Gunderson playing Joey in Butley - Arts Club Theatre, New York, 1986.
I have always wanted to ask veteran local actors to name five dream roles and say why. The answers not only reveal aspirations, they may put an idea in the minds of directors and producers — even some choices that might seem outside the box.
Craig Noel Award-winner Steve Gunderson starts us off.
“Some of my favorite roles were ones I didn’t think of, didn’t audition for, and were not even my idea (Roy in Birds of a Feather, Baker in Into the Woods, Lady Markby in An Ideal Husband, Wilbur in Hairspray). So I’m not so sure how great my instincts would be if I actually got to choose a role. But here goes!”
1.) George, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. “Years ago I was in the final running at SD Rep. It gave me such a taste for the role. I was too young then. Tick, tock: I’d love a crack at it before I’m too old. And I think establishing a routine of nightly cocktails would be good research.”
2.) Willy Loman, Death of a Salesman. “It would humble me to play this great role. Humbling is good. It’s truly a great piece of writing, and my take would be atypical. It would be a challenge in the best sense.
3.) Herbie, Gypsy. I don't often say 'this is a perfect part for me' when referring to a musical, but THIS IS A PERFECT PART FOR ME. I absolutely love the book of this musical. It could work on its own without the songs. But don’t dare take away the songs! I think Herbie is anything but the bland guy he has sometimes been played as. He is complicated, amazing. I love him. And he has no high notes.”
4.) Lady Bracknell, The Importance of Being Earnest. “I’d love to be in the land of Wilde, though I’d feel a bit greedy at the idea of taking a woman’s role away from a woman. But let’s just say a production wanted to go back to the old tradition of having an old bag guy play the old bag lady. That would be a great reason! Then maybe it wouldn’t seem as greedy as it actually is. This play makes me giddy, gives me such happiness.”
5.) Butley, Butley. “That’s a meaty top sirloin choice. Because Ben Butley’s a T.S. Eliot lecturer/scholar, he has license to be much more eloquent and erudite and bitingly clever than I could ever dream of being. He’s also unpredictable, which is a nice piece of artillery when doing eight shows a week. Decades ago I played Ben Butley’s protege Joey, Off-Broadway. I used to marvel at the amazing Paul Taylor Robertson who played Ben and think to myself…’someday.’”