2015 Best Music Direction of a Musical: Adam Bokunewicz for The Boston Conservatory's "Shrek: The Musical"

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

NOTE: If you were nominated for 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

Adam_Bokunewicz

Adam Bokunewicz delivers a musical experience well beyond his years in his music direction of Shrek: The Musical at The Boston Conservatory. His passionate conducting and piano playing kept the student actors and orchestra not only as a cohesive unit, but as a tight and integrated musical ensemble for this hip modern score. In his Interview, Adam tells us about some of the challenges in music directing Shrek, his pet peeves, and some of short-term and long-term goals (and even a few dreams)!

Hi, Adam, and thanks for joining us at ArtsImpulse. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a Senior BFA Musical Theater major at The Boston Conservatory (“BoCo”). I am from New Jersey. I play the piano and the trumpet. I am also a Zumba Fitness instructor.

Can you tell us a little bit about your work in Shrek: The Musical?  What were some of the challenges?  What were some of the most rewarding parts?

In Shrek, I was the music director, conductor, as well as pianist in the pit.  I am a musical theater performer before anything else. Therefore, in each new project I encounter new challenges, which then turn into learning experiences. Shrek proposed an interesting challenge due to the fact that it was my first time working with a group of musicians and “conducting” from the piano. As a student music director at BoCo, many of the shows I work on are low budget, student-produced projects. The quality of work is excellent, however the budgets and size of performance space don’t allow for a large pit. Most of the time, it’s just me and a piano playing through the show.

I was nervous on the night of my first rehearsal with the pit. Here I am in a room with extremely gifted conservatory and Berklee music students, having never conducted before. Thanks to help from my teachers, and support of the musicians in the pit, I walked away from this experience with much more confidence.

Talk to us about your style as a music director.  How do you work best?  What kinds of projects do you choose to work on?

My background is performing. Therefore, in my past experiences rehearsing shows, I’ve learned how to lead a productive rehearsal from the music directors I've worked with. Also, they taught me how to efficiently communicate with actors.  My experience as a fitness instructor has taught me how to lead and engage a roomful of people.

The pit musicians (including Adam Bokunewicz) for The Boston Conservatory's  Shrek: The Musical .

The pit musicians (including Adam Bokunewicz) for The Boston Conservatory's Shrek: The Musical.

I work best with a set schedule and a time limit. It is important that the cast understands that I am there to help and support them, however it is their job to respect the work and the time of others. I choose to work on projects that are directed by people I know and love. At this point in my education, I enjoy working on shows that I think will challenge me and help me grow.

What have been some of your biggest learning moments or experiences while at The Boston Conservatory?

My freshman year at The Boston Conservatory, my Voice & Speech teacher Deborah Cooney taught me the importance of professional work ethic, respect for the work, and poise. I look up to her and aspire to be like her when I grow up.

My last two years at the conservatory, I have been studying music and musical theater repertoire with Cathy Rand. Her talent, knowledge, and high standard of excellence make her the most influential teacher I’ve ever worked with.

How do you spend your time outside of BoCo?  How does it help you become a better artist and person?

Outside of BoCo, I enjoy dining out, trying different restaurants, cooking, wine, dirty martinis with a blue cheese olive, intense cardio workouts that involve loud music and extreme sweating, and spending time with bae. Most of the time, I try to detach from theater talk. Too much theater talk will smother you.

Having a life outside of the theater is enough to make you a better artist and person.

What are some of your favorite stories, movies, plays, and/or TV shows?  Why?

I love Law & Order SVU. Every time Raul Esparza speaks on the show, I think of his performance in the 2008 filmed version of Company, particularly his rendition of “Being Alive.” I also enjoy The Barefoot Contessa, and I have aspirations of being one of her flamboyant friends that decorates the table as she prepares a stunning lunch on her back patio with Susan Stroman.

Shrek (Cody Garcia) and Princess Fiona (Carly Rose) in The Boston Conservatory's  Shrek: The Musical .

Shrek (Cody Garcia) and Princess Fiona (Carly Rose) in The Boston Conservatory's Shrek: The Musical.

What are some of your pet peeves?

I always make my bed. Every day.

