curtis is effusive about the company he's working with in this production. "The cast is brilliant and it's an honor to be part of this show. We only have three performances in the Midtown International Theater Festival but I feel strongly that this play will go much further."
The Tennessee native continues." The man playing my father is James Kiberd who is best known for his work on All My Children. He was one of the very first actors I met in person. You see, I had a relative who was named Augusta Prince, who was on a soap opera called Loving with James Kiberd. My family would come up to New York to visit and to see Broadway shows and she'd have her actor friends stop by to swim in her pool. She was sort of the Auntie Mame of Dobbs Ferry. One day James was in her swimming pool and we just hit it off. He did a lot of painting and so did my father, so we had something in common. When Augusta passed away, I met James at the funeral and I actually recommended him to Dewey for this role because I'd seen him do such powerful work." In the play, Curtis is the gay son of Kiberd's radical Baptist minister. In real life, Curtis is the straight son of a gay Episcopal priest. "After the tragic shootings in Orlando, a play like this resonates in a very sad way" the actor comments.
Curtis continues, " It's important for New Yorkers to see this play. Here men can walk down the street holding hands without consequence, but in other parts of our country that isn't true. The truth is, there is plenty of homophobia in the world and a play like this allows us to be exposed to such issues in a cathartic manner."
Obviously the theater-going public is sharing Curtis' enthusiasm of the play The Crusade of Connor Stephens because all three performances are sold out. Tickets may possibly be attained at the door on the day of performance. It will play at the Workshop Theater's Main Stage (4th floor) at 312 West 36th Street. The telephone number is (866) 811-4111.
Ben Curtis is a member of a theater company called Artistic Pride Productions and it's become so musically inclined that the actors have formed a band which calls itself "APP, the Band". Curtis explains that they've " created a show based on Tom Waits' album "Mule Variations" and made it their own. "We use Gospel, R and B, blues and rock and roll to do lots of storytelling with music. W you re using our story to get adults and kids to tell THEIR stories and express themselves. It's important for people to be creative and express themselves. If there are no creative outlets, things like violence start to happen, Studies have shown that art and music in schools really save lives but arts programs are the first things cut from school budgets. We just performed in the Bronx and they had a whole room of musical instruments that they no longer sued because the music program had been eliminated.and the students were completely disconnected yet thirsty to perform." Curtis continues, "We're about to go on a Mid-West tour, where we'll be performing in clubs, libraries and other music venues. We're excited about the future of this band."
All of this is a far cry from the character of Steve who promoted computers on the television screens across the country, As successful as that campaign was, it didn't tap enough of the numerous talents that are serving as Ben Curtis' creative outlets today.