BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Alexander Strain
Today's subject Alexander Strain is living testament to the old adage that you can come home again.
You probably remember Alexander from his many wonderful performances all over town at places like Theater J and Round House Theatre. Recently he took a break from acting to get his Masters in Psychology and many of his fans myself included were wondering if he would ever return to the stage.
Thankfully in 2018 Olney Theatre Center brought Alexander back to us in a solo piece called Every Brilliant Thing. It is this play that Alexander is currently living his theatre life performing in once again at Studio Theatre as part of the newly created SHOWROOM series. The production runs through July 7th.
Just prior to the Studio Theatre engagement of Every Brilliant Thing, Alexander was seen in the Round House Theatre Production of Oslo. Also at Round House he appeared in Seminar (Helen Hayes nomination - Supporting Actor), Glengarry Glen Ross (Helen Hayes Nomination - Lead Actor and Helen Hayes Ensemble Award), Next Fall, My Name is Asher Lev, and Lord of the Flies. Other select DC area performances include New Jerusalem and Andy and the Shadows at Theater J (Helen Hayes nomination - Lead Actor), The Master and Margarita at Constellation Theatre Company, Angels in America at Forum Theatre, and Tribes at Everyman Theatre.
Alexander is a graduate of NYU and Marymount University.
As you will read Every Brilliant Thing is a very important project for Alexander. The title also has significance for those that have admired his work over the years because I have yet to see a performance by him that was not brilliant. That is how good of an actor Alexander Strain is. Get yourself over to Studio Theatre and help celebrate the continuing return of one of the area's finest actors Alexander Strain.
At what age did you become interested in performing?
I believe I was 10 years old and played the Sheriff of Nottingham in my school's production of Robin Hood. My grandmother still insists it was my finest performance.
Did you go to school for theatre?
I did. I performed in theatre all through high school. I went to Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities at the University of Richmond for performance between my junior and senior year, and went to NYU for undergrad, graduating with a BFA in theatre.
What was your first professional performing job?
I played a coffee shop owner on the soap opera As the World Turns. My first theatre job in DC was The Tempest at then Washington Shakespeare Company.
Can you please tell us a little something about Every Brilliant Thing?
It is a one-person play written by Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe, about a person attempting to come to terms with their mother's major depression and attempted suicide. The play outlines how a list of brilliant things is created at first as an offered salve for their mother's pain, but transforms in surprising ways on life's journey. There's lot of communication and interaction with the whole audience and a fair amount of improvisation.
The production of Every Brilliant Thing at Olney Theatre Center marked your return to the stage after a few years of a hiatus. What was it about the script that ultimately made you say "Ok, it's time"?
I was searching for plays that dealt directly with mental illness as I was getting my Masters in psychology. This play was so unique and moving, that I knew it spoke not only to that search, but afforded me a lot of room as a performer to say what I have to say about societal approaches to mental health.
When you took your hiatus from performing was there any question about you returning to it eventually?
I always felt an opportunity would come that I couldn't pass up. I didn't anticipate coming across a production in this way that I'd so actively pursue and that fit so precisely into what I wanted to communicate as a performer.
The staging of Every Brilliant Thing has the audience within feet of you while you are performing. Can you talk about what the pluses and minuses are of having the audience that close to you?
The plus is that I can see and gage exactly how the story, humor, and emotion are landing with the audience. The minus is that I can see and gage exactly how the story, humor, and emotion are landing with the audience. It's a very personal piece and there's little confusion over how an audience is receiving the work.
Of all the shows you have performed in, what are a few of your favorites? Please explain your choices.
This one for sure simply for its personal resonance but New Jerusalem with Theater J because I still occasionally get called Spinoza by people who saw it that run into me around town. Caligula with WSC because it changed my relationship to this community in terms of what directors and audiences felt I was capable of bringing to a production and The Monument with Theater Alliance because it was my first lead role in town in a punishing but truly satisfying play.
After Every Brilliant Thing what does the 19/20 season hold in store for you?
I'm working on my own performance pieces during the fall. I will hopefully have something ready for public viewing by the end of the year. At the beginning of 2020, I'll be returning to Theater J in back-to-back productions of Sheltered and then The Wanderers.
Special thanks to Studio Theatre's Associate Director of Marketing & Communications Mike Fila for his assistance in coordinating this interview.
Theatre Life logo designed by Kevin Laughon.