This Dallas actor's skills are more than just black and white
Pegasus Theatre's Living Black & White plays are a Dallas institution, but here's the thing: even without the amazing makeup and effects, the plays are still very funny. The film noir-ish whodunnits featuring hapless detective Harry Hunsacker had, for 16 years, playwright Kurt Kleinmann as their star. But beginning in 2013, Pegasus player Scott Nixon began to alternate with Kleinmann, until the original Harry retired from the role in 2016.
Now Nixon is the bumbling sleuth full-time, and the troupe is re-mounting one of its classic shows in its trademarked RadioVizion style. RadioVizion means no black and white makeup, but rather focuses on evoking the experience and glamour of being in a live radio studio of the 1930s and '40s. Live sound effects, actors at period-style live microphones, and costumes suggestive of the era complete the effect.
While Another Murder, Another Show! plays at the Bath House Cultural Center through March 25, Nixon took the time to fill out our survey of serious, fun, and sometimes ridiculous questions.
Name: Scott Nixon
Role in Another Murder, Another Show!: Harry Hunsacker
Previous work in the DFW area: For the most part, over the last 10-plus years, I’ve been involved with many shows at Mainstage Irving/Las Colinas (formerly ICT) in virtually all capacities: actor, director, designer, producer, stagehand, you name it. I just love it all. Beyond that, I’ve appeared in many other theaters such as Runway Theatre, Theatre Three, and Theatre Arlington, to name a few.
Hometown: I was born on Carswell AFB in Ft. Worth and raised in northeast Tarrant County. We moved a bit, but for the most part I lived in Watauga and went to North Richland Hills High School.
Where you currently reside: Euless, Texas. I’m a proud Eulessian. Eulessite? Eulessopian!
First theater role: Well, I could say Marley’s Ghost in a fourth-grade production of A Christmas Carol, replete with chains and white sheet. But I like to think my theater “career” started with a minor role singing the Mason’s Song in Working. Not a terribly good show, but it has its moments.
First stage show you ever saw: The first live theater experience was a touring production of Annie at the Tarrant County Convention Center in 1980-something. Early '80s. I was 10 or 11 at the time. It didn’t have a lasting impact on me, though, because I didn’t immediately want to get on stage.
Moment you decided to pursue a career in theater: This is tangentially related to the prior question. The “moment” for me was the second show I ever saw: Noises Off at Circle Theatre in 1987. I swore it was the funniest thing I had ever seen in my life. I think what struck me was that it wasn’t TV or the movies — it was live and right in front of me. Somehow that made it more accessible and within my realm of possibility.
Most challenging role you’ve played: I’d have to say Denny from A Steady Rain. He’s a complex character. A cop who started off with good intentions, but who becomes corrupt both professionally and morally. A) It’s tough to explore dark areas within a character and find that something within you to make it honest. And B) having to do it in a small, intimate space where people you know (including your mother sitting three feet away) are listening to you speak in explicit and vulgar ways about women, sex, race, and violence. You really gotta dig deep to push through that.
Special skills: Most of my “special skills” fall into the creative sorts. For instance, I like to sew. I started in high school and haven’t stopped since. Additionally, I like to create “art” in almost any medium. Acrylic paints, woodworking, pencil, clay and wax sculpture, welding, charcoal, watercolors, inks, embroidery, papier–mâché, and so on. I have a “utility” room in my house that stores a whole bunch of materials, tools, supplies, and unfinished projects.
Something you’re REALLY bad at: I am the absolute worst at selling myself. I’m terrible at talking myself up. “Hey, come see this show I’m in!” is something you will never hear me say. It’s confidence. Being outwardly confident is something that evades me and that impacts how I talk about myself. Mirrors, cameras, and recording devices are the bane of my existence.
Current pop culture obsession: Is learning about “violations of Constitutional law” considered pop culture?
