Q & A with Brian Letscher
By Rose Desena
One of the many great things about theatre in Los Angeles is that you can see some of your favorite film and TV actors performing live on stage at any given performance. Recently I saw the talented Brian Letscher, who plays Tom Larsen on “Scandal” (spoiler alert – clad in speedo and wings), along with Richard Fancy (Seinfeld), Ron Bottitta (Thor/Once Upon A Times), and Scott Sheldon (Private Practice/CSI) captivate a somewhat mesmerized audience for 90 minutes as he competed for the affections of Penelope (Holly Fulger) in what seemed more like a cross between “Survivor” and “The Hunger Games” then a story loosely based on Homer’s “The Odyssey.”
Rogue Machine’s production of Enda Walsh’s “Penelope” runs through August 10th. Brian Letscher makes a memorable impression. As described in my earlier review, this is a MUST SEE for anyone who appreciates Greek Mythology.
Only in the hands of such a wonderful theatre company could this journey occur. Enticingly lyrical, the language of the play is as distinctive as the message unfolding the timeless conceit of man’s nature. The strife for power, through greed, competition, and brotherhood…until it’s time to do away with brotherhood for the benefit of self.
I wanted to find out how Brian prepared for this role, which is such a different character than the one he portrays on the TV series Scandal, so he obliged me by answering a few questions.
Rose: What was your first impression of the play Penelope? Can you share your thoughts about your character of Quinn, in transforming him from page to stage?
Brian: My first impression was ‘holy shit, that’s a lot of words!’ Beautiful, hilarious and haunting words. Enda Walsh’s style is so distinct — an interesting mix of action and dialogue and certainly characters with a strong capacity for language. I did a staged reading for Rogue Machine and I played the character of Burns so I initially read the play from the polar opposite viewpoint of Quinn. Then coming in to play Quinn for the production really provided a 360 view of the play. Quinn has been a huge challenge. The trap is not to play an outright bully and, yet, at times, he does bully to get what he wants. I really explored who Quinn was before he got to the island, before these horrific last 10 years spent in this drained swimming pool wooing for his life. What did he love? Who did he love? What and who did he lose? This is what has shaped his beliefs, his actions. He really has come to believe that people are ultimately self-serving. That there is no love. He doesn’t WANT to believe this but it’s what he feels he’s learned, seen, and experienced. He is a realist. It’s all pretty black and white for him, at least on the surface. The challenge then becomes filling the underbelly with gray that is also this life. I did a lot of work on dialect and some physical work, particularly with his gait and a few gestures emerged. And then it’s just hours of rehearsal and being blessed with three incredible “cast mates” with whom to play and explore. And to be honest, I still don’t feel like I ‘have’ Quinn. He’s elusive, night to night. And as frustrating as that is, it must be allowed. It’s him.
Rose: At first glance, this is such a drastically different role from that of the one you portray on the TV series “Scandal” but through the subtext, do you find any similarities?
Brian: A stillness. A resolve to do what one must do to survive even if it’s not enjoyable or preferable. But because it’s necessary. In Tom’s case on Scandal, necessary for the survival of The Republic. In Quinn’s case, it’s necessary for his personal survival as well as the survival of his pride.
Rose: How did you become involved with Rogue Machine Theatre?
Brian: Elina De Santos. To who I am incredibly grateful and lucky to know. She needed a replacement for a show, “Mauritius,” we ran into each while seeing another show, and she’d seen my work previously and cast me. We had a blast. Richard Fancy (plays Fitz in Penelope) was in the show as well – we just had a blast. John Flynn came to see it and soon after I was doing readings at Rogue and workshopping plays and also was fortunate enough to write for one of their Around-the-Clock play festivals. Then I did “Lone-anon” in their smaller space and now “Penelope.” I’m really proud and excited to be a part of RMT both as an actor and a writer.
Rose: Will we be seeing again on Scandal, by the way I love that show. And] what other projects are you working on right now?
Brian: I have no idea about Scandal! (with a laugh;). The writer’s are full of surprises. I hope to be back, of course, we’ll see. I write quite a bit — finishing a screenplay for hire right now and have a play up next. I also just directed the pilot of a show I wrote, a comedy about two wannabe private detectives in Santa Monica. What a fantastic experience! We’re raising money now for a full season (8 episodes) and intend to release it online. I’m really excited about it as well as another superhero series that I wrote. This is a fortunate time to be in this business — you can actually shoot your own stuff if you want to put in the work. What a blessing and to quote a line from Penelope, “Oh, what happiness.”
PENELOPE runs at 8pm Fridays and Saturdays, 3pm on Sundays through August 10, 2014. ROGUE MACHINE is located at 5041 W. Pico Blvd., LA, CA 90019. Tickets are $30. Reservations: 855-585-5185 or at www.roguemachinetheatre.com