Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Spotlight on Todd Blose

By • Oct 7th, 2006 • Category: Interviews

Listen to our discussion with Todd Blose [MP3 20:46 6MB].

Todd Blose photoMike: Welcome to the ShowBizRadio Spotlight. Today we’re talking with Todd Blose.

Laura: We saw Todd as Mickey and Lucious in Greetings! and the dentist Mr. Dussel in The Diary of Anne Frank and as Johnny Casino and and a high schooler in Grease. All of these shows were with Stage Door Productions in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Mike: So thank you for coming to talk with us Todd.

Todd: Thanks for having me. It’s my pleasure to be here.

Mike: We’ve seen you a few times and after we saw Greetings!, that was the first time we saw you in a show. We said,” Wow, we’ve got to get to know a little bit about Todd.” That’s such a neat character. Tell us a little bit about Greetings! and the character of Mickey and Lucious and what it was like. Maybe do a little recap of the show because most people probably haven’t seen it.

Todd: Greetings! is a show about a family that has sort of fallen, not fallen apart, but has fallen distant from each other. The family consists of the mother, the father, Mickey and his brother. It takes place at Christmastime. Everyone is coming together for the holidays. Mickey’s brother is bringing his fiance home to meet everyone. Mickey’s mother is excited because he (Mickey) is somewhat retarded in a sense. He’s lived at home his whole life. He is actually the older brother of the two. He’s starting to show signs of clarity if you will. Speaking intelligently and having an intelligent look on his face, whereas the normal Mickey has an absentminded look on his face. And so this has started and his brother is coming home for the holidays.

Everyone comes together and the father, Phil is his name. He’s kind of the cantankerous old man. He was in minor league baseball. Then he was in an accident and broke his hip and so he had to stop playing. So he’s rough and gruff and grumpy. Then he and Andy, Andy is the brother’s name, they sort of butt heads. Everyone comes home for Christmas and things are going as normal. As they usually do with this family. It’s fine at first, but then somebody says something that sets everyone off and it’s like firecrackers. Like,”pow, pow, pow” and everyone’s yelling at each other. Then the mother is talking about Mickey’s behavior and then Phil and Andy get into an argument and all of a sudden Lucious appears, now in the form of Mickey.

Lucious happens to be a 2000 year old spirit who has graduated from the classroom that is life. And he’s come to shed light on this family, to shed light on that there’s more to life and living than what you all see here. Mickey has in a sense has contacted Lucious by a cry of help saying can you please help my family. The time is drawing near is what I got the impression of, Mickey was probably going to be leaving soon and so he wanted to leave them with the message that there’s more to life in the end and Phil, the father, he’s sort of the antithesis, I guess of the show. He’s a hard core Catholic and he doesn’t believe in any of the stuff and it’s just nonsense.

Toward the end of the play he sort of comes to terms with the message that Lucious is giving. It turns out that everyone is all happy in the end. I mean it’s a good ending, it’s a good ending. But the play itself, it was hard core in a lot of parts. It made you think a lot. It was not billed as a Christmas play although it took place at Christmas and we showed it at Christmas. But it definitely was not a happy go lucky, feel good play. It was an awesome play to work with. I liked the message that it gave about how there is more to life than what we see around us.

Mike: So when you were doing Mickey, the slightly retarded child, person, man. When you were doing Mickey, the slightly retarded man, was that hard to do? Because you were siting there. You were distracted with a piece of wrapping paper and things like that. Watching you it was just fascinating to watch because it seemed very real.

Todd: What I like to do is I like to sit back and think about the character that I’m playing and try and draw from real life things and attitudes and mannerisms and ways of speech that I’ve experienced that would fit this character. First and foremost I didn’t want to offend anyone because I am not retarded. I don’t know first hand how to be that way. I have a friend, Shelly Valentine, whose sister is mentally challenged. I remember interacting with her on a number of occasions. I remember some of her mannerisms. Squeezing of the fingers. Rubbing of the fingers together, rocking back and forth. It’s nothing like outrageous, it’s just mild mannerisms and stuff. I talked with Shelly and said, “I’m doing this play. Can I sit with your sister or talk about her with you and get some pointers?”

I want to do this right and not embarrass myself or anyone else that’s working on this with me. So just from observation, from what I pretty much chew on. It’s mostly just observation and I like to take on what I see and internalize it and make it my own. I think that’s the best way to create your character.

