Cast Interviews- WHITE GUY ON THE BUS

The Road Theatre on Magnolia is proud to present the Los Angeles premiere of White Guy on the Bus by Bruce Graham. This scintillating play is directed by Stewart J. Zully. Each week during the run of the play we will spotlight members of the cast and creative team. This week we feature veteran actor Kevin McCorkle.

What character do you play in White Guy on the Bus?

Ray.

How does Ray serve the play?

Ray is a challenging character. He means well but is a bit lost in his own world of finance, investment, his company and marriage to Roz. At a crossroads in his life he is unsettled and looking for change.

What are your challenges as an actor?

Some of these aspects are naturally woven into my life but others I could only speculate on. I spent time on public transportation…..not as bad or challenging as I thought. I also plan to visit a friend of mine in jail to get the feeling of reality that will bring. I have never been to a lock-up facility,  so it should be interesting.

Tell us about working with your director and fellow castmates.

This cast has been phenomenal, total pros through and through all with a dedication to the story and material that is focused and creative. We have learned and benefited from the ensemble atmosphere that has become like family. At the head of this clan is Stewart J. Zully who has poured himself into this production like a fierce creative beast. His desire to use every means possible to enhance and imbue the story with many elements is something to behold. He then skillfully pared the elements down to the most essential resulting in a lean but bountiful play which uses lighting, beat-box, projections, sound effects blocking and props to both surprise and inform the audience. As Actors he doesn’t let a single detail go which is both challenging and gratifying all rolled into one. It has been a roller coaster ride which I would gladly wait in an hour long line to ride again.

What message does the play offer?

This play has many messages: quest for fulfillment, divine dissatisfaction, perception of unfairness  in life, how we are all interconnect in this journey of life, the starkness of seeing our experience in black  and white when the reality is that we are often covered in shades of grey and the fact that we all have more in common than we think as well things we want to hide.

What do you hope audiences will take away?

I hope that audiences will see the questions this play inspires and do their best to go out into the world and not only answer them but talk to others about them…..then follow through with action to follow the upbeat and positive elements of what the story represents and change the negative and darker elements presented.

 

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What character do you play in White Guy on the Bus? How does that character serve the play?

I play Roz and I’m the wife of the White Guy on the Bus. I teach English and poetry at a predominately black public high school in North Philly. I’m passionate about my students and in talking about the deep, scarred issues of racism and how much we as white people really understand someone of color’s world. Roz raises questions that are difficult to answer, even for herself.

Mention any special preparations you are making acting-wise to meet the challenges involved.

As I am mostly a film actor, the adjustment to stage has been a bit challenging especially for playing an outspoken, lovingly confrontational character such as Roz. I’ve had to step outside of my usual introverted personality and tap into the personal, political, and caring world of her. My voice is a constant concern as I’m not used to projecting softer emotions. However, it’s not difficult at all to tap into Roz’s passion not only for clarifying her thoughts on racism but for her students whom she fervently tries to help.

What is it like working with the rest of the cast and your director?

Kevin is an iron man in his work ethic and a completely lovely man to be “married” to onstage–giving and warm and caring. Teagan and Crash are so smart and talented and full of energy that it inspires me to be the best I can be. Kacie is a beautiful person and an actress with such power and deep skills that she is a talent to watch in the future. Stewart, as our bus driver, has given us the whole arc of the play with added touches of wonderful creativity and has been a constant, patient leader in all of this. It’s been an honor to be a part of this cast and this company.

What do you believe is the message of the play?

To keep the conversation always open. To strive to ask and attempt to answer the most difficult questions we face as humans, particularly in this time of such upheaval of everything that makes us a global community.

 What do you hope audiences will take away with them?

Questions, self-reflection, and a new appreciation for every face they look into in life.

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What character do you play in White Guy and how does he serve the play?

I play the role of Christopher, who is the closest thing the title character has to a son. He is newly married to Molly, who is played by the incredibly talented and stunning Teagan Rose. My character is a supporting role; he serves the story by being a part of the main character’s family, and by giving us a glimpse into the life of an idealistic young man trying to make a difference in the world – a foil in a certain way to his father who has made his career in finance.

Mention any special preparations you are making acting-wise to meet the challenges involved.

At risk of spoiling anything in the story (and this is one you could easily spoil) Christopher has an interesting and very emotional progression as a human being over the course of the story. Though his journey is subtle, he undergoes very important changes from the beginning to the end of the play. He serves as comedic relief in some parts, which I always find fun, but I personally had to tap into some deeper, darker parts of myself to get to the places he needs to go in the story. That was really tough, and extremely rewarding as an actor.

What is it like working with the rest of the cast and your director?

From the moment we had the first read through of the play, I knew we had something special on our hands in regards to the creative team. Everyone seems to be custom built for this story, and it is absolutely breathtaking to behold when everyone is at their best. There’s a lot of important stuff to talk about with a play like this, and the acceptance, openness, connection, and trust it takes to pull it off as a company is not easy. Thankfully, this cast is pretty freakin’ awesome.

What do you believe is the message of the play?

