Joe Brack’s living the dream – two shows open this holiday season

It’s not unusual to find an actor in our area performing in a show and rehearsing another. But, with two shows running at the same time, Joe Brack will be zipping from one side of town to the other to be in The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg at the Kennedy Center and the return of his popular solo show The Santaland Diaries at Capital Fringe’s Redrum.

We know he is a guy with boundless energy – he even finds time to write or illustrate for us occasionally. But how exactly will he make this work?
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Lorraine: Let’s start with Homer P. Figg which takes place during the Civil War.

Joe:  Yes, lets!

Homer P. Figg tells the tale of his journey from the forests of Maine to the battlefield at Gettysburg, all to save his brother, Harold, who’s been sold into the Union army. Along the way, Homer runs into Methodist Clergymen, Confederate hucksters, an Underground Railroad conductor, a Medicine Show ring-master, and a tattooed lady from Cannibal Island, just to name a few.

(l-r) Ryan Mercer as Homer and Joe Brack as Harold. (Photo: Carol Pratt 2012)

I play Homer’s brother, Harold, and a slew of other wacky folks. My favorite to play is Dennett Bobbins, a Union dirigible pilot, who flies the war torn skies reporting on Confederate positions, with his only companion, Tilda.

How old is he?

Harold is seventeen. I am flattered to have even been cast.

Tell us about the director and fellow cast members.

The director is Gregg Henry. I don’t know what to say about Gregg. He is an amazingly patient and considerate artist. He is collaborative, while maintaining control and vision. I have known him for a long time and my opinion of him could not be higher. A greater advocate of the arts does not exist especially in his ability to support our local scene here in DC. [Among other things, Gregg oversees the Kennedy Center's Page to Stage Festival.] I am thankful for his friendship and am a better artist for having known him these past fifteen years. Yeah, I like Gregg.

The cast includes Mr. Ryan Mercer as the titular character. Ryan is a recent graduate of Catholic University and it has been lovely watching him take on Homer. Also, Veronica Del Cerro, I have been a fan of Veronica’s since I saw her Saint Monica in Judas Iscariot, and I am now happy to call her my friend.

The exceedingly sweet J.J. Johnson is a friend who I am overjoyed to work with again. His turn as Samuel Reed is heartbreakingly vulnerable and possesses an inner strength I am not capable of describing.

And then there are “The Michaels”, Glenn, Russotto, and Sazanov. This is my first show with Saz and I am having a blast with him. We play stinky highway men, Smelt and Stink, and we are scary. I carpool with Mr. Russotto to the Kennedy Center. Often, my best laughs of the day are had during those morning drives. And then, there’s Michael Glenn. This is my fourth rodeo with Glenn. We have a stage short-hand and a shared nerd rage that makes my job like a Wednesday in a comicbook store. This cast is really fantastic. We are working very hard and having a ton of fun doing it. We’re lucky that way.

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg
Closes December 9, 2012
The Kennedy Center Family Theater
2700 F Street, NW
Washington, DC 20566
1 hour, 10 minutes without intermission
Tickets: $18
Details
Tickets or call 800-444-1324

I think this is your first show for the Kennedy Center’s children’s program. How is rehearsing for the children’s audience different from preparing for an adult show.

There isn’t much of a difference at all by way of preparation. Sure, there’s less table work and the language is usually a bit easier to tackle, but it’s primarily the same process as any other play. Know your intentions, play them. Realize what’s at stake in every scene, etc. You can’t dumb things down or simplify things for kids. They’re not dumb, they’re just inexperienced. We create worlds with specific rules and boundaries.

In theatre, we have a great opportunity to use our imaginations, every now and again, as a tool to teach. I think that should always be the way I approach theatre for any audience. Though, I always forget how physical theatre for young audiences ends up turning out. And, the costume changes, there’s thirty some odd costume changes in a sixty five minute show. It’s exhausting.

You just opened the Kennedy Center show last weekend. How did it go?

Opening night was fantastic! Lots of laughs at previews as well. The play is based on the children’s book of the same title written by Rodman Philbrick and he was there at opening. He seemed to really enjoy it and gave a lovely toast at the opening night party. He signed a copy of the book for each of the cast members. He is a very nice man and is passionate about history being taught to the younger audiences.

Will the show tour? And if so, will you go with it?

I’m not sure if there’s a plan to tour it. I’d love to if I were available, but I’m touring My Princess Bride in January/February, so it would have to be after that.

So how do you plan to handle performing the two shows?

It will be overwhelming. On December 8th I have a three show day at the Kennedy Center, then an 8pm show of Santaland. I bit off a lot this winter, but as the saying goes, “Feast or famine.”. I’m going to eat while I have it.

Joe Brack as the 2011 Crumpet in Santaland Diaries

How do you make the transition in your head from playing young, courageous Homer to the obsessive adult David Sedaris-based character?

A character is a character. We all play characters everyday, whether we know it or not. I just trust in my process, warm up a bit, put on the costumes, and do the shows.

The Santaland Diaries
Closes December 23, 2012
Redrum at Fort Fringe
Enter:612 L Street, NW
Washington, DC
Tickets: $20
Thursdays thru Sundays
with added performances
Details and Tickets
Have you made any changes to this – your fourth year of playing Sedaris as the Macy elf? Has your view of his character changed over the years?

I’ve been playing Crumpet for six years. Twice in North Carolina and this will be my fourth year in DC. I have never done the show the same way twice. I’ve played him as an angry Ralph Kramden-type, as a wandering hobo, as an apprehensive performer, and this year we’ve some very different surprises in store. We’ve even added another performer! I think our returning audience members are in for some sound choices.

Anything else?

I am so very thankful for the opportunity to create theatre for a living. This DC theatre community is a really wonderful place to live and work. I’ve made some of the greatest friends here. I met and married my wife [the wonderful actress Tonya Beckman] here. Several of my life-long dreams have come to life here. I never want to take that for granted.

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