BWW Interview: Ben Dibble of Walnut Street Theatre's NOISES OFF

BWW Interview: Ben Dibble of Walnut Street Theatre's NOISES OFFBen will be playing in his 76th show, and 20th at the Walnut, as Gary Lejeune/Roger in Walnut's 2nd time around with Noises Off. As many of the actors that live as well as grace the stages of the Philadelphia area Ben Dibble had a supportive 'theater' family in his hometown of Wyalusing, Pennsylvania in Bradford County. At 16 he decided acting was his goal and received his BFA from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. He also credits his loving wife Amy for being his best support and theater critic.

Ben, with two Barrymore Awards and countless other awards and nominations one could conclude that you are an incredibly good actor. Tell us about the second time around playing Noises Off?

Ben Dibble: Well, the first time the Walnut did this show was around 30 years ago, so BWW Interview: Ben Dibble of Walnut Street Theatre's NOISES OFFI was still a kid in Wyalusing, PA at that time. This is my first time doing this show, and I will say that it is an incredible physical challenge for me as I run, jump, hop, and trip up and down staircases dozens of times per show. This show is like a Swiss clock in its structure, and the timing is so specific that rehearsing it is difficult and frustrating as you try to get the movement of all the actors to fit that timing. It is a play, but it feels like a musical in that way. Now that we are in front of audiences, it is finally feeling like we are getting to know the play and the roars of laughter we are getting make all the effort worth it!

PB: Having just seen you play Dan opposite Krissy Fraelich in Next To Normal the audience was crushed at the emotions you pulled from the character. What does it take to go from comedy to tragedy and do you have a preference?

BWW Interview: Ben Dibble of Walnut Street Theatre's NOISES OFFBD: One of the things I love about being an actor in Philadelphia is that I get to move back and forth from drama to comedy without being pigeonholed as one kind of performer. Both kinds of material share a need to be deeply truthful and allow yourself to make each discovery fresh every performance. Doing a show that is a heavy emotional lift like Next to Normal is deeply satisfying, and emotionally exhausting through the run. Doing a comedy like Noises Off is physically exhausting, but I will say that getting those laughs is invigorating and not a little bit addictive!

In an earlier quote you said "When Tracy Letts won the Tony in 2013 for his performance in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? He said in his acceptance speech, "We are the ones who say it to their faces, and we have a unique responsibility".

PB: You obviously take your responsibility very seriously. Please, tell us more about your teaching career and what do you infuse into your students about working in theater?

BD: Nothing makes you really understand your values and your approaches to your performing craft like having to put words to it as you teach young performers. I have now taught adjunct classes and private voice lessons at West Chester University, Temple, and currently my alma mater The University of the Arts. I try to instill a sense of rigor, joy, and bravery in my students. If there is one lesson I harp on, it is that as a performer you can only control what YOU do onstage or in an audition room, nothing else is in your power. So you must be prepared for ANYTHING because you never know when opportunity is going to knock.

Ben truly runs the gambit of theatrical roles in comedy from Teddy (Arsenic and Old BWW Interview: Ben Dibble of Walnut Street Theatre's NOISES OFFLace) to Freddy (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) to drama from Dan (Next To Normal) to Leo (Parade). He's even gotten to play John Adams in 1776, a role he sought to play.

PB: While you still look 25 to me, you claim you are at the age to play the "dad" roles. What roles do you hope to pursue in the future?

BD: I have been so lucky to cross so many dream roles off of my to-do list, including many you have already referenced. I would love to revisit Shakespeare again sometime soon. I want to continue to play roles that challenge me. As my wife has said, if you are not taking on a role or project every year or so that terrifies you or seems impossible, you are not growing as an artist. Noises Off and Next to Normal have done that for me. Next I will be playing Bruce in Fun Home at the Arden (another dad role and heavy emotional journey) and in the fall I am excited to be back on the Walnut stage playing Jim Hardy (the Bing Crosby role) in Holiday Inn. I grew up watching and loving the movie so this feels like a fitting touchstone to my life right now as I look back on the work I have done and the work I want to do.

BWW Interview: Ben Dibble of Walnut Street Theatre's NOISES OFFOf my many laugh out loud moments of seeing Ben Dibble onstage, none was funnier than the night he accepted the 2006 F. Otto Haas Award for Best Emerging Philadelphia Artist sliding out on his knees across the stage. Ben Dibble will always be the smiling wonderful, talented people in this industry and Philadelphia stages are better for it!

NOISES OFF plays at the Walnut Theater, Philadelphia now through April 29. For tickets and more information call 215.574.3550 or visit www.walnutstreettheatre.org

Prod.Photo 1: Ben Dibble in NOISES OFF (2018) at the Walnut Street Theatre.

Prod. Photo 2 : Ben Dibble in Harvey (2016) at the Walnut Street Theatre.

Prod. Photo 3: Dave Jadico, Nichalas L. Parker, Ben Dibble and Jennie Eisenhower in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (2017) at the Walnut Street Theatre.

Prod. Photo # 4 Ben Dibble in Saturday Night Fever (2017) at the Walnut Street Theatre.

All Photos by Mark Garvin

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