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Interviews

Twenty Questions with Tony Award Winner Michael Rupert

Michael Rupert won the 1986 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical for his portrayal of Oscar in the revival of Sweet Charity. He received his first Tony Award nomination in 1968 at the age of 16 for his Broadway debut in Kander and Ebb’s The Happy Time. Rupert originated the role of Marvin in the William Finn musicals March of the Falsettos (1981) and Falsettoland (1991), which would later be combined into the 1992 two-act Broadway musical that featured Rupert, Falsettos. His impressive resume also includes Pippin (1974), Mail (1988), City of Angels (1991), Ragtime, originating the role of Professor Callahan in Legally Blonde (2007), and Our Town (2014). 

In addition to acting, Rupert is an experienced director, writer, and composer. He directed The Lunch Anxieties Off-Broadway as well as the musical The Stars In Your Eyes. He composed the score to Strange Vacation, Mail, 3 Guys Naked from the Waist Down, and Streets of America, which he also co-wrote the lyrics and books. 

We were fortunate enough to speak with Michael and get Twenty questions with a Tony Award Winner. 

1. What were your first thoughts upon being nominated for a Tony Award?

I was thrilled. I had been nominated once before and had not gone on to win, so I thought whatever happens, at the very least, I’ll get to enjoy the next few weeks of parties and anticipation. 

2. What were your first thoughts upon winning?

I was pretty shocked. I didn’t think it was going to happen. I hadn’t even come up with any kind of “Thank You” speech, so I fumbled a few words and made my way backstage. Very surreal.

3. Do you have any fond memories from the night of the ceremony? 

The Tony ceremony that year happened in the theater where my show, Sweet Charity, was playing, so when I got backstage, I was greeted by all the crew people I was working with 8 times a week. That was quite special. I got to share the moment with my friends.

4. What was a great opportunity winning the Tony Award afforded?

Winning the Tony Award did not really change my life or my career considerably, other than whenever anyone wrote about me or mentioned me, I was referred to as “The Tony Award-winning Actor…etc.

5. Where do you keep your award now? 

I keep my Tony in a cabinet with other memorabilia.

6. Who is an artist/performer you admire?

Sam Gold.

7. What is the best advice you have received in your career?

“Just say the words. Don’t act. Trust that you’re interesting enough.”

8. What is the last book you read?

NEVER by Ken Follett.

9. What is a dream role of yours?

I have no dream role, per se. Though, Fagin in OLIVER! is cool.

10. What previous role of yours had your favorite costumes?

In LEGALLY BLONDE The Musical, I got to wear very expensive tailored suits. I enjoyed that.

Kate Shindle, Laura Bell Bundy, and Michael Rupert in Legally Blonde, photo by Joan Marcus.

11. What is a fond rehearsal memory of yours? 

I was in the very first workshop of William Finn’s A NEW BRIAN at The Public Theater. Jason Robert Brown was our musical director/vocal arranger. The first day of rehearsal I watched him attack the keyboard like no one I’d ever seen. Truly brilliant muscular musicianship. I was in awe.

12. Which of your previous roles did you feel most similar to? 

Marvin in FALSETTOS.

13. Which of your previous roles did you feel most different from? 

I once played a cranky, old elf in a workshop production of Harry Connick, Jr.’s THE HAPPY ELF directed by John Rando. I am not an elf.

14. What has been a challenge you’ve faced in your career?

Letting go and trusting myself. I’ve always been too self-critical.

15. What are you working on now?

I’m retired from acting/performing at this point. I spend my time now directing and working with students at various colleges and universities.

16. What is your favorite song?

“I’ve Never Said I Love You” from Jerry Herman’s DEAR WORLD. I can still listen to Pamela Hall’s performance of that song, and it gets to me every time. Brilliant.

17. What is a show or movie you are looking forward to seeing?

It doesn’t come out until next year, but I look forward to seeing the next part of DUNE.

18. What was your best subject in school?

English Lit.

19. What is your go to brunch order? 

The Avocado Burrito at Tajin in Lower Manhattan. Unbelievably brilliant!

20. What is your favorite part of theatre?

Sitting in the audience the moment the lights go down.

Michael Rupert and Debbie Allen in Sweet Charity.
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Cover Story Interviews

Twenty Questions with Tony Winner Blair Brown

In 2000, Blair Brown won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her portrayal of Margrethe in Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen. Brown first appeared on a New York stage in the 1975 New York Shakespeare Festival’s production of The Comedy of Errors and boasts an impressive theatre resume including the 1989 Broadway production of Secret Rapture, the 1995 Lincoln Center Theater production of Arcadia, two runs as Frau Schneider in the 1998 and 2003 productions of Cabaret, and the 2006 production of The Clean House. She can currently be seen at Studio 54 as Ms. Innes in Tracy Letts’ The Minutes, playing through July 24th only. 

