Interview with Rich Gray, Actor, “one of Seattle’s 20 most creative people 2016” – Seattle Magazine

…theater (children and adult productions, writing/composing and acting).  
I love any type of “theatrical” theater. I am attracted to plays and musicals alike that celebrate live performance and embrace the storytelling possibilities in movement, language, music and design. I don’t get as excited with pedestrian realism. Maybe that is why I am drawn to musicals so much. I love both exploring the detail (why a note is held out or a piece of choreography is used to punctuate) and creating the spectacle.
I started writing theater music in the early 1990s when producing Forbidden Xmas at the Cabaret de Paris. I couldn’t find a particular song I wanted so I just decided to write my own. It was well received so I kept going. I have written over 300 songs since then. The commissions offered to me tended to be for children’s theater (The Seattle Children’s Theatre, 5th Avenue Theatre’s AMT program and The Arden Theatre in Philadelphia). But I am now eager to write for adults. I am working on a new musical with Andrew Russell (Intiman) that I am very excited about.3. You have been in many Seattle theaters in many shows…Assassins is an interesting premise…what about this role and production stands out for you?  

It has been 25 years since Assassins first debuted in NYC and rather than feel dated it seems to be a piece that speaks so clearly to our current political climate. As we continue to marginalize people, the disenfranchised will seek a voice and some dangerous people may want to act out with violence. All of us working on this piece have great respect for it and are committed to attacking it every night. It is meant to provoke and does so brilliantly. Guiteau is a wonderfully complex man. Many historians when ranking the insanity levels of the presidential assassins have listed Guiteau as #1. In researching him, I can see why. John Langs, our director, has encouraged me to swim in his mental illness. Every night has felt fresh with his mind cracking a little differently each performance.  I have said to many people that Assassins works so well because each character has their own lane – their own particular musical language, their own rhythm and inner life. And there are no soft edges to those lanes

4. The 5th Avenue is a theater that provides a special venue for musical theater: what makes that theater special to you and what roles played there have provided challenges and joy?  

Great question! The 5th Avenue space is a challenging venue with over 2,000 seats. As a performer, you need to know how to play the scene honestly AND fill the house. Many incredible actors in Seattle have had a difficult time with that. I’ve seen it happen when a rehearsal room performance just dies because it doesn’t reach the tenth row. Most recently, I have loved playing the Reverend Beeber in “A Room With a View”, Sir Bedevere in “Spamalot” and Marcellus in “The Music Man”. But what I love most about that company is the trust they have with me, allowing me to play such a huge variety of roles. I don’t feel pidgeon-holed by them at all.
 
5. Seattle Magazine recently selected you a one of the 20 most talented people in the this city stating: “He’s a talented composer, actor and all-around entertainer. A true Seattle favorite.” – quite an honor and tribute. Any response to that distinction?  

I have been doing this a long time and I know I am not the cool new thing in town. So, I don’t get on a lot of lists like this. It was a surprise and an honor. The Seattle theater community has been very good to me. Like the characters in Assassins, I like to think I have my own lane – the “reliable character actor” lane. And, like in the movies, those guys tend to not get accolades, but they get a lot of work. So, the Seattle Magazine acknowledgement? Yeah, I’ll take it. Then get right back to work.

6. You have seen theater all over the world what keeps you in Seattle and how do you characterize the Seattle theater scene, culture and audiences?  

The audiences here are smart, well-read, willing and numerous. Perfect. The companies I work for all have singular identities and passions and have committed themselves to hiring locally. But really what keeps me here is that my roots are deep. I have a remarkable circle of friends and colleagues that can’t be replicated anywhere else. Theater is what I do – it is not who I am.  Outside of the theater, my life is incredibly rich and full. Like many artists in the theater community, I accept out-of-town projects always knowing I will return home.
7. What remains on your “To Do List” as an artist?  
My actor “To Do” list is simple: to be offered challenging and  surprising roles that push me to grow. My director “To Do” list is short: to direct challenging and surprising pieces with actors and designers that challenge and surprise me. My writer “To Do” list: to challenge and surprise myself by writing the next great musical. Simple as that.