The LCT3 world premiere production of ALL-AMERICAN, a new play by Julia Brownell, directed by Evan Cabnet, is currently playing at The Duke on 42nd Street, a New 42nd Street® project (229 West 42 Street). LCT3 is Lincoln Center Theater's programming initiative devoted to producing the work of new artists and developing new audiences. ALL-AMERICAN is the first production of its fourth season. ALL-AMERICAN runs through November 19.
In this exclusive interview, a star of the show, Harry Zittel, chats with BroadwayWorld about ALL-AMERICAN, returning to the stage, and his acoustic band!
Let's start off with what lead you to here. How did you catch the acting bug?
I think a big part of it had to do with the fact that I was born and raised in New York. My parents have actually been acting for a long time- my dad taught acting for I think like 30 years! So it's always been something that's been in my family.
When I was younger I did commercials, and it's been something that's been a part of my life for a long time. When I was growing up I wasn't necessarily working all the time, I would never consider myself a child actor. My senior year of high school I got set up with the agency, Innovative, that I'm with now. I was in WEST SIDE STORY in my senior year of high school, and my agent saw that, and that's how I got it touch with them.
For those who haven't seen the show, can you give us a short summary of what ALL-AMERICAN is about?
Absolutely! It's about a family that has just moved to Palo Alto from LA, and the father (Mike) is a retired NFL player. He's sort of responsible for coaching and training his daughter (Katie), who is also a football player. She moves schools to continue her high school football career, and I play her twin brother, Aaron. He's not athletic; he's definitely not a football player. The whole family has uprooted itself, and it's the drama of all the repercussions of that.
Aaron is definitely the brainer, more smart-alecky of the two siblings in the show. Do you find that you're anything like him in real life?
There are definitely similarities. I can definitely be sarcastic, and a little bit sardonic and cynical. He lets it all hang out a little bit more than I do. He's definitely able to call people out on their BS. He's much more aggressive about wanting people to know that he doesn't care what people think of him, even though there's a lot more going on underneath. That's something that I don't have in common, but at the same time, I can be a little sarcastic and a little whiny too.
So is it safe to say that you, like Aaron, are not a football fan?
I am not really a big football fan. I didn't really know that much about it. I watch the Super Bowl every year- but that's pretty much as far as I go in terms of being a football fan.
May dad actually played football in college, so I should know more than I do! He went to East Carolina University, and he always watches the games. So every now and then I'll watch a game with him, but I don't actually know that much about it.
In the show Aaron plays in a jazz trio. Do you have any special, secret talents?
Yeah! I sing and I have an acoustic band that's three people and me. It's kinda funny that Aaron is a part of the jazz trio- I think that might have been something that Julia [Brownell] sort off threw in there maybe even consciously knowing that I do music myself. I think it started that he just played the guitar, then things were rewritten, and it became a jazz trio-which is the running joke.
I actually do have a band- not a jazz band- but it's sort of a pop band that I write songs and play acoustic music. I've tried really hard over the years to come up with a good name, but I've sort of thrown in the towel. But I've organized it myself and they're all songs that I've wrote, so I figured it would be easiest to call it: ‘Harry Zittel and His Band.' [Laughs]
You share the stage with five other brilliant actors. What has it been like working with them?
It's been a dream! It's been wonderful! Every single one of them has been so creative and just great. The whole rehearsal process in general has been really fantastic, and the great thing about it for me is that they are all such individuals and they all brought something different to the table.
All of the characters are very different and they all have their own personality and their own perspective. I could go on, and on, and on about every single one of my fellow cast members. The nice thing about them too is that they're all great people. It's been such a pleasure to hang out with them and get to know them, and play around with them for the past couple of months. My heart is already feeling a little heavy because we're going into our last week.
Do you have a personal favorite moment or scene in the show?
It's so hard to pick just one. Just because of the drama of it, I really love the whole hospital scene. The writing is so good, and it just propels itself. That scene starts, and the momentum of what's going on helps it to carry itself.
And Rebecca Creskoff and C.J. Wilson are so brilliant as well. I have moments where I just kind of sit back and look at them and I'm like "Whoa, That's pretty fantastic.' Having Brock show up too- it's a great mix of comedy and drama.
You've dabbled in television, movies, now you're doing theatre. How have your experiences in those different types of media been different or you, and do you prefer one to the other?
I don't know if I prefer one to the other... all three of them are extremely different experiences, and they definitely utilize different parts of the actor. I have really loved doing this play, and I hadn't done any theatre in a really long time before doing this- and was a huge relief to have a part that was so layered and complicated.
There's something about theatre where you're just there and it's like a tightrope. Especially with something like this, which has very much developed and there have been changes throughout the rehearsal process and even somewhat through the preview process, there's something really exciting and also scary about just going on stage, and it is what it is. Things will happen, and it's not always gonna be exactly the way you imagined it would be. And it's been such a thrill to experience that again.