David Merten makes his off-Broadway debut as young massage therapist Darius in the long-running, hit off-Broadway play Afterglow. The play explores what happens when married couple Josh and Alex invite Darius into their relationship and boundaries become blurred.
BroadwayBox gets to know David a bit better as he talks about how modeling in college helped prepare him for Afterglow, the influence Angels in America had on him, and the band of brothers at Afterglow.
1. What’s been the biggest surprise about stepping into Afterglow?
The biggest surprise has been how welcoming the entire team was to me. Not that I expected any coldness, but they have gone above and beyond to make me a part of the team and that has been such a gift throughout this process.
2. What do you wish you could tell Darius?
I wish I could tell Darius that he should never be ashamed to lead with his heart and to be brave with that heart. No matter the hurt, lead with an open heart and an open mind and it will pay off as long as you take care of yourself and the ones you love.
3. What’s your pre-show ritual for Afterglow typically include?
I love to cook so I meal prep for every week and bring my dinner with me to the show. So, I eat my dinner and drink a black coffee while chatting with the boys in our dressing room. Then we do a little music warm up in the space, which is always a good time. We do a Diva or theme of the week and it’s always fun to DJ the music alongside the rest of the cast (even though they may tell you I am a bit bossy with the music choices...what can I say, I have good taste!).
4. What was your process with becoming comfortable with the onstage nudity?
I actually nude modeled for the art department in college so for me, I learned early to be comfortable in that setting and the beauty in desexualizing nudity. So, it wasn’t too tough of an adjustment for me. The first time I went on was a bit of a shock, but Brandon and Joe are so comfortable and professional, they made it that much easier for me. It genuinely feels like any other choreography or blocking at this point.
5. What was an important piece of gay representation for you growing up?
For me, it was the HBO Mini-series of Angels In America. I discovered it in high school and was instantly mesmerized by the group of actors and by Kushner’s writing. I had never seen anything like it and it transcended what I once thought about the gay community, the AIDS crisis, and living in New York. It changed my entire worldview as a gay man.
6. What’s your favorite shower scene from a film or TV show?
It’s not quite steamy, but I love the shower scene from Hitchcock’s Psycho. Janet Leigh is brilliant in that scene and it’s just so iconic.
7. What’s been your most memorable stage door or fan experience with Afterglow?
For me, the most memorable moments are hearing how audience members felt emotionally connected to my character in ways they didn’t expect. As an actor, I think being able to bring empathy to the work so that others can join you in the journey is the highest goal. So, hearing about how they felt connected to that journey is something I never take lightly and always appreciate.
8. Tell us a memorable audition story.
Oh gosh, so many. Once I auditioned for a very popular touring group where they paint all the men blue...and I spent 6 hours in an intensive callback where we learned the choreography and were put through a bit of a boot camp about how to live, act, and exist as a member of this troupe. It was unlike anything I’d done before and it was both intimidating, and a true learning experience unlike anything else.
9. What’s a role you HAVE to play someday somewhere?
I would be thoroughly disappointed if I don’t get to play Prior in Angels In America one day.
10. What do you love most about working with and sharing this experience with Brandon & Joe?
What I love is that they have become two of my closest friends through this process. They’ve taught me so much about professionalism and being a true team player. They have changed my life and my craft as an actor for the better and I’m so lucky to work with them every day.
Don't miss David Merten as Darius in 'Afterglow' at off-Broadway's Loft at the Davenport Theatre.