PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: Romeo and Juliet Star Conrad Kemp

By Matthew Blank
08 Oct 2013

Favorite liquid refreshment: Wine or water
Pre-show rituals or warm-ups: I like to not throw up or lock myself in a cupboard.
Worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap: I suffered an anterior subluxation (kind of like a dislocation) of my shoulder early on in a performance of Alone It Stands at The Olympia in Dublin. Itís a very physical play. I had a special gleam in my eyes for the remainder of the performance.
Worst costume ever: As a cowboy snowman in The Snowman, my first ever paying gig. Imagine a borrowed, furry space-suit that can never be washed, offers only a sliver of breathing space, and amplifies the sound of your own breathing. Now do a ten-show week to audiences seldom in excess of thirty...
Worst job you ever had: Alone, in a warehouse, in the docks of Dublin, in winter, offloading and stacking boxes of wine. No forklift. No gloves.
Any side or upcoming projects you can talk about? I have some pretty tight writing deadlines, and a personal project with the working title "Visa Extension"
Craziest audition story: When I arrived in Ireland to audition for a place at the Gaiety School of Acting, I was informed that I had missed my audition by ten days and that the course was full! This after packing-up and selling-off my bankerís life in South Africa.

I became a touch angry, insisting that the stuff-up was their administrationís fault. I wrote a very corporate letter to the schoolís director. After consideration, they told me that I could audition but that the course was still full and that the best they could offer was the chance to be put on a waiting list. And that they would see me in an hourís time.

I had to warm up and rehearse in blustery, rainy, fall weather in St. Stephenís Green, under a tree, with ducks and drunks shouting support. It must have made me gritty and real, and the right kind of uncaring, because I succeeded to impress them enough to get myself onto the standby list. A week later I was rolling around in studio one.

What drew you to this project? Simply the opportunity. It wouldíve taken steel to keep me away.
What has been the biggest challenge so far? Convincing myself that itís really happening. I also think itís quite a challenge to avoid the distraction of the commercial aspects of Broadway. A challenge I have enjoyed, however, has been portraying Benvolio as a more burdened and experienced character than the simpering stereotype for which he is often mistaken (in my opinion).
What do you find to be the most surprising or unexpected aspect of performing on Broadway? I must admit to being really impressed by the level of support (all manner of) and encouragement I have received here, almost across the board.
Most challenging role you have played onstage: I played Alan Strang in Peter Shafferís Equus at high school. I was sixteen and at a large, public, boys only school. Combine the complexity of the role, the emotional demands, the nudity and the potential for some serious mockery after the curtain comes down, and youíve got a tough few weeks!

Although I must admit, my fellow pupils received the play with commendable maturity and serious engagement. Mostly.
Leading man role you've been dying to play: Iím just going to say it... Hamlet..
Leading lady role you'd like a shot at: I would love to play Blanche DuBois or Medea. Medea!
Something about you that surprises people: That I only started acting professionally at age 27.
Career you would want if not a performer: A game ranger?
Three things you can't live without: My wife. Oxygen. Open spaces.
"I'll never understand whyÖ" Ö society doesnít value storytellers at least as much as it seems to value merchant bankers.
Words of advice for aspiring performers: Know that you want to be an actor, not a celebrity, and then appreciate failure. Oh, and consciously try to put aside ego in favour of the story.