What are some of your short-term goals?  Long-term goals?  Dreams?

Short term goals would be to absorb as much as I can before I graduate.

Long term goals, I would love to be a performer/accompanist/vocal coach/fitness instructor/producer.

Dreams: a rent-controlled apartment with a French bulldog and a terrace, maybe a sensible Steinway piano, if there’s room.

What do you hope people come away thinking from Shrek: The Musical?  Did you have specific objectives for any other productions that you have music directed?

I hope people come away thinking that it’s possible to produce a high caliber production without a high budget. When we take away the glamour and spectacle, and really focus on the material itself, the message of the story is illuminated.

Give us a lesson or motto to live by.

“When life gives you lemons, pray that they’re Lulu.”

Do you have any upcoming projects?

I am music directing a production of Aida at BoCo next week, as well as a production of In The Heights next month. Also, I will be performing in the Boston senior showcase at The Boston Conservatory this spring. 

2015 Best Choreography Nominee: Mara Greer for North Shore Music Theatre's "Shrek: The Musical"

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

NOTE: If you were nominated for 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.

Photo Credit:   Peter Hurley

Photo Credit: Peter Hurley

Mara Greer captivated our attention at North Shore Music Theatre's Shrek: The Musical with her active and inspired choreography, featuring tap-dancing rats, vibrant Fairy Tale Creatures, and a synchronized army of dolls in Duloc.  In her Interview, Mara explains her choreographing process, her most important theatre/dance lesson, and some of her upcoming projects (she'll be all over the country so look for her coming to a city near you!). 

Hi, Mara, and thank you for interviewing with ArtsImpulse.  Can you start by telling our readers about yourself?  Who are you, where are you from, and what do you do?

I grew up just outside of Louisville, Kentucky, and I attended the Youth Performing Arts High School there. Following that, I attended the University of Michigan and I got my degree in Musical Theatre. Since graduation, I have worked as a performer on Broadway and national tours, and in regional theaters across the country. For the past few years, I have started transitioning from performing into choreographing, something for which I have always had a passion.

Talk to us about your choreography for North Shore Music Theatre’s Shrek: The Musical?  What was your inspiration?  What styles did you use?  How did you develop your choreography and design?

One of the things I love about Shrek: The Musical is the variety of styles of dance, including tap. Tap is one of my favorite things to choreograph. My Dad is a tap dancer (and attended The Boston Conservatory), so I grew up hearing rhythm around the house. The majority of my tap training though, came from my high school dance teacher, Gail Benedict. She was in the original company of 42nd Street on Broadway and is a DIVA tapper. I also watched, and still watch, a ton of movie musicals. Gene Kelly, Ann Miller, Vera Ellen, Gregory Hines, Fred Astaire, the Nicholas Brothers, and Eleanor Powell all played a huge influence on how I choreograph tap numbers.

“Duloc” is another very stylized dance number in the show. While I did my own choreography for Shrek: The Musical at North Shore Music Theatre (“NSMT”), Josh Prince, the original Broadway choreographer, definitely had a huge influence on me. It's hard to reimagine already genius work but it was a challenge I was up for. Everyone, with the exception of Lord Farquaad, in this number is a doll. So, the dance had to mimic what a doll-dancing would look like. I spent a lot of time working in front of mirrors with this number, making sure every position was specific and precise!

What has been the most challenging number or show to choreograph?  What was the more rewarding?  Why?

The most challenging number for me to choreograph was definitely “Forever” in Shrek: The Musical. This song was new for the National Tour and London, and was not in the original Broadway production. When the new song was conceived, they also had a massive, dragon puppet built, that required four people for operation. It had one person operating the head (including the mouth and blinking eyes), the second person operating the wings, the third had the back legs, and the fourth was in charge of the tail. The person voicing the dragon was off stage singing in a booth. There were also four old knights in stocks rolling around on the stage.

Due to space limitations and working in the round, Michael Heitzman (the Director) and I had to completely re-conceive this number. The first change we made was having the person voicing the dragon on stage. This is an incredibly difficult song to sing, and it was written for somebody to be standing still off stage. I had to carefully choreograph for the dragon so that she was still able to breathe and sing the song. However, since we were in the round, I had to move her positioning multiple times throughout the number so that everyone in the audience was able to see her at some point. On top of that, she wore an amazing head piece, similar to the puppetry used in The Lion King in addition to a massive tail, making any movement extremely difficult.