Laura: So how then did you become Lucious? When we saw the play everything changed. Your accent changed. Everything. It was like a whole transformation. It was really good, but I’m sitting here thinking, “How in the world do you do something like that?”

Todd: During the rehearsal for the play, the director, Marcie Shaver, she would have us sit down and she would tell us, “I want you to become that character. I want you to become Mickey. Or I want you to become Lucious. Or I want you to become Andy.” Like Lucious, he’s a three thousand year old spirit. To you, what does someone who has been around that long. What would they sound like? What would they look like in their mannerisms, they’re holding themselves? I chose the guy who was like an ancient roman philosopher or statesman or someone of knowledge or substance back then because that’s just the image I got. Someone who’s almost regal in a sense.

It took a lot of practice and a lot of one on one coaching sessions with Marcie to just sit there and think about the message that he’s giving. Where is he coming from with it? How can he take something that is as cosmic as there’s more to life than what we see and put it in terms that this simple family in the suburbs of Pittsburgh can understand. It just took a lot of thinking and internalizing and contemplating and a lot of one on one sessions with Marcie.

Mike: So then, how does that vary with learning to be a dentist in Anne Frank?

Todd: I would have to say it was almost a complete 180. In Greetings! you have opposite ends of the spectrum with Lucious and Mickey. With the Diary of Anne Frank, I researched Mr. Dussel. The whole cast researched as we rehearsed. People would bring clips from Internet books in to show us what the costumes looked like. Blurbs on their personality. A couple of us also took a trip up to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC to get a more emotional connection with the story we were telling. That I think helped a lot because it really put into perspective what we were portraying. In a sense how you should portray it. Mr. Dussel was not as difficult as training for Lucious. It was more natural for me.

Laura: Johnny Casino in Grease. Was that a fun role to play?

Todd: Oh my gosh, yes it was. It was fun and hard at the same time. If you take the uptightedness of Mr. Dussel. Everything has to be just so so. And then you go to something like Johnny Casino in Grease who is the leader of the local boy band if you will, of the high school. It’s a complete, another 180 degree turn. I actually had to sing live for that role. Which, luckily, I can hold a tune every now and then so that part wasn’t as difficult. It was giving up being so stiff on stage and just getting into the role. You have to be larger than life up there. I mean, not only as the actor in the musical Grease, but as Johnny Casino who in the musical is a larger than life persona. That I actually had to get some help with from the outside.

My friend Vicki Washington, who also starred as the mother in Greetings! I asked her opinion because I like her take on characters and what not. I’m like, “How do you see Johnny Casino?” And she even helped me with my costume. She helped put it together because I’m like, “I don’t know where to go with this.” I researched on the Internet. I looked at pictures from various productions of Grease. And just again she told me, “I see him as larger than life.”

There’s this one scene in the beginning where Ben Stiller, as a camp counselor or camp director comes out at the beginning of the camp and is just dynamic and just to the point of obnoxious, you know. I watched it and I came back and I told her, ” You want me to act like that? That is crazy.” And she said, “No, not exactly like that. But take qualities that fit with you and incorporate them.” It was a fun role. It was hard because I’m not usually outgoing and larger than life. But it worked out.

Mike: And then you were also a high schooler in that when you weren’t being Johnny Casino. What was that like working with 20 or 30 other people?

Todd: I was one of the older people in the cast. I’ll admit that. It was weird. Once the set was built, and once we had our costumes, like during dress rehearsal. I think that’s, for me, that’s when it finally clicked. You kind of have to detach yourself from reality to any kind of show. But especially to portray a high schooler when you’re not a high schooler. You’ve been out in the real world. You’re in the sense an adult. It helps a lot just to detach yourself. Most of the other actors and what not were high school kids at the time. Some were in college. But just being around those people. Feeling their vibes, the set. Just thinking, just imagining yourself. What were you like back then? Just incorporating that into your role. It wasn’t really that hard for me. I don’t know if that says a lot. But it was, you know, once everything is in place, everything just kind of clicks and so you just kind of become the role that you’re in.

Laura: How and why did you get started in theater?

Todd: How and why? Well the how I can say went back to. . . . I was in elementary school. I was in the fourth or fifth grade. I was living overseas and did a church musical, or a holiday musical if you will. I played the donkey that carried Mary to the stable before she gave birth to baby Jesus. The premise of that play, of course it was my very first one. It was the birth. It was Christmas Eve and all the animals in the stable were talking about it. The angels were talking about it. That was a musical as well and that’s how I got started. And ever since then I’ve just loved pretending. Playacting. Just imagining you’re someone else and going off in that world for that amount of time is just fun for me. It was just a lot of fun.

