Onstage / Ten Questions for Steve Copps
Toxie, in THE TOXIC AVENGER, Second Generation Theatre
Opens October 25
The Toxic Avenger
Second Generation Theatre Company, at Shea’s Smith Theatre.
What’s your relationship to Toxic Avenger?
My first introduction was the early nineties cartoon Toxic Crusaders and the subsequent action figures that were made. The cartoon was based on the films, which I’ve yet to see, but my wife, Kelly (one of the producers of SGT), and I saw the Off-Broadway production of The Toxic Avenger at New World Stages in 2009.
What’s the best acting advice you were ever given?
My freshman year at SUNY Fredonia, I was cast in Damn Yankees, which was directed by Buffalo stage veteran Tom Loughlin. He used to say, “It’s Acting 101. You listen; you react!” A few years later, another professor—Tim Klein—said, “How would you react to these situations, these given circumstances?” No matter the piece, be it absurdist comedy or romantic drama, the actor needs to portray the truth; audiences can see through BS.
What’s your best “the show went on” moment?
In 2014, at MusicalFare, my wife and I played opposite each other in Adrift in Macao. One day, spiders were descending from the rafters in full force and, during one of our duets, Kelly and I noticed one trying to steal the scene. She came down on her web and featured so prominently in the scene that the audience took notice and started murmuring about the confident arachnid. During a short break in the music, I took off my fedora and swatted at the spider. The audience cheered. After the performance, we went out into the lobby and a few patrons asked if the spider was part of the show!
What’s the role that got away?
My senior year at SUNY Fredonia, I participated in a masterclass given by Broadway veteran Victoria Clark. She said that I should play Tony in West Side Story. A few months later, I was cast as A-Rab in West Side Story in North Carolina and asked to understudy Tony. My dream had come true! Except, wait, I never got to go on as Tony because the actor playing him never called out.
What line from a former play have you never forgotten and why?
“And he said to me...he said, ‘Ed Hickey was a little spiffed this evening, or could I be mistaken?’ Well, of course, he was not mistaken. I think the world and all of Ed, but he was spiffed.” These lines are from the Mary Chase play Harvey, and spoken by Elwood P. Dowd, which I played at the tender age of twenty-one. I’ll never forget these lines because my father-in-law, Steve Jakiel, won’t let me! It’s one of our favorite pastimes to quote this play any chance we get.
What “against type” role are you dying to play?
I’d have to say either The Leading Player in Pippin or Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson in Hamilton. I have to show the world that I can dance and rap at the same time!
What’s your classic actor nightmare dream?
Without fail, I’m on stage and everyone around me is carrying on the show—dialogue, choreography, tech elements. Everyone else is doing great!
I’m lost and I ask questions, ask for help even. No answer. I’m being completely ignored. The audience stares at me and I am stuck.
What audition would you love to do over?
My first professional audition came during my junior year of college. While in New York on spring break, I was seen by the casting directors of the 2008 Broadway revival of Sunday in the Park with George. I would love to go back and tell twenty-one-year-old Steve that he should chill out, stop being so nervous, and realize that the casting director is interested in what makes Steve unique; stop pretending that you know what the casting director wants and trying to tweak or tinker something until you’re burned out. Just be yourself!
What’s the best thing you’ve seen recently and why?
I was fortunate enough to see Hadestown last month on Broadway and was blown away at the musicianship, storytelling, and genuine fun that everyone was having up on stage. Locally, my favorite shows of this past season were Frost/Nixon at Irish Classical Theatre and Big Fish at Second Generation Theatre Company.
Plugs for the next season?
The Bridges of Madison County, opening January 10 at Kavinoky; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, opening March 12 at Shea’s 710; The Curious Case of the Watson Intelligence, opening April 23 at Road Less Traveled Productions.