The second big change that we made was turning the Knights into dragonettes, two women who served as her back-up singers. There were multiple challenges, but, honestly, those numbers are the most fun! They give you a chance to dig in and get creative.

Fairy Tale Creatures dance to "Freak Flag" in North Shore Music Theatre's  Shrek: The Musical  (Photo Credit:   Paul Lyden  ).

Fairy Tale Creatures dance to "Freak Flag" in North Shore Music Theatre's Shrek: The Musical (Photo Credit: Paul Lyden).

The most rewarding number to choreograph was “Freak Flag.” Building this number was a blast. It's a number about embracing who you are and being proud of yourself. Watching all of the fairy tales creatures dance their tails off (bears, witches, fairies, and pigs) was such a cool image. Creatures from different walks of life all dancing together and finally understanding that “What makes us special makes us strong” is such an important message in today's world.

What are some of the most important theatre or dance lessons that you’ve learned?  Why?

One of the most important theatre/dance lessons I've learned can be summed up in a great quote: “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” When I was a senior in high school, I played Peggy Sawyer in the fall musical 42nd Street.  We were lucky enough to learn all the original Broadway choreography. One weekend, I had a scholarship to a dance convention in Cincinnati, Ohio. Because I had two shows on Saturday, I couldn't go to the first day of the convention. My parents both thought I should rest on Sunday, but I was determined not to waste my scholarship. So, at 6:30am Sunday morning, my mom and I piled into the car and drove to Cincinnati.

The day started with 8:00 am ballet, which is not my strongest style of dance. However, I have never had a ballet teacher like Judy Rice. She made it exciting and fun. During the class, Judy pointed me out saying she loved the passion that I had when I danced and started calling me Colgate girl, saying I should do Colgate commercials because I had such a great smile.

After that class, I ran into the tap instructor for the weekend. Unfortunately, I had missed my tap class because it was on Saturday, but I stopped the instructor in the hall to say hello.  I had read his bio, and discovered that he had done the National Tour of 42nd Street.  I told him I was currently doing the show with all of the original choreography. He gave me a strange look as if he didn't believe me, and then asked if I knew the Sailor/Niffy section in the Act 2 tap ballet. I told him I did, and he said, “Well then, let's go . . . 5, 6, 7, 8!”  We proceeded to do an entire section from the show; two people that were generations apart and had only spoken to each other for about a minute. Little did I know, Judy, the ballet teacher, happened to be watching the entire interaction. Afterward, she came up to me and said, “You know, I teach at the University of Michigan, and I think that would be a great school for you.” To which I replied,
That is actually my number one school choice.”

One audition and a few weeks later, I was accepted into the University of Michigan musical theatre department, all because I chose to not take a day off, use my scholarship, plow through 8:00 am ballet, and introduce myself to a tap teacher whose class I missed.

What are some of your guilty pleasures?

I really like baking. I got a Kitchen-Aid mixer about a year ago and it has changed my life! I also love playing board games; some of my favorites being Balderdash, Taboo, Quelf, and Mystery Mansion.

If you were stranded on an island, what are three things that you would bring?  Would you go alone or bring someone with you?

Three things . . . this is a hard one! I would definitely take my iPod. Music is a must! I would also take the Harry Potter book series. My third item would have to be my cat, Molly. My husband and I fostered three kittens, found homes for two of them, and Molly stayed with us. When we first got them, we were up every three hours, bottle-feeding them. It was a huge undertaking but definitely worth it. As for the part about taking someone with me, that is a 100% YES!! I would bring my husband, Michael. I couldn't imagine going anywhere without him.

What advice would you give your younger self at age 10?  Age 20? 

I would probably remind myself, at both 10 and 20, to never stop dreaming. I try and remind myself that every day!

If you could turn back time, when and where would you go?  What would you do?  More importantly, what would you wear?

