CEDAR CITY — UTBA first came to the Utah Shakespeare Festival in 2010, coincidentally the same year that cast member Kyle Eberlein did. That year Eberlein was in the greenshow and the ensemble of Great Expectations. Since then Eberlein has worked his way up to playing important supporting roles at the Festival, and now this year he even co-hosts the Festival’s cabaret. UTBA recently met with Eberlein to ask him about his career, his Festival experience, and the cabaret.
UTBA: Please begin by telling us who you’re playing this season and a little bit about your background.
Eberlein: Sure. I am playing Angelo’s assistant and Gentleman #2 in Measure for Measure, Gadshill and a bunch of little parts in Henry IV, Part 1, and Rupunzel’s Prince in Into the Woods. I’m from Cincinnati, Ohio, and grew up there. I went to college in Columbus, Ohio, at Otterbein University. And now I’m here. Going back and forth between Utah Shakes and New York is pretty awesome.
UTBA: What was your first paid job in theatre?
Eberlein: I worked at a theme park in Cincinnati, Ohio, for two summers: the summer before I went to college and going into my sophomore year of college. I did a ’60s revue and an ’80s revue. It was just cheese. Cheese, cheese, cheese.
UTBA: So, what were your costumes looking like? Did you have the ’80s hair?
Eberlein: For the ’80s show I had the ’80s afro and a bedazzled blue shirt and parachute pants. It was fantastic.
UTBA: You earned your BFA in musical theatre. Why does a musical theatre actor need to work in Shakespeare‘s plays?
Eberlein: For a theatre major in general, Shakespeare is the basis of everything. I’ve heard Brian [Vaughn] say all year in Into the Woods that Sondheim is the Shakespeare of musical theatre. So, it’s nice to have that background in classical theatre because everything basically evolved from there. Otterbein has a great musical theatre program, but I didn’t learn much about Shakespeare there. A lot of my experience with Shakespeare has been from being at the Festival seeing the plays, being in the plays, and learning from all the extremely talented actors at the Festival. It’s an incredible blessing.
UTBA: This is your fourth season at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. You’ve been here four out of the past five seasons, including this one. How are Utah audiences similar or different from audience you have performed for in New York City or in Ohio or elsewhere?
Eberlein: I think Utah audiences are the best audiences ever. They are so attentive. They are totally there with you all the time. I was in the greenshow my first two years here, and I tell the new greenshow-ers that they have the best audience you could ever ask for. They’re incredible. They’re so engaged, and they’re with you. And the kids and the families . . . they just love it. They love all of it. And of course in the Shakespeare plays everyone is so knowledgeable about everything. And they’re not snooty. New York audiences can be pretty snooty, which is kind of off-putting a little bit. So, it’s nice to come out here and have audiences that are committed to you 100% of the time. It’s fantastic.
UTBA: So, you’re playing Rapunzel’s Prince in Into the Woods this summer. How would you describe your character and why?
Eberlein: My brother, Cinderella’s Prince—or Peter Saide—has a great line in the show that says, “I was raised to be charming, not sincere.” I think that’s them to a T. They are very vain, very self-centered. I think that’s the way they were raised and the way that they were brought up. And they can’t shake that.
UTBA: So, they’re a natural product of their environment?
UTBA: That’s a lot of the fun of Into the Woods: seeing how these characters’ natural upbringing plays out.
Eberlein: Oh, yeah. It’s such a great show.
UTBA: There’s a film version of Into the Woods being released this year. Why should audiences see a stage version of a musical when many shows have film versions that are readily available?
Eberlein: Of course, it’s the original version. All of these films—in their own slight little way—I feel have been a little bit doctored. You know, there’s been some recent news about Disney perhaps cutting some things out of Into the Woods to make it more family friendly. But it’s the original and it’s way that the authors intended for it to be done. And I think that on a broader scope it’s so much more imaginative. When the world is set out for you in black and white: “This is the setting that we’re in,” you can’t really use your imagination all that much. But when you’re in the theater and there are minimal set pieces and you’re right there, I just feel it’s a little bit better.
UTBA: This year in Henry IV, Part 1 and Measure for Measure. You’re playing roles that are more than 400 years old. How do you keep a performance fresh and unique when you’re one in a line of centuries of actors who have played your characters?
Eberlein: It’s really nice and refreshing to have such two wonderful directors guiding us along the way. Brian Vaughn’s passion for Henry IV, Part 1 is unparalleled to anything I’ve ever worked with or seen. And Laura [Gordon] is so knowledgeable about everything. Just being able to work with this cast every night is rewarding. And then, of course, the audience—like I’ve said before—every night is going to give you a different vibe and different energy. So, I kind of play off the audience, see how they’re responding to it and kind of go that way—but not straying too far from what you made in rehearsals. You don’t want to throw people off too badly. I’ve never really thought about it that way. These two Shakespeare plays have been around for hundreds of years, and there have been so many people to have played them. I’ve never really even thought about that. It’s really interesting.
UTBA: I’m glad to give you some food for thought. Now, you’ve worked in New York City. You’ve worked on a cruise ship and elsewhere. Have you ever worked outside of the Festival with multiple shows at once, and how does that change your method of working as an actor?
Eberlein: It’s a challenge, but it’s fantastic. When I was on the cruise ship we were a lot like Utah Shakes; we were in rep. We did three shows per cruise, so it was constantly changing every time and we played different characters. It’s really challenging, especially at first during rehearsals. It’s so hard to wrap your head around it. But once you get it, it just works like clockwork, and it’s so wonderful to do. I think it helps yourself as an actor and a performer because it can bring out a completely different side of you because I’m not playing Rapunzel’s Prince in all three shows. It’s a great chance to work on completely different characters in something outside the box. But it’s a challenge at the same time.
UTBA: Tell us about the cabaret at the Utah Shakespeare Festival.
Eberlein: This was is the tenth anniversary of the cabaret, which is pretty exciting. It was created ten years ago by Aaron Galligan-Stierle, who is back again this year. It is a late night variety show that features the company members of USF, and it’s just a smorgasbord of different things: juggling, singing, skits, clowning, and all sorts of stuff that is so appealing to the audience. It’s a chance to see a different side of the performers than what they’re doing on the stage.
UTBA: Where and when is the cabaret?
Eberlein: It’s Thursday nights after the evening performances at 11 o’clock at the Grind Cafe over on Main Street. It starts next week: Thursday, July 10.
UTBA: What are you doing in the cabaret?
Eberlein: I’m co-hosting the cabaret with Quinn Mattfeld. It’s going to be something. I’ve never worked in a show with Quinn, but just being with him at the Festival for years has been great. I was very excited to hear that I would be co-hosting with Quinn. We have a lot of great ideas, and it’s going to be a lot of fun. Everybody should come out and see it.