On Screen, Brown appeared in the 1973 Oscar winning film, The Paper Chase, as well as in The Choirboy, Altered States, One Trick Pony, Stealing Home, and A Flash of Green. She received a Golden Globe nomination for her leading role opposite John Belushi in Continental Divide. She received a second Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of Jacqueline Kennedy in the TV miniseries Kennedy. She had a 5-year run on the television comedy-drama, The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, where she received 5 consecutive Emmy Award nominations. In 2008, Brown appeared on the Fox television series The Fringe, and was featured as Judy King in 3 seasons of the Netflix comedy-drama series, Orange is the New Black

We were fortunate enough to speak with Blair and get Twenty questions with a Tony Award Winner. 

Blair Brown at the 2000 Tony Awards.

1. What were your first thoughts upon being nominated for a Tony Award?

Why wasn’t there an ensemble award?  There still isn’t. I was in a three-character play, Copenhagen, and Michael Cumpsty and Phil Bosco and I were totally dependent on each other for our performances. 

2. What were your first thoughts upon winning?

It’s just nice to win a prize even though we know it doesn’t really matter. 

3. Do you have any fond memories from the night of the ceremony? 

My son in a tux as my date. I got a chance to thank the brilliant wig maker, Paul Huntley, whose artistry in helping actors create characters was largely unrecognized, and I got to sing and dance Irish music on that huge Radio City stage in that gargantuan house. A nice night!

4. What is the biggest change you experienced after winning?

You get better billing. That’s it really

5. Where is your award now? 

In a cabinet mixed in with small ceramics my son made as a child. 

6. Who has been a mentor in your career?

I never had a mentor but there were two actors that I wanted to be like: Marian Seldes and Roger Rees. They both brought such genuine joy and enthusiasm to this work they loved. I try to remember that. 

7. What is the best advice you have received in your career?

One day in rehearsal at the Guthrie Theater playing Portia in The Merchant of Venice I was having a crisis of confidence. Michael Langham, the director, took me aside and basically said “You expect people to pay money to watch you think and feel so get on with it”. He said it in a slightly nicer way but that’s what he meant and it’s true, we do! 

8. Do you have any preperformance rituals?

I make up different rituals for every show. 

9. What is the last book you read?

I Just finished rereading A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders. A wonderful look at Russian short story writing that can inform what actors do creating characters. 

10. What is a dream role of yours?

I wish I’d done more Shakespeare, more Shaw, more Restoration comedies. I was in the wrong country. 

11. What previous role of yours had your favorite costumes?

My Favorite, most favorite costume was a gown designed for Camino Real by Michael Krass that was based on a 1950’s Dior petal dress. I shed sequins and petals wherever I walked. Divine!

12. Which of your previous roles did you feel most similar to?

I always felt Gretta in James Joyce’s The Dead was someone I could have been. 

13. Which of your previous roles did you feel most different from?

When I was in drama school I was cast as a termagant in John Osbourne’s Live Like Pigs because I’d been complaining about playing ingenues. I had to look up the word and I was ridiculous as this older hardened prostitute!

14. Is there a role that you would like to revisit?

I’d like to revisit playing Prospera in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. It was such a rich and interesting experience to switch that protagonist’s gender, fascinating to feel the story play out differently. I’d like another shot at it with Emily Mann directing again. 

15. What has been a challenge you’ve faced in your career?

The biggest challenge for me was trying to balance raising my son with the work I loved doing but also needed to do to support us. 

16. What is a song that always makes you smile?

“Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love” by Cole Porter always gets me smiling. 

17. What is your favorite cocktail?

Danny Meyer’s Tabla on Madison Square used to make a Citrus Ginger Snap cocktail. Delish!

18. What is a place you would like to visit?

I want to see more of Scotland, those wild islands.  

19. What is your favorite show tune?

No single show tune stands out. It’s a crowded field. Anything from Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George.  Or The Threepenny Opera.  Or The Band’s Visit

20. What is your favorite part of theatre?

My favorite part of theater is rehearsal and tech when the play emerges.  Thrilling!  My 2nd favorite is the moment after the Sunday matinee when you’ve run the 8-show gauntlet and you breathe a sigh of relief and accomplishment. 

Samira Wiley and Blair Brown in Orange is the New Black.