Last book you read: Man, it has been so long since I’ve read a book, and I hate that I’ve let it go so long. It was a Terry Pratchett Discworld book, I think maybe The Last Continent. There was a time not so long ago when I had to truck down to the laundromat for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning. That was my prime reading time because there wasn’t anything to distract me. And because I was reading then and enjoying it, I would find more time to read outside of laundry time. That all changed when I got a washer and dryer. Odd, I find it easy to read a book, but hard to start one.
Favorite movie(s): Oy! These questions make my left-half brain argue with my right half. Raiders of the Lost Ark will always hold a special place in my heart, but that wouldn’t necessarily keep me from choosing to watch something like Se7en if both movies were on at the same time. My favorite genres though are definitely psychological thrillers. Especially if there’s a revenge aspect to it.
Favorite musician(s): Ouch! Left and right are at it again! Born in ’70, cut my teeth musically in the '80s, and developed a taste for your typical popular alt-rock bands like Nirvana, STP, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, etc. Now, don’t go expecting that I can get into the real history of any genre or band. My interests rarely ever went beyond hit songs of any band with two exceptions. I think I talk about Simon & Garfunkel and Barenaked Ladies ad nauseum.
Favorite song: I’m really beginning to dislike the word “favorite.” It’s making me think too hard! I suppose that a favorite song has to be one that you just absolutely HAVE to listen to when you hear it play. And then maybe again and again. There are plenty of those for me, but I also think the song has to move you somehow.
And there’s one particular song that immediately jumps to mind. I have to hear it start to finish. Sometimes more than twice. And often when I try to sing along, I can’t because I tend to get a little choked up when I try. Hell, just thinking about it is making me tear up a bit. It’s called “For Emily, Whenever I may Find Her”
Dream role: Easy. Play: Lenny (Of Mice And Men). Musical: Archibald (The Secret Garden).
Favorite play(s):Of Mice And Men, Lend Me a Tenor, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Biloxi Blues, The Gin Game. Most plays by Mamet, Simon, and McDonagh.
Favorite musical(s): All Sondheim. Yes, even Anyone Can Whistle and Merrily We Roll Along. With particular interest in Sweeney Todd and Sunday in the Park with George. I also really like rock musicals like Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Chess, Spring Awakening. Big River is a big one too. It’s got a powerful punch for me.
The tough part here is that listening to a recording is, of course, vastly different than watching one live, because you also have the book or script. For instance, I can listen to Company all day long, but I’ve seen it a couple of times and I don’t think I will again. I’m just not a fan of the book.
Favorite actors/actresses: Versatility is the key component for me. You can have a good actor who’s a one-trick pony. That’s how I see Bruce Willis for instance. And I loved him when I was in high school. Moonlighting was must-see TV for me. But for the most part, he’s the same kind of character in his movies. I still like him, but I never feel like I’m seeing the character he’s portraying.
Now if you want to understand versatility, look no further than Gary Oldman. Holy cow, that guy sinks into the people (fictional and historical) he portrays. I get lost in the character and it is amazing. Kevin Spacey is another one, as is Christian Bale. Of course, everyone loves Meryl. Well, most everyone. And she’s always been a favorite. But I’ve got to say Frances McDormand and Melissa Leo also pull me right in.
Favorite food: To look at me is to know I’m not very particular about what I eat. I love eggs, cheese, pizza, burgers, tacos, sushi, and all the things everyone else loves. It’s probably easiest if I just say I absolutely loathe asparagus and that’s about it.
Must-see TV show(s): Ok, here we go. Deep breath. The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Arrested Development, Mr. Robot, Westworld, Better Call Saul, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, Silicon Valley, Vice News Tonight, Deadwood, Treme, The Wire, True Detective, Homeland, Preacher, Fear the Walking Dead, Sneaky Pete, Mad Dogs, Mozart in the Jungle, The Expanse, Narcos, Stranger Things, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Black Mirror, Shameless, Ray Donovan, and I’m probably forgetting a dozen more at least.
Something most people don’t know about you: After getting my voter's registration card, the first time I ever voted was the 2016 election and I was 46.
