by Nancy Rosati
(part three )
NR: You're friends with Kristin Chenoweth, and she's told me that when everything hit so big in this past year, it's been really hard. Everybody wants a piece of her and she doesn't want to say "no" to anybody. So, do you think you learned anything from watching her? Suppose that happened to you. How would you handle that?
BB: I would try to do as much as I could, and when I physically couldn't do it anymore, I would have to say "no" sometimes. One benefit that you knew about, for the MAC Awards, the composer asked me to sing a song that I had sung for another thing. I wanted to do it but I had something else that day, I had an interview the next day, and I can't remember what else. They said they would move me and put me anywhere I wanted to, but I just had to say, "I can't. As much as I want to, I can't." Because I'm not going to go in front of an audience and not be well prepared, especially a cabaret audience. I'm just not going to do that. So I didn't think I could do it the justice that I did it the first time and I had to say "no."
NR: How about if you felt like everybody owned you all of a sudden? Because right now, you can walk out of here. You have your privacy.
NR: Kristin doesn't have that anymore.
NR: Do you think that would bother you?
BB: I'll see. If it happens, I'll see. (laughs) But you also have the control over it to say, "I've got to go." Sometimes with Pimpernel, there were times that I would say, "I've got to go home and rest." People understand, they really do. Don't you think so?
NR: I guess so, but I'm thinking that it can get to a point where your life really isn't your own.
BB: Well there are big TV stars ... that's frightening, people hounding them with cameras. That's unheard of. What kind of leech would have that kind of life that they derive their livelihood from the duress and embarrassment of other people? How sad.
NR: I know. That is awful. What about TV? Would you like to do TV?
BB: Yes. Not to take anything away from theater, because I am happy. I am very happy working in theater. I just have not done that medium. I haven't tried it.
NR: Really? You haven't tried it at all?
BB: Not really. I did a very small part years ago on The Cosby Show that ended up getting edited out, so that was the end of that.
NR: Well, maybe Kristin will give you a guest spot on her new show.
So, tell me about Sardi's. Can we talk about that?
NR: Except it's going to look like Monty, isn't it?
BB: No. It's going to look like me.
NR: It's going to look like you? Oh, that's great.
BB: (looking in the mirror) So I'm going to look basically like a shar-pei with spiky hair. That's what I'm going to resemble. My grandmother used to always say that - "Don't smile so big, Bryan. You have all these lines in your face." (laughing) My evil side wanted to tell her, "You have lines in your face and you're not even smiling!" but she was far too sweet a lady for me to say anything like that!
NR: That's your normal state though.
BB: I know. I'm always smiling.
NR: I know you avoid computers at all costs, but now you have a website.
BB: And I've only looked at it once.
NR: Do you think it's inevitable that people will have to start doing that?
BB: I don't know. I know we have to have emails and all that stuff, but I hope nothing ever takes the place of a beautiful, handwritten letter or note.
NR: Oh, come on. You know someone who writes handwritten letters?
BB: I do. And I'm good at it! (If anyone's reading this and I owe them a thank you note, please forgive me.) But I do like that.
NR: That's not what I'm asking you though. I'm asking you about performers and websites.
BB: Well, any kind of linking where you can expand consciousness, of course. You have to use the medium that exists.
NR: I was thinking about a lot of the people who come to see this show. They might not know what else you've done.
BB: You know what's very strange? One of my good friends from high school is not in the theater at all. We were talking with another friend of his who said "I didn't know this show was on." I think in the highly publicized world of media, we're constantly bombarded with advertising, and Saturday Night Fever didn't stick in his head. He had not been exposed to it. He had heard about it in London, but he hadn't heard about it here.
NR: Well, this show brings in a very different crowd.
BB: But they love it.
NR: Oh, I know they do, but they've probably never heard of you, and they don't know what else you've done, so they can go to your site and listen to sound clips.
BB: Oh, yeah. If they like the work and all, that's great. What I would like to do right now is a CD.
NR: What do you think is going to be on it?
BB: I'm going to do dramatic readings of very famous disco songs. No - I'm kidding! Can you imagine? (reciting slowly) "Love to love you baby."
NR: (laughing) Didn't somebody do that?
BB: I think you're right. I think Steve Allen did that.
NR: Seriously, what would be on it? Would it be theater songs?
BB: A mixture. Something like "Bryan's grab bag."
