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Saturday, August 10, 2013

"Chemistry, Community and Jankiness" in Louisville Theatre: 17 Questions for J.P. Lebangood


J.P. Lebangood in The History of the Devil at The Alley Theater.
Photo – The Alley Theater.

By Brian Walker
Entire contents are copyright © 2013 Brian Walker. All rights reserved.

J.P. Lebangood is a funny man who’s serious about making people laugh. He’s an actor with a hankering for improv, a stand-up comedian, a board member of The Bard’s Town Theatre, and an avid scooter rider (his scooter’s name is Butterscotch).  He’s been making audiences happy most recently onstage as Han Solo in Star Wars in 60 Minutes or Less.
Brian Walker:  I’ve got 17 Questions for you, if you’re willing?
J.P. Lebangood:  Sure, when’s my due date?
BW:  Whenever is good for you is good for me.  And I’ll need a good headshot or promo pic to go with it.
JPL:  Let me see what I’ve got. My last head shot was in 1997 – true story.
BW:  Maybe a pic from Star Wars?
JPL:  I can do that.
BW:  Okay.  Number 1:  Can you describe your show Star Wars in 60 minutes or less in 60 letters or less?
JPL:  Kids in the basement playing with reckless abandon and joy.
BW:  Nice!  Number 2:  How did the show initially come together?
JPL:  It was originally an Alley Theater show that Scott Goodman wrote, Chris Petty directed and Tony Smith choreographed. It ran for a while at the Alley. Simultaneously, April and I were in an improv group with Scott, Chris and Tony when two cast members had to drop. The show needed some improv, so they asked April and I to join. We've been doing it now for over a year.
BW:  Number 3:  I saw the show in the spring and loved it.  The thing I was most impressed with was how well the ensemble works together with honest chemistry, and that’s not easy. What’s the secret to getting that?
JPL:  One part practice; one part natural chemistry; one part luck. We have put in the hours both rehearsing the show and improv. Also, this isn't our first rodeo together. We've known each other for a while. We've worked with each other in numerous shows over the years. We're good friends who share our lives and flow together well. We're family at this point. That's just luck. Our post-show meal is probably funnier than a lot of our shows.
BW:  Number 4:  And where can we see the show next?
JPL:  August 15th, The Bard's Town, 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. It will be interesting to see how doing back-to-backs goes, but we are prepping for touring.
BW:  Number 5:  If you had to pick one, who would be your all-time favorite character in the Star Wars universe and why?
JPL:  That's a difficult question. As a storyteller, Han Solo. As a kid playing with my toys, Bobba Fett. Han has the jokes. Han gives the outsider perspective and the most humanity to the trilogy. We see him uninterested, cocky, brave, scared, vulnerable, and finally committed. Bobba Fett has a jet pack and frickin' lasers on his wrists!
Tony Smith, Scott Goodman, April Singer
and J.P. Lebangood in Star Wars in 60
Minutes or Less.
Photo – J.P. Lebangood. 

BW:  Number 6:  And do you hate Star Trek, or is that just a rumor?
JPL:  I actually swing both ways in the sci-fi universe. I am more invested and knowledgeable about Star Wars. But I have caught episodes of the Star Trek franchise and have seen the movies. I love Wrath of Khan and The Journey Home (with much embarrassment).
BW:  Hey, the whale one is one of my favorites too.  Number 7:  Any other "...in 60 Minutes or Less" concepts in the works?
JPL:  There are three competing concepts that we are hashing out. We are discovering a lot about what makes these types of shows work and not work.
BW:  Number 8:  You’re also doing The Ten-Tucky Festival this year at The Bard’s Town. What shows are you involved with?
JPL:  I am directing The Rental Company that has April, Scott and Chris in the cast, so that is going to be great. And I have a two-line role in Hunting Jackelopes where I get to chew a whole bunch of scenery. My favorite type of character role.
BW:  Number 9:  If you had to be stuck on a desert island with one member of The Bard’s Town staff, who would it be and why?
JPL:  Schutte is fun to bitch with. Scott can build stuff and is funny. John is a great cook and doesn't panic. But if we are on a tropical island, I would have to go with Ashley, because there would be sunbathing and she has great boobs – and an awesome personality – but mostly the boobs.
BW:  Number 10:  What else is on the books for you this upcoming season? 
JPL:  I am an actor in one of the Kentucky Playwright Shorts at the Kentucky State Fair (directed by George Robert Bailey). And after that, I am concentrating on putting SWin60 on tour and revamping some improv/film projects. It has been a packed year and I need a few months. Oh, and a shameless plug: I am riding my motor scooter across Kentucky August 8th through 12th to raise funds to help complete Saint Mary's Center new building. It's a great cause, and any donations would be fantastic: facebook.com/scootroute60.
BW:  Number 11:  What advice would you have for an actor looking to break into the local theatre scene?
JPL:  Show up to everything. Be patient. Work hard. Make things fun. Leave your problems at the door. In Louisville is it as much about "this person would be great for this role" as it is "this person is fun to work with."
BW:  Number 12:  What’s your favorite thing about doing theatre in Louisville?
JPL:  The chemistry, community and jankiness of it all. Louisville productions have real limitations and obstacles. But, casts here almost celebrate navigating those difficulties.
BW:  Number 13:  What’s your least favorite thing about doing theatre in Louisville?
JPL:  Lack of long runs. I think it comes down to space. We're all competing for it. It's hard to find the rehearsal space to really work a show. And then when the show is finished, you get a three-week run if you're lucky. I come from the revue background of Chicago and New Orleans, so I love those store front shows that run for a year. If SWin60 had open season on a space like that, cabaret plus dinner plus tourist area, we could probably run 3 to 4 nights a week for a long while.
BW:  Number 14:  Are there other facets of doing theatre that you’re interested in focusing on other than acting?
JPL:  Improv is my joy and writing is my nemesis. I live for creative collaboration. Discovering things in the moment. I love the product of writing, but hate the process.
BW:  Number 15:  What’s your biggest goal right now?
JPL:  Sort of empty mind at the moment. Putting the show on tour is important. So if anyone reading this knows of venues within a 3- to 4-hour drive, let me know. But, creatively, I am trying to be open and do more looking than seeking. Putting goals in front of process and craft is dangerous. Work the craft and you will go interesting places.
BW:  Number 16:  Where’s your favorite place to hang out in Louisville?
JPL:  A great day would be coffee at Highland Coffee, a scooter ride getting lost in fun places, dinner and a show at The Bard's Town, drinks at The Outlook. But, hanging on my front porch having coffee with April is home.
BWNumber 17:  Who is someone who inspires you and why?
JPL:  Elie Wiesel. He took perhaps the worst experience in the world, the holocaust, and turned it into art, healing, and a shared experience. He doesn't deny or shield his anger and pain. He integrates it into his work so that it becomes something constructive. If you can do that, you've already done it all. It's the greatest challenge of humanity.

Star Wars in 60 Minutes or Less: Thirsty Thursday Doubleheader Extravaganza
7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.                                                                                           
Tickets are $10.00 at the door.
The Bard's Town Theatre
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40205
(502) 749-5275

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Brian. Two corrections. The shows are 7:30 and 9 and the actor in the Star Wars in 60 picture is Tony Smith.

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