Meet the Artist: Keith Reddin
By Fiona Kyle, Artistic Apprentice
FIONA KYLE: We are thrilled to have you join us again at Hartford Stage! Last season, you were here as a playwright with your sold-out adaptation of Rear Window, starring Kevin Bacon. This season, you’re with us as an actor in Heartbreak House. What excites you about returning to Hartford Stage and working with Director Darko Tresnjak again?
KEITH REDDIN: Darko is a true visionary, a theatre artist that inspires everyone who comes in contact with him. Anytime you are in his presence you are encouraged not to do what is easy or safe. He seduces you to go places you didn’t know you could. And he makes you laugh in the process, and that is incredibly exciting. Darko reminds me why I work in the theatre, to create experiences that can only happen in the theatre. I love watching him paint with actors. The way they move and create stage pictures, it’s something I’ve never encountered before. Who wouldn’t want to work with someone like that? Again and again.
FIONA: As an actor, you’ve been seen in such movies as Revolutionary Road, Lolita, and on television, in Law and Order: Criminal Intent and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. You’ve been seen on Broadway in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, A Taste of Honey, and at many other theatres in New York and across the country. What drew you to pursue acting?
KEITH: Acting is a form of storytelling. I love to perform in the theatre because of that special direct connection with an audience. I feel we are increasingly retreating from that direct experience. IPhones and texting and streaming movies, we become more and more disconnected from other people. To be in front of an audience speaking, moving through space, always in the present, that’s something rare. To feel the energy we pass back and forth. Acting in the theatre is ephemeral, and that is a great joy, it only happens in the perpetual now. It’s sad too, because that now keeps disappearing, never to return. And then there’s when you get a laugh as an actor, well nothing’s better than that.
FIONA: Your plays include All the Rage, Some Brighter Distance, Almost Blue, and adaptations of The Imaginary Invalid, Richboy and The Russian Teacher. Your work has been produced by The Public Theatre, Yale Rep, La Jolla Playhouse and Manhattan Theatre Club, and you’ve received the Charles MacArthur Fellowship and the NEA Playwriting Fellowship. Would you talk about your writing process? Does your process change when writing a new play versus working on an adaptation?
KEITH: It’s hard to describe the writing process for me. I’m not a writer that thinks all that much about structure or what’s going to happen. I don’t have outlines or often an idea where a play will go. I read about Pinter’s process, and I think I work in a similar way. I have a first sentence or an image, and I start there. And then someone talks and then somebody else says something. And so on and so on. And after a while something takes shape. It’s an organic development.
Adaptation, of course, is the opposite; there is a finished story to dramatize. We know the beginning the middle and the end. And my job is to honor that story, that structure. And I admit, for me that’s easier, knowing what the story is. Knowing where we will travel to, where we end up.
FIONA: Does your work as an actor influence your work as playwright? Are there similar challenges to those two art forms?
KEITH: Writing influences acting and acting informs the writing. It’s a great fortune to be able to do both. It reminds me of the challenges of connecting with words. In both acting and writing in the theatre, we have language. And certainly when I write I have an idea of what excites me as a performer. I try to create with each role a role I’d like to play. Make each character surprise me. If I do that I’ve succeeded.
FIONA: You have mentioned in other interviews that you do a lot of research when writing your plays; do you research in the same way when you’re preparing to play a part?
KEITH: I do much less research as a performer. Except if it’s a classic, like a Chekhov, or in this instance, Shaw. I like to know the historical context, the world that informs my character. For writing, I usually do a tremendous amount of research; I immerse myself in the subject. It might take months of reading. Then I try to throw it all away and have the characters start talking.
FIONA: This is not your first time acting in a play by George Bernard Shaw. Can you talk about your past experience with Shaw and how you approach acting in his plays?
KEITH: I previously performed in Shaw’s Misalliance at the Alley Theatre in Texas in 1999. I so loved the passion, the intelligence of Shaw. His great arias of ideas. It was a terrific ride. As well as being a bit intimidating. Shaw is and always will be the smartest, funniest person in the room. I just try to keep up with him and hopefully express that joy to an audience.