And why? I like to read a lot of books. And when I read I totally immerse myself in the world that’s being created in the book. For me, acting does the same thing, but on a more intense level. Because you’re not just using your imagination when you’re reading something. When you’re acting, you become that person. You take yourself and you go there. I think a lot of people when they come to see plays, they want to have that feeling, too. When you go see a movie or see a play or read a book, you kind of want to get away from the real world for an hour and a half to two hours and just enjoy being here and stuff. I like to think that I help contribute to that. Somehow in my own little way. So that’s probably the why.

Mike: Do you have any plans to work backstage, like directing or producing or do you want to stay on stage?

Todd: I think for now I’ll just stay on stage. I haven’t received any formal training in producing or directing so I wouldn’t know where to begin at all. Whereas with being on stage, I just have so much fun doing it. And I’m definitely learning. Especially with directing styles. I’ve worked under three directors so far and each one’s style is distinctly their own and so I think by working on stage, I learn a lot by observing and just picking up little pieces here and there. I think being on stage you get a feel for what goes into making a production. You get a feel for the directing. The technical side, set building, the costumes. So I think being on stage is a good place if you want to get a very basic elementary look at what goes on into making a play. And if you feel better doing something more specific, you can go get training.

Laura: What are your long range plans or goals?

Todd: Now that I have the acting bug again, and I think I’ve made the decision to start doing stuff that I like to do as opposed to what I should do. Because I really love acting and doing that. So I’m going to start taking classes, acting classes. I’m moving up to Washington DC next month in September. And I know the opportunities up there are just abounding. It’s just crazy. And I hope, you know, get my foot in the water and see what’s out there. If I have to start from the bottom and work my way up again. I’ve done that many times in my life before with other things in my life. You know I’m no stranger to it. So, yeah, I just hope to get my feet in the water up in the big city and then see where that takes me.

Laura: What would you consider is the value of theater or why does theater matter?

Todd: It matters because it allows you to express yourself as an artist expresses themselves. A painter or a sculptor or even a music artist express themselves in their own venue and talent. For me, and I think with a lot of actors it works this way. On a personal level, it allows you to escape for some X amount of time and another place. It allows you to learn. For my role as Mr. Dussel and Johnny Casino, I had to learn about the Holocaust. I had to learn what it was like to live back in World War II. Or I had to learn to sing as a rock star as opposed to singing in a choir.

It’s important because it allows you to express yourself in ways that maybe you can’t express being your own person or through music or through what not. It lets you learn about so much, so many things. You can take on any kind of role. And if you just apply yourself and work at it, any one can do any kind of role I think. You just have to be dedicated to it. It provides an escape for people and the actors and the directors that provide that for people are just providing a great service to our society I think. I would forever want to be involved in that now that I realize what I personally want to do and what I know I can do.

Mike: Back to the dream role. Let me say that again. What would your dream role be if you could be any character in any show, what would it be?

Todd: I really like the show West Wing. The fast paced nature of the show. How everyone was bouncing off of each other. I just really loved the dynamics. I watched the series finale and they had specials where they had the actors sort of reminiscing. I think being on a drama show, something that would let me work and express and really deliver a good show, a good presentation. Maybe not so much as an action film because that’s a lot of flash and bang and sometimes the acting wasn’t that great, but the action shots were awesome. I’d want something that would allow me to show, to become better as an actor. That would let me grow.

Movies are big. You get a lot for it and it requires a lot, but it’s like you do that movie and then you take a break and then if you become successful you move on to that, on to the next one. I love watching TV. So I think being on TV would be a lot of fun for me because you get, especially if you’re in a series that lasts for say seven years, as most good series tend to last. You develop bonds with the cast. They become your family. I think a comedy or drama role would be fun for me. I’d like to do that the most. I like to think I’m funny sometimes. I think I can be if need be. I’m not a natural born comedian.

Laura: Anything else you’d like to share with us today?

Todd: Just that I appreciate this opportunity to come and talk. This is my first time doing an interview like this and I think it’s really cool. Again I guess just to tell people you know. Follow what you want to do, not what other people tell you you should do because in the end it’s what you yourself tell yourself that what matters and will probably make you the most happy.

Mike: Ok. We’ve been talking with Todd Blose.

Laura: And now, on with the show.

Todd’s web site:

Interview recorded on August 20, 2006.

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