I mean, what is the ‘message’ of Death Of A Salesman? Of Fences? Of AStreetcar Named Desire? When you have such a deeply, intricately written piece that pertains to a multitude of complicated and intricate human beings and cultures, I think it’s difficult to pin down a particular ‘message’. From its most light to its most dark, this play deals with some incredibly complicated issues about what it means to be white, black, rich, poor, alone, ambitious, defeated, powerful, and helpless. It’s a play about America. It’s a play about race, about love, about growing up, about injustice, and about revenge. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that we have been given the opportunity to work on a script that could very easily go down in history as a modern American classic, and the messages that are present within plays of that ilk and caliber are rarely easy to simplify.

What do you hope audiences will take away with them?

I hope people leave with a broader understanding of what it means to be a human being in modern society. And having gained a perspective on issues that they aren’t always comfortable discussing. I think something incredibly compelling about Bruce Graham’s writing is that his words that bleed and pour forth a multitude of competing perspectives – not simply his own – and his characters never speak in a preaching manner. Every character in this play is trying to accomplish something important, trying to do the “right thing”, and their actions have nothing to do with pushing some idealistic agenda on our audience. The expertise of such a writing approach is that audiences might leave with a broader view of themselves, their prejudices, their neighbors, and the consequences of their actions, and it will all be because they went on a weird, kickass bus ride with some incredibly compelling characters.

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What character do you play in White Guy on the Bus? How does that character serve the play?

I play Molly. I think Molly is a girl we all know, see, and assume to understand in society, but shows how circumstances and fear can trap even the most well intentioned people in ignorance. She also serves as a perfect foil for Roz to educate and share alternative perspectives. Lastly, she serves as an interesting parallel to Shatique, in showing how women of similar age, going through similar personal struggles, can have vastly different outlooks and privileges based on skin color or circumstances.
Mention any special preparations you are making acting-wise to meet the challenges involved.

It has been a lot of emotional and psychological work. I have looked at some dark uncomfortable places within my own perceptions of race and racism in order to express Molly’s struggles in an honest way. I have also felt into the different stages of pregnancy, and with my cast mate, Crash, have spent these months building a sweet marriage between Chris and Molly, that (like many marriages) hits a wall of disconnect, lack of communication, and isolation.
What is it like working with the rest of the cast and your director?

This is an incredibly dedicated and intelligent group of artists. It has been challenging at times because of how passionately we all want to do this story justice, but man has it been fun. The through line has always been getting to the truth, and Stew (Stewart J. Zully) has been clear and pressing on that from the start, with a great sense of humor at the same time. I appreciate how each cast member approaches the work in such a different way, so when we come together, we are always learning and growing from each other each rehearsal and each show.
What do you believe is the message of the play?

Life is not black and white, it’s grey, but it’s more difficult to live in that. Each character has a moment of sitting in the discomfort of everything they know being challenged and feeling utterly alone and unsure of how to move forward. Unfortunately we see them fall back into what is the easier route in the short term to feel better about themselves, but not necessarily in the long term to become better people. I think this play confronts the ways in which we lie to ourselves and hide from the blatant truths of a systematic society.
What do you hope audiences will take away with them?

I hope audiences will leave with a desire to learn how to better connect, communicate, and empathize with people who are different from themselves. Doing the easy thing is not always the right thing, and pointing fingers is always easier than asking ourselves how we can do better. I love that this play may leave people with far more questions than answers.

 

 

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What character do you play in White Guy on the Bus? How does that character serve the play?

I play Shatique who serves as the voice of African American culture in the play; more accurately, African American culture and the cross-section of lower socioeconomic class. She is only one person, so the extent to which she can accurately portray the full breath of a culture is limited but she definitely offers a perspective that is not, and arguably cannot, be fully understood by the other characters in the play.

Mention any special preparations you are making acting-wise to meet the challenges involved.

One of the things I found most fascinating about Shatique was the amount of time that she spends on public transit. Bruce Graham gave me the gift of coupon cutting and studying but I knew that there had to be something else she filled that time with. I decided that the one thing we never get from her in the writing is a way that she decompresses; something she likes to do. I decided that she sketches. Kacie is terrible at drawing, but Shatique is an artist with a pencil. I’ve spent some time honing that for her.

 What is it like working with the rest of the cast and your director?

This play is not always polite and that is what makes it compelling. We were all forced to go to places and say things that we may have felt secretly or said in select circles prior, but now we are inviting an audience to witness it. Whenever you have a piece of this nature, it is so important that your cast is a family. It’s been wonderful to create a space of open dialogue on these issues with my cast mates and I think we’ve all learned plenty from the process. Stewart (J. Zully) was exemplary in leading the charge and making our rehearsals a safe place for whatever emotions, questions, and conversation the work sparked. Can’t ask for much more than that!

 What do you believe is the message of the play?

There are so many. I think the cool thing about this play is that more than leaving you with a statement, it leaves you with questions. I believe there’s definitely a message about our society being a system and I think more than anything the play forces you to ask yourself what part you’ve been playing within it.

 What do you hope audiences will take away with them?

A burning desire to educate themselves further on race, culture, the education system, and the prison system in America.

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White Guy on the Bus plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm through March 18. The Road on Magnolia is located in the NoHo Senior Arts Colony at 10747 Magnolia Blvd. There is street parking.