Place in the world you’d most like to visit: I’m such a homebody. I love going places. Especially with [girlfriend Stephanie] Felton. And she’s almost always the one to say, “Ok, we’re going to such-and-such place in two weeks. Make sure you get the time off of work.” And I do. I don’t think I have a particular place in the world.
Pre-show warm-up: 5-10 minutes of physical warm-ups, 15 minutes of vocal warm-ups, followed by a couple shots of Jack. No really, I’m just kidding. I don’t do any physical or vocal stuff.
Favorite part about your current role: He gets the lion share of the laughs. I’m not even kidding. I love the character because he makes people laugh a lot. In some ways I am a lot like Harry. I can be as oblivious and self-involved as he is. So it sort of comes naturally to me to behave that way, and when people laugh I feel like the king of the world.
Most challenging part about your current project: Not playing grab-ass with the other people onstage. This is a staged reading of a Black & White script we did a few years ago and more than half the cast has returned, though some are playing different roles. We’re pretty confident of the material and that leads to a lot of jackassery because we’re so comfortable.
Most embarrassing onstage mishap: I was playing Tito Merelli in a matinee performance of Lend Me a Tenor at MILC (then ICT). During the play, Tito is presumed dead though (SPOILER ALERT) is actually heavily drugged and revealed to be alive at the final moment of the first act. For the approximately 10-minute duration of being “dead” I was visible, lying on a bed just left of center and covered by blankets, including much of my face, making it difficult to breathe.
Now, this production came at a particularly tumultuous time in my personal life, and regular restful sleep was neither regular nor restful. So I was tired to begin with. That coupled with the warm blanket and warmer stage lights bearing down while I was trying to be “dead still” caused me to fall asleep onstage while a scene was playing out behind me in another room. I don’t know how long I was out. Seconds or minutes, I couldn’t tell you.
Fortunately the bellhop character, played by Aaron White, made a loud yelping noise and startled me awake. I’m not sure if anyone in the audience saw it, though I can’t imagine at least one person out of 240 didn’t notice the big guy in the bed suddenly twitch. Suffice it to say my heart was pounding and it took a great deal of effort in those few seconds for me to remember where I was and what the hell I was supposed to be doing.
Career you’d have if you weren’t in theater: My non-theatre career is being a systems analyst for a giant insurance company. But if I weren’t in either of those things, I’d like to think I’d be doing something artsy-ish.
Favorite post-show spot: Somewhere quiet.
Favorite thing about Dallas-Forth Worth: That’s tough. I don’t take as much pride or interest in my hometown as some people do. I guess it’s that this is where my family is. I don’t have to travel far to see them. Azle is as far as I need to go to see my mother. But if my daughter and grandson leave, then I probably won’t be far behind.
Most memorable theater moment: Another MILC show several years ago. This one was called Ten Nights in a Barroom. It’s an old, and I mean old, play with music based on a temperance novel of the mid-19th century. Large cast and a lot of fun was had. I was playing the owner of the saloon and had a nice little song to sing. Nick Haley played my son, and begins the play as a young teetotaler and eventually succumbs to the vice of alcohol.
Toward the end of the play he’s completely wasted, and we have an argument which ends with him taking a bottle from me and striking me over the head, killing me. The bottle was a breakaway type, designed to break on impact. It was a great effect and we loved doing it, but the bottles were not cheap, so we only had a limited number to work with.
One evening, the transfer of the bottle from me to him ran afoul somehow. Who’s to blame is still a subject of debate. In any event, the bottle falls to the floor and shatters. There was a split-second of stunned silence as we both look down at what was supposed to be the murder weapon and then at each other.
It was at that moment I made the conscious effort to do absolutely nothing and let it be his problem. I’m not exactly proud of it, but moments like that don’t always bring out the best in people. So I turned away as I usually did to prepare for the bottle, and rather being struck with a bottle, Nick screams “HII-YAH!” and gives me a karate chop to the back of the head, which causes me to die, repressing laughter.