Stephen Gregory Smith has just completed performing in The Boy Detective Fails at Signature Theatre. I don’t mind telling you all that I was knocked out by his performance. Other credits include Assassins and Into The Woods at Signature, Regina at Wolf Trap and Adding Machine: A Musical at The Studio Theatre. He is currently writing a children’s musical called Eddie Allan Poe with Matt Conner which is currently playing at Creative Cauldron. This is one talented gentleman folks.
How did you become involved in the DC Theatre community?
I went to college at Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester, Virginia, where I met my partner of 15 years, Matt Conner. I followed him to DC after, and landed my first post college show at Signature Theatre, which was Gypsy in 2000. I have been lucky enough to keep working there for the past 11 years, as well as Arena Stage, The Kennedy Center, Wolf Trap, Olney Theatre Center, The Studio Theatre, Round House Theatre, and Ford’s Theatre. I seem to keep getting hired, so I am thankful to be of interest to local theatre producers and audiences.
You performed in Assassins, Pacific Overtures and Into the Woods at Signature Theatre, what is your favorite Sondheim musical?
I love all of them in their own right. Jack in Into the Woods is always close to my heart. I love dreamers and schemers, because I am one, myself. I adored the opportunity of doing Pacific Overtures, because few white males will ever have the opportunity to play a geisha girl, 10 year old boy, Samurai, and French Ambassador in one evening. I also loved working in the convention of Kabuki Theatre, which I am incredibly inspired by, and which continues to inform my artistic process in every show that I do. The physicality of Kabuki is so clear, and you know who each character is by a posture shift. I am in constant awe of this. Simplicity is everything. And Assassins was such an incredible concept production. I loved the opportunity to play the gemini switch of Balladeer and Lee Harvey Oswald. Basically, when playing in Sondheim’s sand box, all is good. You can’t really go wrong.
What are your favorite kinds of roles to play?
I seem to have a great success with neurotic young men. I am not the usual leading man, so the roles I usually play are young men with different emotional or developmental issues. From Jimmy Curry’s hyperactive and manic highs and lows in 110 in the Shade to the obsessive nature of Jonathan in tick,tick…BOOM!, to SHRDLU’s sexual repression and compulsive foot fetish in Adding Machine: A Musical, to Billy Argo’s OCD in The Boy Detective Fails…I enjoy these men. They are close to my heart and probably way too close to who I am for comfort.
Have you ever considered getting into writing or directing?
Yes! I have written Night of the Living Dead a musical based on the classic American horror film with my partner, Matt Conner, am currently writing the book for Eddie Allan Poe, a new children’s musical with my partner as well, and will be directing a show at Kensington Arts Theatre next October. Details to follow!
You just completed The Boy Detective Fails. What is the most exciting thing about working on a brand new musical?
The chance to create a role, to create the life and breath of him, and to be a part of the creative energy in the room. There is nothing quite like creating a new piece, and witnessing the shaping of a new work of art. And having the privilege of having a partner who constantly creates new work for the American Theatre, I get to witness the creation of a new work from its first measure to its closing night. It is quite emotional, and as all artists do, they hang their artwork in a gallery for all to judge, and depending on how it strikes the commenter on a certain night, they love it or hate it, while on another night they might hate it or love it, and while another pair of eyes sees something completely different. In the end, art is still (thankfully) subjective and up to the individual to see how it relates to their own sensibilities and life.
The least exciting thing about working on a new work is reading critics saying things about new work that discourage people from seeing it, which denies the audience member from coming into that gallery and viewing the art for themselves. I also hate that reviews of new works in this area take the opinion that this is the final incarnation of the piece, therefore making judgments on the piece as if it is totally finished, and cannot change on future incarnations. It was very telling that the reviews from both Variety and the New York Times for the Rep shows at Signature were full of constructive criticism but NO destructive and snarky comments, because there is no call for that. We are in the business of creation, not destruction. So go to a theatre and see a new work. Support them. Without new work, we will all be forced to just repeat old work, and frankly, there is nothing less exciting than that prospect to me.
Watch and listen to Stephen sing “Giants in the Sky” from Into the Woods.
Watch and listen to The song “Johnny and Me” from the new musical Night of the Living Dead by Stephen Gregory Smith and Matt Conner, sung by and starring Karissa Swanigan. Footage shot by Stephen Gregory Smith. Video editing by Nick Upchurch.