If I could turn back time, I would go back to working at the Pittsburgh CLO in 2007 when I did The Full Monty and tell myself to go out with the guy wearing the leopard thong. Seven years later, I would meet that guy again doing a different show and realize he was the man of my dreams.

What is one thing that all musical theatre actors should know?  What is one thing that all choreographers should know?

All musical theatre actors should know that if you don't get the job, 9 times out of 10, it's not you. There is so much that goes into casting a show that actors can't do anything about. Maybe, a girl comes in and she is a perfect Fiona. She is beautiful, sings incredibly well, and reads her scenes impeccably. However, if they have already cast a Shrek and he is only 5'10," they need a Fiona that is 5'4" or shorter to create the illusion that Shrek is large. The best thing that you can do is go in and give your best audition, and then leave the room and not worry about it. Whether you're right for the show or not, you will always remember someone who gives a great audition.

I think choreographers should not be afraid to make mistakes. In this business, we are constantly striving for perfection. What if I get a bad review? What if the performers don't like my work? What if the theatre doesn't like my work? Fear and doubt are not good motivators. Make mistakes and try something new! Allow yourself to collaborate. That's how theatre changes for the better.

Do you have any upcoming projects?

In March 2016, I am heading to the University of Michigan to choreograph their spring production of Guys & Dolls. I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am to return to my alma mater and choreograph one of their shows, especially a show as brilliant as Guys & Dolls. After that, I am going out to California to choreograph Legally Blonde at the Sacramento Music Circus!

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

I am so honored to be nominated for an ArtsImpulse award, and especially for working at North Shore Music Theatre. Les Miserables at NSMT was my first professional job after moving to New York and graduating college. That theatre kept me employed for several years (I also did Bye, Bye, Birdie; 42nd Street; High School Musical 2; and Hello, Dolly! with NSMT). To come back to the theatre that gave me my start as a performer, and now my start as a choreographer, it's hard to even put into words what that means to me. It is beyond special. I will never be able to thank Bill Hanney and Kevin Hill enough for that opportunity. And then, on top of it, to be recognized for my work with this nomination; I am incredibly humbled and grateful.

2015 Best Supporting Actor in a Musical Nominee: Will Porter as Pinocchio in North Shore Music Theatre's "Shrek: The Musical"

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

Photo Credit:   Ted Ely

Photo Credit: Ted Ely

NOTE: If you were nominated for 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.

Will Porter dazzled and danced his way into our hearts as the wooden toy who just wanted to be a real boy, and lamented his fate as a Fairy Tale Creature as Pinocchio in North Shore Music Theatre's Shrek: The Musical.  His range, strong character choices, vibrant energy, and dancing feet earned him a Best Supporting Actor in a Musical nomination. 

Hello, Will, and thank you for interviewing with us. Can you start by telling our readers a bit more about yourself and your work?

Hi, guys!  First of all, thank you for having me!

Me:  I grew up in Acton, Massachusetts, training at the Acton School of Ballet.  I graduated from Muhlenberg College with a double major in Theatre and Dance, and now I live in New York – where there are no Red Sox.

My work:  I am an actor, singer, and dancer, often at the same time.  As a performer with Stage 4 ADHD, I feel at home in the world of musical/physical comedy. I find myself sympathizing with those odd-ball characters with a short fuze who have to break out into song or else they will explode.  Some people tell me that I remind them of Martin Short. 

How did you become involved in North Shore Music Theatres Shrek: The Musical?  Do you remember what you sang for your auditions?  Did you read for Pinocchio?

It was an exciting journey.  I had performed with Mara Newbery Greer (our choreographer) in back-to-back productions of Cats and Spamalot at Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera.  She encouraged me to come to the open dance call for North Shore Music Theatre’s Shrek: The Musical

From there, the team asked me to come back and read/sing for Pinocchio.  I remember being really nervous, so I would keep funny things in my backpack to make me laugh - a wig, a Barbie. 

Pinocchio (Will Porter*) laments his life in North Shore Music Theatre's  Shrek: The Musical  (Photo Credit:   Paul Lyden  ) (* Denotes a Member of Actors' Equity Association).

Pinocchio (Will Porter*) laments his life in North Shore Music Theatre's Shrek: The Musical (Photo Credit: Paul Lyden) (* Denotes a Member of Actors' Equity Association).

