Introduce Yourself(ie): 10 Questions with The Play That Goes Wrong Standout Akron Watson
Akron Watson made his Broadway debut as Bobby in the Tony Award-winning revival of The Color Purple, he appeared off-Broadway in Michael Friedman's incredible cult musical The Fortress of Solitude, and now he stars as the Duran Duran-loving lighting and sound manager Trevor in the hysterical Olivier & Tony-winning comedy The Play That Goes Wrong. He is an absolute delight up there in his box seat/booth as things go horribly awry onstage. You only have until August 26 to see the best replacement cast in town.
BroadwayBox gets to know Akron a bit better as he talks about his memorable Color Purple audition with John Doyle, the joy of The Play That Goes Wrong, an onstage wardrobe malfunction, and his dream Sondheim role.
1. You give such a memorable, fan-favorite performance. What do you love most about playing Trevor in That Play That Goes Wrong?
I can really be a person, if that makes any sense. It gives an actor a chance to interact completely off script with the audience nightly, so you really have to be committed and connected to who you are playing, your needs and wants as that person. It's a huge lesson in sensitivity, allowing audience members to create the moment, and just going with it, because in that moment, that's the story being told. An extremely close second would be the work I do sitting in my perch as Trevor the lighting guy, just watching the show. As the show literally melts down before my eyes, it is my job to help and hope it goes right. Of course, it never does, so again just the level of sensitivity it takes to experience that nightly and produce true emotions from it is challenging and rewarding as an artist.
2. What’s been your most memorable audience interaction at The Play That Goes Wrong?
It has to be when the Gold Medal-winning Olympic curling team came to the show. I acknowledged them in front of the audience during our preshow thingy, then five minutes later they are on stage helping sweep. We then put the gold medals around their necks as appreciation for their help. It was just a lot of first in one performance, before the show had even begun.
3. What’s your favorite Duran Duran song? What group do you love the way Trevor loves Duran Duran?
“Hungry Like the Wolf.” It's the most memorable to me. It's hard for me to choose between Dru Hill, Jodeci, BoyzIIMen, H-Town, and Jagged Edge... But the "safest" choice would be Jagged Edge. They're most likely to get the bodies moving in a party.
4. What’s been your worst onstage mishap in any show you’ve been a part of?
I once performed a monologue after an "intimate" scene, which was delivered downstage center, to the audience, in a small black box theater...in my boxers. Unfortunately, I wasn't privy to the invention of boxer briefs, or the fact that a buttonless pair of boxers can prove problematic during a serious acting scene. Also, my parents, aunts, and co-workers were purposely placed downstage center to experience my work closely. It was an embarrassing few weeks after that.
5. Tell me your all-time favorite memory of The Color Purple revival.
We were and are still a big family, so the joy was always overflowing in that cast. One big moment was finding out we were Tony nominated during a taping of The Today Show. It was just excitement, on top of excitement, on top of love, on top of hard work. Cynthia Erivo and our entire cast was nominated that morning as we sang our title song on national television. Epic.
6. What did your experience with American Idol in 2007 teach you about yourself?
So much. Be resilient, be patient, be ever ready, rejection is a part of the business, capitalize even on your failure, and sing. Sing like your life depends on it, like it's your last song, like it's life or death. Also, the court of public opinion is harsh and everlasting. Google me.
7. What was it like working on The Fortress of Solitude? Did it feel special?
Everyone involved was so talented and seemed to be so "big". Kyle Beltran, Adam Chandler Berat, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Brian Tyree Henry, the late great Michael Friedman, Itamar Moses.... Oof. It was my first show in NY, ever, and it was at The Public Theater. I had moved here from TX a month prior. The work was beautiful. The music and book, incredible. But it was a lesson every day in showing up, breathing, giving it your all, and trusting that you and what you are bringing is "enough". Special is an understatement. Every day was a blessing. It was unbelievable introduction into the arts community here in NY. Equally astounding was the knowledge I acquired about NY through the Fortress story. Read the novel, it's worth your time.
8. Can you share a memorable audition story?
John Doyle, the director of the revival of The Color Purple, sat in on my final call back for The Color Purple. After the song and scene, he said, "I don't always do this, but do you have any questions for me." I leaped and said, "Yes. What exactly are you looking for?" He said, "Just someone I can talk to that will listen and give feedback. I'm just looking for a person who can listen and respond honestly, on and off stage. It isn't about performing, just be. We can do the rest together." I told him, if nothing else, I will keep that with me forever: that sometimes there are creators who don't care about Broadway, or pizazz, they just want to tell an honest story.
9. Who are the artists that have inspired or influenced you the most (as a comedian and as a singer)?
John Doyle, Cynthia Erivo, Isaiah Johnson, Jonathan Fielding, Mischief Theatre, Mark Bell, Kim Grigsby, Akin Babatunde', the arts staff at Collin County Community College, and Martin Lawrence.
10. If you could star in a revival of any musical, which would you pick?
Bobby in Company. Because in my private life, I basically am Bobby and because Stephen Sondheim.
Don't miss Akron Watson in 'The Play That Goes Wrong' at Broadway's Lyceum Theatre through August 26!