BB: Right. I don't want to do anything that's too overtly comic - maybe one fun knock-down, drag-out funny number like "Hard-Hearted Hannah" or something fun like that. But, very few people know that I can sing in a more croony, (no, not croony,) legit, (no, not legit,) but you know, a style like my recording of "New York State of Mind" that you like. And some other beautiful songs that I'd like to sing on it.
NR: What are you going to do next? If you could pick a dream job, what would it be?
BB: Gosh, I'm so lucky and I love what I'm doing so much that it's hard to say. I would love to do a film and a show, a film and a show, just go back and forth. I am doing that workshop of The Royal Family of Broadway with Carolee Carmello and Laura Benanti. It's written by William Finn and directed by Jerry Zaks, so we'll see where we go with that.
NR: How about something dramatic? You don't usually do that.
BB: Yes, yes, yes! That's what I did in college. We did all this serious stuff, but you can't approach it as that. I did this Sam Shepard one-act play in college and it was about a post-nuclear Christmas. It was very stream-of-consciousness - you know how he writes, very bizarre and absurdist, but quite brilliant. We approached it, because it was Sam Shepard, as very serious. Because it was a post-nuclear kind of thing, the director had us lock ourselves into a one-room apartment for 24 hours. You know, those kind of things that you do. When we did our first run-through in front of an audience, they were laughing hysterically because of the absurdity of it. We didn't think it was funny. We thought it was so serious, but the situation ... there was a scene where nobody was listening to the other person talking, you're all saying your lines ... and that's funny.
NR: That sounds like dinner at my parents' house.
BB: Exactly. It's so true. It was very bizarre because we didn't realize the humor.
NR: Would you like to do a real drama?
BB: Oh, yeah, because I do believe there's humor in everything. There are a couple of good laugh lines in Hamlet.
NR: How about directing? Did you ever think of that?
BB: YES! Yes, in fact, I have some friends of mine who have suggested that I direct because I have all these ideas. I'll say, "I wonder if they had done this ... " and they'll say, "Why don't you say something?"
NR: Yeah, but you can't say something if you're in the cast.
BB: I know, that's the trouble. But sometimes I know what would fix the problem. You have to make your suggestion in a way that it appears to be ... someone else's idea. (laughs)
NR: Is that really frustrating?
BB: Yeah. It's something I learned at an early age. Some people are not as secure with themselves as you might be, especially in the Arts. You can offend them by just making a suggestion. They might take it that the subtext of what you're saying is, "You don't know what you're doing" or you're questioning their vision. And that's not the case at all. You're just making a suggestion, because I do believe that what comes out, the result is the most important thing - whether the show's good or not.
NR: How do you feel if someone makes a suggestion to you? Suppose it's another cast member.
BB: It depends. But, no, I would not make it to a cast member. There is a rule that you do not give cast members notes. If someone came to me, (and some people in the show have,) and said, "What do you think about this?" or "Would you watch this scene and tell me what you think?" I will. Definitely. That's "solicited advice." Kristin said the funniest thing. She was in a show and someone in the cast was giving her notes. We were just talking about this, and the same thing had been happening to me in another show. She said, "Oh, don't give me a note please. It derails me." All right, that's a nice way of putting it. But, it's hard. It's a very fine line, especially when you see what can fix it.
NR: So, anything we didn't talk about?
BB: Yes, my favorite thing about coming to work on Sunday. Have you ever heard the bells in the theater district that play "Give My Regards to Broadway?" You have to listen.
NR: What time on Sunday?
BB: I think they start from twelve to three, but you'll hear some church is playing "Give My Regards to Broadway." I like to walk to work if the weather's permitting and when I come into the theater district and I hear that, it's a great combination of church and theater, which you know in the origins of the theater, were very closely meshed.
NR: What are your goals right now?
BB: To keep on working and to be given a chance to show what I can do. I would love to originate another role on Broadway or in a terrific film, but I don't put any time restraints on it. Hopefully it will happen at some point.
NR: I hope it does. Thanks so much.
BB: You're welcome.
Having seen Bryan perform in three different shows, I can only echo the sentiments of reviewer Marisa Cohen. While writing about Bryan's performance in James Hindman's revue, I Love New York, Ms. Cohen said, "Why isn't Bryan Batt a bigger star? ... someday he'll star in a Broadway musical comedy written just for him." I certainly hope she's right!
Also visit The Official Bryan Batt web page for more about Bryan.