I sang the theme song from Pokémon at my final callback.

What makes you laugh?  Cry?

Laugh:  A good, old-fashioned stage slap.

Cry:  Thinking about the SAT, or any standardized test.

What is your favorite fairy tale?  Disney movie?  Why?

Does The Hobbit count as a fairy tale?  If not, I would seriously choose Pinocchio.  He's such a happy puppet, and makes terrible choices in adorable lederhosen. 

Hocus Pocus is the best Disney movie . . . period!  ::bangs gavel::

What is your day like during a production run (rehearsals and/or performance)?  What is it like during audition season?  How do you fill your days?

During a production, I am a big fan of ice baths, massages, vocal rest, sleep, steam, my foam roller, knitting, and gym time.

Audition season is just pure madness: dance classes, coaching audition material regularly, making sure I'm working out and eating right, and balancing all of this with my survival jobs and scheduling auditions!  Everything frequently conflicts.  You have to constantly think three steps ahead.  You have to go to bed early, and you have to wake up early.  It's also helpful to have something spiritually/mentally grounding, like yoga or a therapist.  A loving, supportive tribe of friends is essential.  Coffee is the lifeblood.

What scares you the most about performing?  What excites you?

I often question: "Have I done enough to prepare for THIS moment?"  This is what scares me the most about performing.  Have I put in enough work?  Can I sustain my performance and keep it consistent?  The truth is there's always more work to be done, and there's always something to improve – finding the confidence to say, "Yes, I am enough," is a challenge, but vitally important. 

The unknown excites me!  The indefinable moment between two people onstage where you both know the lines, and yet each moment is filled with our own individual thoughts, feelings, our lives offstage.  Layered on top of that is the experience of a live audience.  At North Shore Music Theatre, they are all around you.  We are biologically different with every breath we take, so each moment actors share onstage, while adhering to the vision of the playwright and director, is inherently different. 

Who is your favorite Disney princess?  Prince?  Why?

When I worked for Disney, one of my jobs was to host meet and greets for the Princesses - or “Princess Gatherings.” My favorite Princess to greet was Snow White.  Her energy is always at a 10, she loves baking Gooseberry Pie, and don't it twisted - she's the boss. I guess you have to be when you live with seven jewel-mining bachelors. 

As for the princes, Prince Phillip is a lyric baritone, he can slay dragons with a single sword, and wears black tights and a very handsome cape. And he can dance. 

Pinocchio (Will Porter*) and other Fairy Tale Creatures sing "I Believe" in North Shore Music Theatre's  Shrek: The Musical  (Photo Credit:   Paul Lyden  ) (* Denotes a Member of Actors' Equity Association). 

Pinocchio (Will Porter*) and other Fairy Tale Creatures sing "I Believe" in North Shore Music Theatre's Shrek: The Musical (Photo Credit: Paul Lyden) (* Denotes a Member of Actors' Equity Association). 

If you could play any role for the rest of your life, what would it be, and why?  Would you have any ideal co-stars?

Definitely Applegate in Damn Yankees.  I love the music, I love villains, and it's a Fosse show!!! As for co-stars, Leslie Margherita would play Gloria, my dear friend Tory Trowbridge would play Lola, Ellen Degeneres as Meg, Tom Hanks as Joe Boyd, and Nick Jonas will play Joe Hardy.  The Senators would either be played by Muppets, or real Senators.

Did you have a nickname growing up?  If so, what?  How did you get this nickname?

Will & Grace was a revolutionary television show in so many ways.  Thanks to Karen Walker, most of my friends started calling me "Wilma" in high school.  And they still do! 

Two truths and lie. Go!

OKAY...

- I was asked to portray a terrorist during a routine Crew Safety Drill aboard Disney Cruise Line, and four deck hands tackled me to the ground because they thought it was real!

- I almost flunked gym in seventh grade.

- I am currently playing Carole King in Beautiful: The Musical on Broadway.

Do you have any upcoming projects?

Up next, I will be performing in "Turn The Beat Around" at Feinstein's/54 Below – celebrating the disco legacy of Studio 54.  Aside from that, audition season is in full swing, and I should probably start my taxes before April 1st . . .

