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Kunstler

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Jeff McCarthy
April 7, 2013

What is your job on this show?
actor.

What is your show about?
The radical lawyer, William Kunstler, is challenged by a young, black, female law student to justify his actions following a career of famous civil rights cases.

WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU WANTED TO WORK IN THE THEATER, AND WHY?
I did a bunch of plays in my garage as a kid. It seemed to have been my path pretty much from the very beginning. And then in 1964, I was a special guest on the the BOZO show in Los Angeles with my ventriloguist doll. My grandmother drove me home as I gunned a box of Good and Plentys and seemed to know from that moment that the writing was on the wall.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR PREVIOUS THEATER CREDITS?
I was trained classically at ACT out in California but when I got to New York and the agents learned that I could sing - well, the financial path of least resistance lead me to the musical theater. I've done a bunch of Broadway musicals: Urinetown, Side Show, Chicago, Beauty and the Beast, Zorba, Smile, Les Miz, City of Angels. But I've also done non musicals in New York and all over the country. All over the world, really. I've also had my share of tv and film work, here and in LA, thru the years. I could go on and on. But you asked.

DO YOU THINK THE AUDIENCE WILL TALK ABOUT YOUR SHOW FOR 5 MINUTES, AN HOUR, OR WAY INTO THE WEE HOURS OF THE NIGHT?
This wild man, William Kunstler, stirred a vast array of reactions from people. The New York Times called him "the most hated and most loved lawyer in America". He LOVED being famous - but he also played a major role in a whole shift of consciousness in this country. In the 3 years writer Jeffrey Sweet and I have been working on this - time and again we have come upon people that were far closer than six degrees to Kunstler. I was on the train just the other day with a man who was a court reporter for a few of Kunstler's cases. So we are really looking forward to the audience's direct engagement with this play - either because they knew him or because of the pretty major impact he had on the culture.

WHICH FAMOUS PERSON WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO GET A FAN LETTER FROM?
I would love to get a fan letter from the two women who honored us with the rights to do this play, Sarah and Emily Kunstler - his daughters. That we have effectively honored his life and work would mean a lot. Sarah and Emily wrote and produced the very interesting and moving documentary about their father's work, DISTURBING THE UNIVERSE. It was their film that inspired Jeff Sweet to write this play.

IF YOU HAD TEN MILLION DOLLARS THAT YOU HAD TO SPEND ON THEATRICAL ENDEAVORS, HOW WOULD YOU USE THE MONEY?
I would produce a film script that I have written about growing up with a schizophrenic mother.