March 19, 2004
an interview with
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Mark Scarboro is currently appearing in Lobby Hero at Actorís Theatre, playing Jeff, the security guard at a Manhattan high-rise. Written by Kenneth Lonergan, the play was an off-Broadway hit in 2001, when produced at Playwrights Horizons and the John Houseman Theatre. It earned a Drama Desk Best Play nomination, an Outer Critics Circle Best Play Award, a John Gassner Playwrighting nomination and was included in the 2000-2001 Best Plays Annual. We saw this production a few days ago. Itís both serious and funny, a thought-provoking play, directed with nuanced skill by Lon Bumgarner. We sat down with Mark the other day and talked about this role and his evolution as a performer.|
Do you have a day job?
I did, until recently. I was doing prepress work at Classic Graphics. When I started working there, I had just signed with JTA, and worked night shift, so that I could do film work. I was taking acting classes with Lon Bumgarner, too, and the job allowed me to travel if I needed to, go to Wilmington, for instance. But obviously, in this market, I wasnít auditioning every day. Not for film work. I definitely wanted to act more, so I decided to try theatre.
Are you from Charlotte?
Did you start acting in Raleigh? Did you start acting in college?
I didnít know what a play was until I was 32 years old. Pretty much. Iíd seen some shows, but I was never a theatre buff. I was into music. In college, I got into playing guitar, and was playing hard, heavy rock music. I thought that was what I wanted to do, so I spent the next 7 years trying to make it in a band. I wound up in Charlotte when I got back from school. I had hair down to here, a goatee, and I was slam dancing onstage and raising hell. I loved it, but after 7 years I was burned out. Youíre always relying on 4 or 5 other people to be as be as passionate as you are. The last band I was in got kinda close - we got some recognition overseas, but never really took off. The other guys had been together since high school, and they had a fight that ended the band - another divorce. I dropped out of everything for about a year, but realized I had to have something to fulfill my creative self.
I dated someone who lived in Wilmington, and while I was there I got a gig as an extra on a movie. It was so cool. When I got back to Charlotte, I signed up for acting classes. I studied with Carl McIntyre, Terry Loughlin, and then with Lon. I booked Americaís Most Wanted, out of the blue, and without an agent. It was the story of the Loomis Fargo 18 million dollar robbery. I play David Gant, the skinny guy who took the money. Judy Simpson Cook was at JTA, and we were in a class together just after that. She suggested that the class be my audition, and kept me on pins and needles until the last class when she said theyíd sign me. I didnít get much work, unfortunately, and really wanted to keep acting, so I started doing the 9 by 9ís at Theatre Charlotte. That was in 2000.
Whose plays did you do?
The Playwrights in Progress Group was still going on then. Michael Davidson and Anne Marie Olivia had their stuff in development, so I started going their readings and was asked to do the 9 by 9ís. It was a great way to get started, in such an intimate atmosphere. The energy behind it was sort of like being in the band - you get the immediate response of an audience. Thatís hard to beat. The more I did, the more I liked it. Then, Jim Yost asked me to do a BareBones show. I did Skylight there in the spring of 2001, with Dana Childs and Alan McClintock. After that, I did Thumbs at Actorís Theatre. Lon directed that. Since then, Iíve had a pretty full onstage schedule.
What about you is like your character in Lobby Hero?
Whatís funny about this show is that my character, Jeff, is very like me. Everyone in this play is trying to do something important with their lives. Jeff isnít much of a decision maker, and for him to take a risk on anything is huge. Iím a terrible decision maker. Itís hard for me to make a decision about my career, my relationships, moving. Anything.
Do you try to learn your lines before rehearsals start?
Repetition works well for me. I read the play over and over again. Itís great to be off book as soon as you can be. With Santaland Diaries, Dennis Delamar, who directed the play, and I had a goal of having the lines down early. I kept up with the deadlines, and it was a freeing experience to be rid of the book.
What was the hardest part of doing a one-man show like Santaland Diaries?
Trying to make it less like stand-up, and more about drawing the audience in. Trying to make it seem like all those stories really happened to me. We may be doing it again this December, and if that happens, itíll be great to see where I can take the character.
Letís talk more about Lobby Hero. This play flows like a good conversation, and your character says whatever heís thinking.
He definitely lacks a filter. He could put a filter up, but I think heíd be miserable. I think his chatter is something of a defense. Heís constantly talking; he canít let there be a moment where he feels defeated.
When did you first read this play?
I read it on the way to Sundance Film Festival in January. I identified with Jeff immediately and knew I wanted the role.
Time Out New York called this "the best drama, the best comedy, the best romance, the best character study and the best issue play all in one."
I would agree with that statement. The play takes place in such a short time. All the characters have gone along fine until that one night when something happens that changes them all. Jeff canít help bugging everyone else to know more and more. He puts himself in the middle. The other characters think of themselves as doing good with their lives. Jeff aspires to being the good guy, but what does that really mean?
You play a character that is both a bit of a loser and an idealist.
Jeff wants to be positive, and he feels heís making progress, but he desperately needs encouragement wherever he can get it.
What do you think changes about your character, Jeff, in the course of the play?
I would like to hope that the end of the play is the beginning of an evolution for Jeff.
How do think the audience feels when the play is over?
I think they are hopeful about Jeff, but the question of whether this changes him is left hanging in the air.
What are you doing next?
Iím auditioning for NCTC, and going to some auditions in New York, meeting with a couple of directors. Michael Bush is back at Manhattan Theatre Club, and Iíve been in contact with him. Iíll see what thereís to do regionally. I have some friends doing film work in L.A., but everyone is encouraging me to stick with theatre for now. My immediate goals are to try to establish some relationships, try to do some regional theatre and get some wider visibility. I want to take the next steps to try to do things on a larger scale. This is my go-for-it time.
Best of luck. Thanks for talking with us.
~ Lydia Arnold