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

I have the Greater Boston arts community to thank for making such a wide range of theatre and dance performance available to me growing up; I still remember seeing shows at North Shore Music Theatre when I was in high school.  Having the amazing opportunity to play Pinocchio at NSMT last summer felt like giving back to the community that fostered me, and I hope we passed along the spark to the next generation. What a dream come true! Thank you, ArtsImpulse!

2015 Best Supporting Actor in a Musical Nominee: Mark Linehan as Lord Farquaad in Wheelock Family Theatre's "Shrek: The Musical"

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

NOTE: If you were nominated for 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.

Mark Linehan was a hilarious, show-stopping force in Wheelock Family Theatre's Shrek: The Musical. Playing Lord Farquaad, a three-foot tall villain, is no easy feat, but his dancing and singing in rousing chorus numbers was a spectacle in itself. Mark goes above his statute (he is quite taller in person) in how he empathized his Lord Farquaad while still making him wickedly fun to watch.  

In his Interview, Mark discusses the age old question of the difficulties of comedy and drama, his advice to young actors, and a wonderfully funny audition story (we almost wish that we were a fly in that audition room). 

Hi, Mark, and welcome to the 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series.  Can you tell us a bit about yourself as a person and performer?

Photo Credit:   Chris Macke Photography

Thank you, Brian. I’m a Boston-born actor; I grew up in Natick, Massachusetts, and now my wife and I and our two year old daughter live in Malden.

I’ve been a professional actor since graduating from Emerson College almost nine years ago, and I’ve been a member of Actor’s Equity Association for five years. In that time, I’ve worked primarily in musical theatre, but I’ve also done plays, commercial and film work, and I have extensive experience in education as well. I also work as a costumed tour guide on the Freedom Trail in Downtown Boston.

Talk to us about your roles and performances in 2015.  Who did you play, where did you perform, and what were their stories?

I did three shows in 2015. I played Lord Farquaad in Shrek: The Musical at Wheelock Family Theatre, of course, and I did two shows with Stoneham Theatre: as Miles Gloriosus in A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, and as Danny Frank in Christmas On The Air. Farquaad and Miles were both loud, larger-than-life characters who are more in love with themselves than anything else. And Danny was a 23 year old kid still living with his parents, and in love with a co-worker, but too nervous to tell her. So, that was a contrast.

What do you believe is harder to perform, comedy or drama?  Do you approach them differently as an actor?  Why and how?

Both styles have their own challenges, but I think comedy is harder because a sense of humor can’t be taught or directed. You see many famous actors successfully transition from comedy to drama, but you don’t often see the reverse. With the right amount of training and hard work, I believe that anyone can tackle roles requiring emotional depth and range. But comedy requires an ability to connect with an audience, because, unlike in drama, you are trying to elicit an audible, physical reaction from them—and you immediately know whether or not you’ve succeeded. And then you have to modulate your performance based on what’s working and getting laughs! A drama can be the same every night, no matter how many people are there, or how engaged they are. Comedy is harder precisely because everyone thinks it’s easier.

What are you currently reading?  What have been some of the most influential stories that you have read or seen recently?

As I said before, I work as a tour guide on the Freedom Trail in Downtown Boston, so I read a lot of history. Right now, I’m reading a book called Tories about the American Loyalists who desired to remain part of Great Britain before and during the Revolution.

One of the most difficult things to understand about history is the idea that no one’s historical narrative is right or wrong. Unfortunately, the lesson of history is that very few of us are strictly good or bad; most of us are just human, though we tend to prefer our characters to be heroes or villains. When people find out we’re all a little of both, they realize that includes themselves, and that can be difficult to process.

Tell us a funny audition or performing story.

I had been called back for several roles in a musical a few years ago. I had already been told in the room to not bother with one of the sides because I “wasn’t a leading man.” So with this boosting my confidence, I prepped my next scene in which I only had two lines, separated by the other actor making wisecracks while I pretended to write them down. Well, the show was a comedy, so I felt in my infinite wisdom that I should be doing something funny and not merely taking dictation, so as soon as the other actor began his comedic riffing, I pretended to be bothered by a fly that I then proceeded to chase around the room. As I chased the fly, my attempts to kill it became larger and larger until finally I killed it on the floor with such force, I went into a somersault, and I timed it so that I leapt out of my somersault standing right next to the other actor, just in time for my second line.

