What's New on the Rialto
Interview with Sean Dugan
Sean Dugan is making his Broadway debut in Next Fall, a six-person play that focuses on a gay couple's five-year relationship. The show opened Off-Broadway in 2009, and was granted three extensions before moving to Broadway with the original cast.
Dugan has previously appeared Off-Broadway in Valhalla, Flesh & Blood, The English Channel, Perfect Harmony, and Nerds.
I recently had a chance to speak with Dugan about Next Fall and his role in the production.
Nick Orlando: Sean, this is one of the best plays I have seen in a long time. Congratulations on the success and on your Broadway debut.
Sean Dugan: Thank you! We are all very fortunate and very happy to be in this show. We have a nice little family at the Helen Hayes Theatre.
NO: Not many shows have the opportunity to move from off-Broadway to Broadway, especially with the entire cast intact. How was the transfer?
SD: It is pretty rare for an Off-Broadway show to move to Broadway. It's even rarer for the entire cast to transfer with the show, with no big marquee names. The producers did not have to do that. We heard the show was moving and we were not sure if we were going with the show. The producers not only believed in the show, but they believed in us.
NO: Where were you when you received the good news?
SD: I had left New York and started rehearsing for a play in the DC area. I was at my hotel and I received the call from my manager. There could have been some screaming and running around in my hotel room!
SD: There's always a possibility. Actors have to be optimistic. We knew the play was really strong. We were very fortunate to have had great reviews. That helped generate audiences. I've been in a lot of plays that I loved before. You wonder what it would be like if we got an extension; we received the first extension, then the second, finally the third extension. Now, we are on Broadway. This was not something we took for granted.
NO: Back in February, the play picked up Elton John and David Furnish as producers for the transfer to Broadway. Did anything change? How involved were they in the production?
SD: Nothing in the play changed. I think what changed when Elton came on board is that we knew we would have enough capital to do the show. Two of the most famous gay men in a relationship. People who would not see the show might give it a second thought because they see Elton's name. The new [Broadway] audience would have a bit of reassurance. Elton is an investor and a great supporter. He left the day-to-day operations to the producers; he trusted everyone involved.
NO: What interested you most about your character?
SD: I was drawn to the fact that he doesn't say a lot. I never played a character like that. In fact, sometimes my characters spoke too much! I was interested in the challenge of that. There is a demographic Brandon represents. In the gay community, there seems to be a lot of pressure. It seems Brandon shouldn't exist. Some of my gay friends did not like the character. He doesn't seem to lead a happy life.
NO: What interested you most about this production?
SD: I've known Geoffrey Nauffts [the author] for a long time. What drew me to the project was the play itself, how heartbreaking the ending is. After the first rehearsal, we were all crying and all laughing. Everyone brought their "A" game.
NO: What kind of feedback have you received from audience members?
SD: I've met a lot of people and we have been receiving great reception from the audience. At the end of the play, you can hear people weeping. Last night, two gay theology students who are attending college for their Ph.D., said they could not get over it. In a way, these are the people whose stories are being told. They even told their professor about this play and he took his partner to see it. Many people, especially Christians, come up to us and thank us for telling a story. They never saw their story represented on stage before.
NO: Do you think the show has potential to give some viewers a different perspective?
SD: That's the hope. I had several relatives who were excited to see their son, nephew, etc., on Broadway. My relatives are fairly conservative and religious. In a friendly, amiable way, it challenged their assumption. The strength of the play is that it does not take sides.
NO: Despite the serious questions of mortality at the center of the show, there are a lot of laughs. Is it a relief to have the comedy while you are dealing with a tough subject matter?
NO: Does the show make you value your life or see things differently?
SD: There is a kind of inspiration in Brandon for someone who is very close to me.
NO: What is your favorite thing to do after you finish performing?
SD: Dinner and drinks. I love to meet with friends and have a martini; talk about the play or what is happening around us. It is a lot of fun being in a Broadway play for the first time.
NO: What is the last Broadway show you saw?
SD: American Idiot. I think it is one of the most exciting pieces of theatre I've seen in a long time. That cast is doing some of the most athletic work on Broadway. I think it could be the Rent of this generation.
NO: What is your ultimate role?
SD: The next one, always the next one! You never know when you are not going to work again.
Nick was born in Brooklyn and raised in Staten Island, NY, where he completed his studies. He received his B.S. in communications and marketing from St. John's University in 2005, where he was also inducted into the Golden Key International Honour Society and Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. Nick considers traveling, theater, music and working out his favorite leisure activities. Nick currently devotes some of his personal time to volunteering with One Brick and God's Love We Deliver.
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