2015 Best Leading Actor in a Musical Nominee: Jared Walsh as Franklin Shepard in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's "Merrily We Roll Along"

Before we announce our 2015 ArtsImpulse Award Winners, we are proud to present our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series. 

Note: If you were nominated a 2015 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award, and you would like to participate in our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series, please email us at brian@artsimpulse.com.

Jared Walsh is an effortless talent as crowd-favorite, Franklin Shepard, in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's final production, Merrily We Roll Along. This Sondheim show and leading role is a difficult challenge for even the most talented performers. Jared Walsh brings his boyish smirk, his smooth vocals, and his relatable charm to this complicated role. In his Interview, Jared tells us about his Frank, the three best traits in a friend, and what inspires him.

Hi, Jared, and thank you for joining us. Can you start by telling our readers a bit about yourself and your work? 

Hey, Brian, thanks for having me.  I am originally from the Boston area and I have been in the theater scene for the past seven years or so.  I’ve been involved in productions both in the city, and as far west as Natick and Framingham.  I grew up in Braintree, and I went to school out at Westfield State University.  I’ve also been in a band, Barricades, for the past seven years or so, and we’re currently in the studio releasing our third recorded project; I’m very excited.

How did you get involved in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company’s Merrily We Roll Along?  Have you been involved in other F.U.D.G.E. productions?

Of course!  My fondest theater memories in this area heavily consist of my work with F.U.D.G.E.  I’ve been involved in five different F.U.D.G.E productions and it was F.U.D.G.E. that gave me the opportunity to break-into the Boston theater scene when I cast in their production of Violet.  Ever since then, until they eventually closed up shop, I made it a point to be involved in as many F.U.D.G.E. productions as I could. 

The production that I hold closest to my heart is Spring Awakening.  It was just the perfect cast at the perfect time and really was a wonderful experience that I will hold onto forever.

Who is Franklin Shepherd?  Do you identify with him?  Are there other Sondheim characters (from this show or his other shows) with whom you identify more?  Why?

Oh . . . “dat Frank.”  Frank is an opportunist who would do anything to get ahead and push everything and everyone aside for fame, esteem, and money.  He sounds like a peachy keen, squeaky-clean guy . . .

I wouldn’t say I identify with Frank, but I do at least understand his wants and needs to see the work that he produces be recognized and for it to be successful.  Everyone wants to have what they do to be regarded as important; it’s why we do what we do in life.  It is the process and path we take to get that success and recognition for which we are judged. I don’t think everyone necessarily wants fame and fortune, but there is value to be had into putting effort into our lives, relationships, and careers, and coming out with some sort of validation, or recognition for those efforts. 

Sondheim writes in such a brilliant way that even his most unattainable characters on the surface can be related to in some facet of their personality.  For example, I don’t necessarily agree with how Bobby goes about his life in Company . . . but I do absolutely relate to the want and need to love and be loved.  It’s so central in his character that you can’t help but to root for him to find what he’s looking for in the end.  “Somebody force me to love/Somebody force me to care”  is a lyric that sticks out to me that exemplifies that.

Charley Kringas (Adam Schuller) and Franklin Shepard (Jared Walsh) in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's Merrily We Roll Along (Photo Credit: Matt Phillipps Photography).

Charley Kringas (Adam Schuller) and Franklin Shepard (Jared Walsh) in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's Merrily We Roll Along (Photo Credit: Matt Phillipps Photography).

How do you relax?

Relax??? Relaxing and I don’t usually go together.  I constantly find myself on the go.  I teach, coach and play baseball, play in the band, perform in shows, tutor, and travel when I can.  My life is one ball of organization and planning . . . and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If you could list three best traits in a friend, what would they be?  What are three personality traits that you hope others would use to describe you?

Loyalty, understanding, and humor. 

I just hope people understand that I generally have what I think are their best intentions at heart, all of the time.  The most valuable thing we have in this life is time, and I choose to spend it with the people I love. It may come at weird intervals, or strange gaps in appearances because of schedules and general life-happenings . . . but I feel as though the people I keep in touch with, and the people I reach out to (even sparingly), know that I’d be there for them when they needed it.

What has been the scariest thing that you done onstage (either fear for your safety or just challenging)?

The scariest thing I do on-stage is dance.  I’m not a dancer.  I dread it.  Tell me to run a post pattern and catch a football one handed, while being draped by a defender . . . or to hit a fastball on the outside corner . . . my body is more than able to do those things. 

When it comes to dancing, I just can’t seem to move my body the way that I know it can or that it should.  It’s terrifying.  Most of the shows I’ve auditioned for have had little dancing . . . and that’s on purpose.

What is one message that you would want to give to millennials in theatre?  In their professional and personal life?

Keep going.  Don’t stop.  It’s cliché, and it’s boring and it’s sort of a copout answer but it’s true.  I’m guilty of it myself sometimes.  I feel as though I’ve missed opportunities, or have been hesitant to take a risk . . . but no one is going to give you anything, in anything you do.  If you want to go out and get something, certainly use your resources but you have to go get it for yourself.

Charley Kringas (Adam Schuller), Frank Shepard (Jared Walsh), and Mary Flynn (Andrea Giangreco) in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's Merrily We Roll Along (Photo Credit: Matt Phillipps Photography).

Charley Kringas (Adam Schuller), Frank Shepard (Jared Walsh), and Mary Flynn (Andrea Giangreco) in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's Merrily We Roll Along (Photo Credit: Matt Phillipps Photography).

What inspires you?

Seeing the people I love do the things that they love to do.  Eloquent, I know.  For real though, I am just flabbergasted by the people I’ve grown up with from home, and the people I went to college, and those I’ve met since then.  They’re doing awesome things in their lives and it is what inspires me to do what I’m passionate about.

Tell us a funny audition or performance story. Make us laugh.

I was fortunate enough to be called back for the national tour of Once.  I had to sing “Say It to Me Now,” and I just did my best to mimic Glen Hansard from the movie version. When I finished, the casting director looks at me and goes: “Wow . . . you’re really comfortable up there, huh?” He meant singing in my upper register, or, as I call it, yelling on pitch.  I came back with “Well, yeah, I’m playing Gabe tonight in Next to Normal, I have to be.”  They all laughed and it certainly made me feel good about the audition.  Sadly, nothing ever came of it, but it made me happy to make them laugh.

Do you have any resolutions or goals for 2016?

Spend my time with the people I want to be around.  It’s all I try to do.

Do you have any upcoming projects?

My band, Barricades, just finished up our third album.  It has yet to be named, but we’re hoping an official release some point in the near future!

Do you have anything else to share with our ArtsImpulse readers?

Nothing really, just stay classy!