Before we announce the winners of the 2014 ArtsImpulse Theatre Awards, we are proud to present our Nominee Interviews.
NOTE: If you or your production was nominated for a 2014 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award, and you would like to participate in a Nominee Interview, please email us here.
Connor Baty was a shining star in the outstanding production of The Boston Conservatory's Merrily We Roll Along, captivating audiences with his enthusiastic and sympathetic portrayal of the dreamer Charley Kringas. It was Connor's exceptional understanding of Sondheim's work and his ability to execute the difficult score that earned him an ArtsImpulse Theatre Award Nomination. In his Interview, Connor talks about the positive effect of his Boston Conservatory education (especially the passionate professors), his favorite movies and books, and a little bit about a new cycling program that is quickly sweeping the nation (get on board, y'all!).
Hiya, Connor. Can you introduce yourself? Can you tell us a little bit about who you are, your performing background and experiences, and what you’re currently doing?
I grew up in Overland Park, Kansas. I started seriously doing theatre when I made the jump from Catholic school to public school, and I found an amazing acting teacher who really set me on my path. While so many high schools were doing Grease, Oklahoma, etc., we really sunk our teeth into some great material such as the original melodrama of Sweeney Todd and the heavy play Shadow Box. Currently, I am living in Chicago. Having spent 4 years in the east coast, it’s nice to be back in the Midwest. Right now, I’m working at SoulCycle, an indoor cycling class, and on that working actor grind in Chi-town.
Tell us the story of Merrily We Roll Along. What appealed to you about this musical? About your character, Charley?
Merrily We Roll Along is the story of friendship, tried and tested. It chronicles the journey of 3 friends (Frank, Charley, and Mary) whose working relationship eventually breaks down their personal relationships.
What appealed to me about this show was, quite simply, the lyric genius of Sondheim. I liken him to the musical Shakespeare, where his songs, although they seem difficult to sing, are actually quite simple. He really lays everything out to you in the music and makes it so accessible to the actor.
What I love about Charley is that he never truly gives up. He is always reaching for what he knows could be there in his relationship with Frank, but he is also realistic. He understands the limitations and understands what he wants out of life, something that I think Frank lacks.
Why do you think that this is a rarely-performed Sondheim? Do you know what critics thought about early productions of it? How did audiences at your production respond?
The show runs backwards in time. I think this is initially why the show wasn’t accepted extremely well in its time. But I also think that’s what makes this show special. You start at such a dark place, but in the end you get to see the hope. You get to see what could have been. It really allows you to reflect on your own life and the choices you have made to get where you are. I think it is especially poignant for young theatre students. It deals with the idea that attaining your professional goals is important, but not nearly as important as maintaining the relationships with those who care about you.
Why did you choose to attend The Boston Conservatory? What did you learn? What was your training? How is it helping you now?
I chose to attend The Boston Conservatory because of its faculty. I can honestly say that I have met some of the most caring and nurturing people through BoCo. Thank your teachers, y’all. They work hard for you.
I emphasized in acting and directing and really discovered my passion for directing. I think that the fast paced environment of BoCo helps you prepare for the intensity of the actor life.
How have people described your performing style? What do you consider to be your strongest attribute? Are you a singer, dancer, or actor? Do you think that you have a weak point?
I think that I have been lucky to have teachers that always pushed my acting. I always have strived to do everything in the most truthful and honest way I can.
Definitely would not consider myself a dancer. Just ask Sarah Crane, choreographer of Merrily, about my skills.
What do you dream about?
I dream about happiness. I think that all those goals that we set for ourselves: fame, Broadway, television, etc., those are all nice. But I think you first and foremost have to be happy with where you are. And if you aren’t, then choose the path that will lead you there.
If you could live in any other time period, what would it be? What would you do?
Maybe this is cheating the question, but I would stay where I am. I think that there is such an excitement about the times we live in. We still have ways to go, but we have never been closer as a nation and as world. Complain all you want about the age of the internet, but I think it has brought us together and it has also brought to light some of the deep rooted issues in our society that we are finally talking about.
What are some of your favorite movies, TV shows, books, and theatre? Let’s limit to Top 3 of each.
Ooh, that’s a tough one.
Movies: I’m actually a huge fan of the original Star Wars. And just cause I’m a sucker for dumb humor I’ll say Scary Movie 3 and Bring it On All or Nothing.
TV Shows: Lost, Game of Thrones, American Horror Story (honorable mention: Downton Abbey).
Books: Harry Potter, duh. Anything by Chelsea Handler or David Sedaris.
Theatre: Into the Woods, Macbeth, and Peter Pan (the play).
What is the hardest thing about going from being a student to being a theatre professional? What is one thing that you wish that someone had told you?
One of our mantras at SoulCycle is: “You are exactly where you need to be.” I think that so many young, recently graduated actors are so caught up in the idea that everything has to happen immediately. But this is a lifelong profession, so the most important thing I have learned is to focus on the life part. Be happy where you are, and don’t stress about the future. Good things will come to people with open hearts.
How do you react to negative reviews or criticism? What is the worst thing that anyone has ever said about one of your performances?
Hahaha! Well, you’d have to get in touch with my acting teacher, Steve McConnell, on that. I think, in general, I can sum up my junior year of acting class by me doing a Greek monologue and him throwing things at me. But for real, he is an amazing teacher and I am so thankful to have had him in my life.
What is one quote that you try to live by?
One of our instructors at SoulCycle, Anthony McClain, always says in his class: “It’s not THAT you move, it’s HOW you move.” Obviously that pertains to the actual work out, but I have also tried to implement that into my own life. It’s not the product that matters, but the journey, and what you learn along the way.
Do you have any upcoming projects or productions?
I am just now finishing up my second show in Chicago called Down the Moonlit Path. It’s an immersive production that portrays multiple children's stories from different countries intertwined together. My next project is the show Bent and I have a couple films I’ve been shooting here and there.
And then, of course, there’s SoulCycle. If you haven’t tried SoulCycle yet I highly recommend it. It will seriously change your life. (Also there’s one coming to the city of Boston soon!!)