Five Questions for Theo Stockman
Title: Actor, member of “the Tribe” in Hair on Broadway, part-time DJ (DJ Theocracy)
1. Where did you grow up and how did you end up where you are now?
I grew up in Boston (Brookline), Massachusetts, in a really great, diverse part of town. I started going to the A.R.T. (American Repertory Theater) a lot. The first show I ever saw was The Nutcracker when I was about 7. I went to a liberal and progressive boarding school called Concord Academy, where I was able to explore experimental theater with my director at the time, David R. Gammons, who had worked at A.R.T.
I knew I wanted to go to NYU since I was a little kid. I knew I wanted to be in New York City. I applied early, to only one school, and I got in. First I studied in the Stella Adler Studio and then transferred to the Experimental Theatre Wing. I also studied abroad at the International Theatre Workshop in Amsterdam, which changed my life completely. I went from more method-type ways of creating characters and exploded it from the inside, and I’m very happy with the way that panned out. While there, I played Claude in the “no hair” production of Hair directed by Ruben Polendo. We all had shaved heads, even the girls.
Right after graduation I went to an open call at the Public <Theater> for the three-night concert version of Hair they were doing — it was the 40th anniversary of the show — at the Delacorte in Central Park. Then I was cast in the Delacorte revival for the following summer. Between the Central Park and Broadway productions of Hair, I did the workshop of American Idiot, and I just got back from doing the first full production of that out in Berkeley, CA. In between I’ve done some television work (30 Rock, Cupid). I’ve been extremely fortunate to spend very little time looking for work because I’ve been working pretty non-stop – which is great. American Idiot was amazing, because both punk rock and theater have always been huge passions of mine; I’ve never felt so at home in my work as I did during that production.
2. Which performance, song, play, movie, painting or other work of art had the biggest influence on you and why?
Play? Probably Nocturne at the A.R.T. when I was sixteen. This was Adam Rapp’s play. Dallas Roberts played the lead character in a story of a man who lost his sister. The sets were by Christine Jones, who has also designed American Idiot. That’s when I discovered the power of one character onstage expressing his life through language in a very subtle, powerful and beautiful way.
Book? I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky when I was 15, and it totally blew me away. It dealt with the issues of feeling alone in a roomful of people and finding your own identity—things we all go through at that age. I adapted it for the stage my senior year in high school because it spoke to me so profoundly. It was a subjective and powerful thing to me, and I made mixtapes for inspiration: The Smiths, Velvet Underground, The Cure, etc. I guess those mixtapes sort of paved the way towards my future as a DJ.
3. What skill, talent or attribute do you most wish you had and why?
I really would like to be able to play guitar. By “be able”, I mean be very good. I had to learn to play some for the run of American Idiot. Being a musician would go along with being an actor in a really profound kind of way — being able to pick up a piece of wood and communicate an emotion or an experience. Creating a piece of music is as compelling a way of communicating as creating a character on stage.
4. What do you do to make a living? Describe a normal day.
I am in a show called Hair on Broadway. On matinee days I get up and go to the theater. For 2 ½ hours, I wear faded, patched jeans and a maroon Sgt Pepper’s/Hendrix jacket and jump around, sing rock and roll protest songs, and get naked. When I don’t have a matinee, I pursue other projects before I go to the theater. After each show, I sign autographs and go home.
My other job is as a DJ <DJ Theocracy>. My regular gigs are Black and White, Niagara, and “Mondo Indie Rock Dance Party!” at Don Hill’s. I like playing incredible songs that lonely awkward kids can dance to. I guess I was one of those kids, and I would have gone crazy without music.
5. Have you ever had to make a choice between work and art? What did you choose, why, and what was the outcome?
I have two answers to that. First. I’ve been very lucky to be able to make a living doing what I love. The shows I have worked on have been artistically fulfilling.
Funny story: When I first got cast in Hair, I had already been hired to work for an advertising company. The gig was to dress up in togas, and sell Greek yogurt. There was a script about yogurt and we were going to travel to a yogurt convention — it was pretty ridiculous, but paid.
Hair in the park didn’t pay that well; I was a non-equity actor at the time. There was a moment there when I was so scared because I’d just graduated, where I really debated between the two projects. It seems preposterous that there would be a choice now, of course. But at the time, I guess you could say I chose art. Luckily, the art turned into work!
I love what I do. As grueling and repetitive as it can be, you get to watch how your performance in a show can change people and the way they connect with their lives. What more can you really ask for?