In Part 1 of a series of interviews with the cast of Avant Bard’s production of TAME., meet John Stange.
Joel: Where have local audiences seen you perform recently on stage?
John: Busy year. Working backwards: Antony & Cleopatra with Brave Spirits Theatre, 22 Boom! with Nu Sass Productions (at Capital Fringe), The Merry Death of Robin Hood with LiveArtDC, The Maid’s Tragedy, again with Brave Spirits Theatre, Middletown with NextStop Theatre Company, and The Dealer of Ballynafeigh at The Keegan Theatre. I’m also one of the producers of Shakespeare in the Pub, so if those shenanigans are your thing, you’ve probably seen me emceeing.
Why did you want to be part of the cast of TAME.?
I was part of the Avant Bard Scripts in Play Festival cast in the spring. It’s rare for me to read a new play and get so completely caught up in it. Usually with a workshop piece I’m very aware of the gaps, the ill-fitting parts, all that stuff you’re working to help the playwright navigate. It takes you outside of the life of the piece a bit as you think about mechanics and problem solving. TAME. had me securely in its world from top to tail. Even the audience talkback sessions were riveting. I went around telling people for weeks that it was the most artistically fulfilling workshop reading I’d ever done (also things like “I hope they put this one in their season” and “I hope I get to audition” :).
Who do you play in the show? How do you relate to him?
I play Daddy, whose daughter is Cat (played by Jill Tighe). I’m a big guy with a deep voice, so in the absence of matinee idol looks I end up playing a lot of villain roles, and that means painstakingly cultivating the humanity of a lot of superficially scary or otherwise unlikable dudes. TAME. is too smart to need all that. You start reading this script, and before Daddy even shows up you think you’re in some well-understood “scary authoritation father” trope… and then it pulls the rug out from under you. He’s a big guy with a certain temperament and a certain history alright… but that’s not the whole of who he is, or even the most important part.
What’s the show about from the point of view of your character?
A complex relationship with violence. The forces that keep apart the people who should be the closest to each other in the world. Opportunities to do the right thing—missed.
Playwright Jonelle Walker wrote TAME. in response to Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. For you as a performer, what do you especially like about her play and your role in it?
Jonelle’s writing is actor candy, in that it’s riddled with secrets. There’s a mountain of subtext in every scene. Entire novels live in the silence between the things we actually say. When a playwright is giving you material this sophisticated, accessing the inner life of a character and living with it moment-to-moment, is… well, it’s still hard, because that’s always hard. But let’s just say you don’t have to drill too far before you hit a nice thick vein of theatrical truth.
TAME. is set in the 1960s—a time before the sexual revolution, the Women’s Movement, Stonewall, and other dramatic social changes. What does the play have to say to audiences today?
That we’re not so far removed from that world, and that our society’s impulses to isolate, exclude, and normalize “uncomfortable” people are always still there under the surface… or, who are we kidding, right out in the open. On a completely unrelated topic, we’ll be opening the night before Election Day.
What is your favorite line or lines that your character says, and what is your favorite line that someone else says in the show?
Daddy’s the laconic one. There’s a book written in every “huh.” He’s got a page full of them in a scene I absolutely adore. I assure you you’ll know exactly what he’s thinking with just a handful of monosyllables.
My favorite line of the piece overall is one of Cat’s, which I’m not actually going to repeat here. Partly because it’s a major spoiler, and partly because it’s just so vicious. It’s the voice of someone lashing out because she can’t get anyone around her to even acknowledge that her own trauma is real.
What are you doing next on the stage?
I actually have no idea! My life’s been so overloaded that I haven’t been auditioning. I’ve got nothing booked past December right now.
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing TAME.?
I’m hoping for a few heated arguments in the lobby that spill out into the rest of the world. This is a piece that deserves to be talked about, with a lot of difficult themes that also deserve to be talked about more than they are.
TAME. plays November 3 to December 11, 2016, at Avant Bard performing at Gunston Arts Center, Theatre Two – 2700 South Lang Street, in Arlington, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (703) 418-4808, or purchase them online.