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Onstage / TEN QUESTIONS FOR David Hayes

Pastor Paul in THE CHRISTIANS at Road Less Traveled Productions

Photo by Peter Andrew Lusztyk


What’s your relationship to this show?

When I first read the play, I loved it for the lyrical quality of its prose. It reads like a long poem. I have great admiration for my character, Pastor Paul. He is a good man who takes his role as shepherd of his flock very seriously. Tragically, he realizes that his flock isn’t prepared to accept the changes he counsels. Heartbreaking.


How did this show strike you as someone who once considered being a priest?

[Laughs] My brush with the priesthood, the Jesuit order, happened when I was young—eighteen. I was already dating my wife. My best friend was a priest; he died. I know many priests. I’m struck by how people are drawn to them because of the collar they wear, the status it brings them. I imagine that’s addictive. You get a whiff of the messianic from the attention of others. What’s humbling, though, is when you realize, as Pastor Paul does, that they aren’t drawn to you so much as what you represent. So, when you divert from those powerful faith claims, you instantly lose credibility in your flock’s eyes.


What’s the best acting advice you were ever given?

“Don’t act.” Meaning: be natural. Make everything you say and do on stage spontaneous.


What’s your best “the show went on” moment?

I was disgustingly ill a few times. Once, I threw up right before I went on stage. Another time I had a whopping cold, had the stage manager plant tissue boxes all over the set, and spent the night traveling from one box to the next. I felt so bad for my scene partners.


What’s the role that got away? 

Many years ago, I auditioned for Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Didn’t get it. Now I’m too old. Oh, well.


What line from a former play have you never forgotten and why?

I played three characters in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot and one of them, Butch Honeywell, gave a long speech at the play’s end in which he said: “Do you know who W. H. Auden is Mr. Iscariot? W. H. Auden was a poet who said, ‘God may reduce you on Judgment Day to tears of shame, reciting by heart the poems you would have written had your life been good.’” Every time I delivered that line, I could feel the audience members quaking and squirming in their seats. Palpable. 


What “against type” role are you dying to play?

I’m often cast as the good guy, someone with whom the audience emotionally sympathizes. So I love to play villains. I’ve done it a few times, in David Mamet’s Race and Beau Willimon’s Farragut North. Loved it!


What’s your classic actor nightmare dream? 

I have a recurring dream in which I walk on stage and not only don’t know my lines, but have lost my ability to speak.


What audition do you want a do-over on and why?

When I was young and living in New York, I went on an audition, read the sides and the character sketch, and thought I had a chance. When I finally got in front of the casting directors—it was for a film—they perked up, and I felt a surge of optimism. So I read for the part, looked up when I was done, and all their faces were on the floor. Awful.


Plugs for the rest of the season or next?

So far, I am cast in Tony Kushner’s The Illusion at Road Less Traveled. Also, my first novel, Holy Ones Get Hurt, is available on Amazon. Check it out!      


The Christians is at Road Less Traveled Productions May 20 (roadlesstraveledproductions.org, 629-3069).


Read more on this month's theater scene here


Playwright Donna Hoke writes about theater for Spree and Forever Young.


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