When Adam Immerwahr was asked to make his D.C. directorial debut with The Last Schwartz as the new artistic director for Theater J, he knew the actor he wanted to cast as Gene, the youngest son in the absurd, yet thoughtful Jewish comedy. He called Billy Finn and the actor was happy to sign on board.
“First and foremost, it was an opportunity for me to continue my working relationship with Adam,” Finn says. “We met last summer when he directed me in a show [By The Water] at a theater in New Jersey called Premier Stages, and he had seen me in my graduate MFA showcase the year I graduated from Brown/Trinity and invited me to audition.”
The connection was Immerwahr had graduated from Brown and after seeing his MFA performance, he knew it would be kismet that the two work together. Following By The Water, the pair also worked together on A Christmas Carol at McCarter Theatre in Princeton.
“It’s exciting to get another chance to work with him, and I was even more excited to get a chance to come back down to D.C., where I spent the first four years of my career working in its wonderful theaters,” Finn says. “I knew that I wanted to get back there eventually, in a place I still consider my artistic home.”
It’s been about four years since the New York-born Finn has been on a D.C. stage, but theatergoers know him from turns at Folger, Shakespeare and The Kennedy Center.
It was during Finn’s senior year at the University of Richmond that he saw a posting for an acting fellowship at the Shakespeare Theatre Company, and snagged the year-long internship, playing small roles.
“I was blessed with having a year’s worth of work right out of college at this amazing theater,” he says. “While I was there, I was auditioning for other roles and got cast at shows around the area. I really loved the scenes—great people, great artists—and I was getting work, so I ended up staying for four years. It was a great place to begin my career.”
Now that he’s back in D.C., he’s even helping to show Immerwahr some of his favorite hangouts from the past.
“We’re friends, and it’s great to spend time with him and we’re going to some of the bars and hanging out around D.C., and I can tell he’s really enjoying his time here and learning a lot about the scene, and it’s been a pleasure to be a small part of that,” Finn says. “He’s incredibly bright and incredibly talented, and everyone at Theater J is very excited to have him here; he’s a great artist and a great leader.”
The Last Schwartz
closes October 2, 2016
Details and tickets
The basis of the The Last Schwartz is that four Schwartz siblings have gathered in their parents’ home in New York to celebrate the one-year anniversary of their father’s death.
“He was this fierce Jewish patriarch who ruled with an iron fist,” Finn explains. “I play Gene, the youngest of the Schwartz clan, who is a commercial director hoping to work his way up in the business, and he’s at odds with his other siblings. He’s sort of a black sheep in a lot of ways.”
That isn’t helped when Gene brings a date, which isn’t appropriate to do.
Scripted by Deborah Zoe Laufer, the story deals with large themes in the modern age, such as family and faith.
“It’s a really great play. It has that great turn-on-a-dime thing where it goes from really funny to really biting and sometimes even tragic in the space of a line, a beat, a moment, and that’s rare when a writer can navigate those turns so successfully,” he says. “I think Deb Laufer has really done that with this play. Her intention was to make people laugh and think and she’s accomplished that for sure.”
Once the show is over, Finn will head back to his new apartment in Brooklyn, and he’d like to give New York a shot for a while. However, he’s not ruling out another return to D.C.
“Having been back here for almost a month has returned me to what I loved about this town in the first place,” he says. “It’s a wonderful place to work and so much great art is happening, and I hope I continue to be a part of it. It was home for four years, and I would be thrilled to have it be home again, spiritually, artistically or naturally.”