I did not get the job.

How would your best friends describe you?  Tell us in a poem if you are feeling adventurous!

"A Linehan friend would say, Those that doth know him/Know that Mark never would answer in poem."

What advice would you give a young performer?  What advice do you wish that you had received?

I was taught to make it about the work, and that’s advice I think more actors need to hear. A lot of very successful college actors are simply unprepared for the realities of professional life. Some of the most talented people that I’ve worked with aren’t acting anymore. For some, it was the constant grind of auditions that didn’t pan out; for others, it was the reality that most jobs aren’t going to be dream roles, or even leading roles, but ensemble work where you’re not in the spotlight. College success doesn’t translate to professional success in the theater anymore than it does in professional sports. So, if you’re sitting in some college theater program somewhere and you’re the hotshot, just remember you could be the theater equivalent of Tom Brady, but you could also be Tim Tebow.

Also, success can only be based on the goals that you set for yourself. No one else in the world has the right to tell you whether or not you are a successful actor because only you can decide for yourself what you want. I’ve met many people who think I am a successful actor and many who think I’m not, and they’re both wrong. Many people who think my career isn’t going well, think I’m not successful because I’m not based in L.A. or New York, and, if I were actually successful, I wouldn’t be in Boston.

On the other hand, many of the people who think my career is going well have said that because of a commercial they’ve seen me in, and they believe that if I’m on TV, things must be going well. But a commercial is no more stable or successful than stage work, and television work comes along less regularly. Booking commercials adds great diversity to my career, but it’s only a small part of my path to success.

Every actor needs to decide for themselves what they want their career to be in respect to the rest of their lives. If you let other people dictate the terms of what success looks like in your life, you’ll never be happy.

Lord Farquaad (Mark Linehan*) looks incredulously at Princess Fiona (Shonna Cirone*) in Wheelock Family Theatre's  Shrek: The Musical  (Photo Credit: Charles G. Baldwin) (* Denotes a Member of Actors' Equity Association). 

Lord Farquaad (Mark Linehan*) looks incredulously at Princess Fiona (Shonna Cirone*) in Wheelock Family Theatre's Shrek: The Musical (Photo Credit: Charles G. Baldwin) (* Denotes a Member of Actors' Equity Association). 

What is something that you have to do every day?  What is something that you wish that you didn’t have to do everyday?

I have to see my family every day. Being an actor has allowed me the flexibility to be a very involved father to my daughter, but the night and weekend schedule -- or taking a job out of state -- means I sometimes have to go without seeing her and my wife, and having to go extended amounts of time without seeing them is no fun.

As for something I wish I didn’t have to do every day, I hate having to do anything with my hair. Any day that I can just throw on a hat, I do.

Do you have a favorite fairy tale?  Do you have a favorite fairy tale prince or princess?  Why?

My strongest memories of fairy tales were the ones my grandmother used to read to me, and I think it was the time with her that I cherished more than the stories themselves. I’ve always been fascinated by fairy tales, or folk tales, because they offer the best insight into a culture’s aspirations, fears, and outlook on the world. I’m getting a greater appreciation for fairy tales again now that I’m reliving them with my daughter. And someday, maybe she’ll stop watching Frozen. Someday.

It’s not a fairy tale, it’s a folk tale, but the only prince-like character I ever wanted to be was Robin Hood. Then I got a little older and wanted to be Indiana Jones. So apparently I have strong reactions to cool hats and girls named Marian.

Do you have any upcoming projects?

I have no upcoming shows, but periods of theater unemployment are often the times that I find myself going through my audition binder, dusting off old monologues, and getting re-inspired to continue working in this insane and marvelous industry. Projects can often come out of nowhere and you’ve got to be ready when the opportunities present themselves.

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

The question I got every day after performing as Lord Farquaad was, “How are your knees?!” And every day I answered that my knees were fine. And they were. A month after we closed.