In Part 6 of a series of interviews with the director and cast of Prince George’s Little Theatre’s Once Upon a Mattress, meet Ken Kienas and Shane Conrad.
Joel: Tell our readers where they may have seen you on local stages.
Ken: I mostly perform at the Bowie Playhouse. I’ve acted in dozens of plays there, including Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Big Daddy), and Over the River and Through the Woods. Since it’s only about 5 minutes from my home, it’s very easy for me to jump in the car and make it to call times for shows.
Shane: I just moved to the area around the time of the May auditions, so this is my first show locally. In Pittsburgh, one of my favorite roles was as Jesus in their premiere revival of Godspell..
Tell us about the character you play and how you relate to him. Does this character have any of your personality or character traits?
Ken: I play the Wizard. The Queen and he conspire to ensure that the Princess, Fred, doesn’t pass the test to marry the Prince. Although I wouldn’t call him evil, he is a bit of an opportunist as he kisses up to the Queen. The Wizard loves to show off his magic. What actor doesn’t love to show off a little/lot to his audience?
Shane: The Jester is outwardly fun loving and entertaining, but deep down he’s just a guy trying to fit in. (Sounds a lot like me in high school!) He seems to always be behind the scenes facilitating the action and I picture myself as a facilitator in real life as well.
What has been the most fun playing this character?
Ken: It’s been fun learning how to do some magic tricks. I spent one night going through catalogs looking for tricks that I could possibly incorporate into the show. When I was in South Carolina for vacation, the fireworks store was the site of my shopping spree. Unfortunately, most of the “bangs” that I brought home I can’t bring on the stage.
Shane: Wielding my Jester Staff! I get to thoroughly annoy everyone in a 20 yard radius. They’re all jealous of my bells. My partner in crime is the Minstrel, and I enjoy running around chasing wenches and stealing wine!
What have been some of the challenges you have had preparing for your role and how did your director help you with these challenges?
Ken: Frank, our director, is really good at helping the cast look at the little bits that you do to make the play funnier. I do a song with the Queen where I follow her around the stage with a foot stool trying to get her sit. It’s very funny if done right and Frank’s really good at coming up with those little action pieces that add to the humor in the show.
Shane: Dancing! I never saw myself as a dancer. Sure, I’ve flopped around awkwardly onstage for many shows, but a true dancing role is definitely a new challenge. Dancing (and singing) “Very Soft Shoes” is a lot of fun because of the style of the music, and I have the whole stage to myself!
Which character in the show is most like you, and why?
Ken: I identify with Winnifred, the princess who gets her prince. She’s a bit of a goof but clearly enjoys life. And, after all, who doesn’t want to win the prince?
Shane: Hmmm…. I think I am actually a combination of the Jester and the Minstrel. I fancy myself as a Ladies Man who can sing.
What do you admire most about your fellow cast members?
Ken: Everyone is dedicated to making the show be a good we can possibly make it. All the cast (and production staff) work really hard and are dedicated toward putting on show the audience will enjoy. I think it shows because we have a lot of fun working together and that’s what community theater is about.
Shane: Our cast never ceases to have fun. Every mistake is a laughing moment. We crack each other up a lot! It’s been great to get to know everyone involved in the show, since I am new to the area, having just moved from Pittsburgh.
What do you want audiences to take with them after watching you perform in Once Upon a Mattress?
Ken: There are shows that have messages and there are shows that make you smile. This show definitely makes you smile. I want the audience to come out of our show humming a tune with a skip in their step as they go back to their cars.
Shane: I hope they say, “Dear God, that Jester made me laugh, cry, and dance – all at the same time! His new wife is a lucky woman! She should take him to Applebee’s for late night appetizers!” Something like that would be good.
What is your favorite line that your character says? What is your favorite line that another character says?
Ken: It’s not so much the lines as the little looks that we give the audience. I think it’s very funny when in my egostic way I acknowledge that I got eight standing ovations, not seven as the Minstrel praises one of my past performances. Another “bit” that I just love is the look of horror that Lady Larken give the audiences when she realizes that she has torn up Princess Fred’s dress to mop up a mess on the floor.
Shane: My favorite line is in response to the King’s pantomime. I get to say “Dust. Sounds like dust….ummm.. LUST!” I also really like this line that Sir Harry says; “Why should we suffer all our lives just because you had a moment of weakness?!”
Once Upon a Mattress plays through September 26, 2015 at Prince George’s Little Theatre performing at Bowie Playhouse – 16500 White Marsh Park Drive, in Bowie, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 937-7458 and press 1, at the door, or online.
Meet the Director and Cast of Prince George’s Little Theatre’s ‘Once Upon a Mattress’: Part 1: Director Frank Pasqualino.
Meet the Director and Cast of Prince George’s Little Theatre’s ‘Once Upon a Mattress’: Part 2: Meg Nemeth and Mike Culhane.
Meet the Director and Cast of Prince George’s Little Theatre’s ‘Once Upon a Mattress’: Part 3: Linda Swann and John Shackleford.
Meet the Director and Cast of Prince George’s Little Theatre’s ‘Once Upon a Mattress’: Part 4: Ken Kemp.
Meet the Director and Cast of Prince George’s Little Theatre’s ‘Once Upon a Mattress’: Part 5: Erin Paluchowski and John Culhane.
Meet the Director and Cast of Prince George’s Little Theatre’s ‘Once Upon a Mattress’: Part 6: Ken Kienas and Shane Conrad.
Review of Once Upon a Mattress by Danielle Angeline on DCMetroTheaterArts.