Learn to jitterbug and control madness with this witty Dallas actor
The tight-knit crew at Ochre House Theatre is known for wearing many hats, with its members often writing, directing, and playing musical instruments in addition to acting. With the new musical Kaptain Kockadoo, it's Carla Parker's turn to wield the pen — her first for the company — while also directing a group of Ochre House favorites.
That includes Ben Bryant, who made a spectacular mark in 2014 with his star turn in The Passing Show, playing '50s alt-comic Lord Buckley. Now he's a children's television show host with the dark determination of a religious zealot, doing whatever it takes to get to heaven.
Before Bryant opens in Kaptain Kockadoo on August 19 (it runs through September 9 at the Ochre House's theater on Exposition Avenue), he took the time to fill out our survey of serious, fun, and sometimes ridiculous questions.
Name: Ben Bryant
Role in Kaptain Kockadoo: The titular Kaptain.
Previous work in the DFW area: 16 years of stage, video and voiceover roles, including eight years as Nigel Grouse in Pegasus Theatre’s Living Black & White series, two successful FIT runs with Bootstraps Comedy Theater’s The Boxer, and one ill-fated appearance as an obviously overweight fitness coach for a public school wellness program.
Hometown: Greenville, TX
Where you currently reside: Dallas, TX
First theater role: The prophet Elijah in a production for Mrs. Hickey’s kindergarten class at Greenville Christian School. Calling down Old Testament wrath in my dad’s bathrobe.
First stage show you ever saw: Very likely A Christmas Carol at Dallas Theater Center. Possibly the animatronic revue at Showbiz Pizza. The records are vague.
Moment you decided to pursue a career in theater: March, 1994 in the Greenville Municipal Auditorium, rehearsing for the spring school production. I was looking up into the fly rail, enjoying the general ambience of the theater, and figured if others could get paid for this, why not me? I was staggeringly ignorant at 14.
Most challenging role you’ve played: Lord Buckley in The Passing Show at the Ochre House, which for those who missed it (and there were plenty) involves a one-man retelling of King Lear. Also notable was Sweeney in Dealer’s Choice, which required me to portray not only drunkenness but competent meal preparation.
Special skills: Rewiring six-inch Fresnel spotlights, maintaining begonias, cheddar biscuits, jitterbug.
Something you’re REALLY bad at: First impressions.
Current pop culture obsession: Not sure if it’s actually an obsession, or even that popular, but I watch a lot of Red Letter Media’s Best of the Worst series on YouTube: a group of sardonic Milwaukee filmmakers endure and digest B-movies and direct-to-video schlock.
Last book you read:Billy by Pamela Stephenson. The only extant biography of Billy Connolly, at least until he snuffs it and we start getting the “unauthorized” drivel.
Favorite movie(s):Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Big Lebowski, Clue, Rio Bravo.
Favorite musician(s): Benny Goodman, Glen Campbell, Oscar Peterson, B. Wolf, Lena Horne.
Favorite song: "Satin Doll" by the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
Dream role: Higgins in Pygmalion, George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, The Captain in The Father.
Favorite play(s): To perform: The Boxer. To watch: The 39 Steps.
Favorite musical(s):My Fair Lady, followed swiftly by Chicago and The Producers.
Favorite actors/actresses: Jeff Bridges, Tom Lenaghen, Harold Lloyd, Myrna Loy, Rita Hayworth, Kim Lyle.
Favorite food: Chicken fried venison backstrap, served with mashed potatoes and Kraft macaroni and cheese. A-1 sauce welcome, but not mandatory.
Must-see TV show(s): Mystery Science Theater 3000, original and revival series (proud Kickstarter backer).
Something most people don’t know about you: Not really a hugger.
Place in the world you’d most like to visit: Rex Harrison’s old haunts in Portofino, Italy.
Pre-show warm-up: “Trinidad,” followed by some tongue twisters, including select passages from Gilbert and Sullivan. After that, it’s reviewing particularly tough/lengthy portions of dialogue whilst pacing aimlessly.
Favorite part about your current role: The psychology. The Kaptain is wearing a mask that progressively cracks as his show carries forward, and finding the necessary levels of control over madness is something I haven’t had to do in a while.
Most challenging part about your current project: The rampant cruelty. I have to be an absolute monster to thoroughly undeserving people.
Most embarrassing onstage mishap: Face-planting while in the process of coming forth from a back line during an improv show, followed immediately by the rest of the cast singing “Pore Jud is Daid” over my pained, convulsing body.
Career you’d have if you weren’t in theater: Valet or dogsbody.
Favorite post-show spot: The IHOP on 75 between Southwestern and Caruth Haven.
Favorite thing about Dallas-Fort Worth: After as little as a week, anyone in this town can possess an exhaustively researched and vehemently defensible opinion on where to find the best overpriced junk food.
Most memorable theater moment: Two minutes into the last matinee of Death Is A Bad Habit in 2016, my mother fell down the aisle stairs at the Eisemann Center while taking her seat. Our stage manager called for the curtain to be brought down, and while we were waiting for the ambulance crew to arrive, I began to fear the worst after remembering Mother’s recent spells of unsteadiness.
I asked our stage manager to confirm my fears, which he did dutifully, and in my memory there is no greater illustration of the absurdity of life than a grown man dressed as a nun trying desperately to keep his composure by yelling “If you didn’t want to watch the show, you could have just said so” at his gurney-bound mother.