Review Fix Exclusive: Jason O’Connell Talks ‘The Dork Knight’
About the Production:
THE DORK KNIGHT, written and performed by Jason O’Connell and directed by Tony Speciale, runs January 6-29: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:00PM; Fridays at 8:00PM; Saturdays at 3:00PM and 8:00PM; and Sundays at 2:30 PM at Abingdon Theatre Company’s Dorothy Strelsin Theatre (312 West 36th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues). Tickets are $25. For tickets, visit http://abingdontheatre.org/dork-knight/ or call 212-352-3101.
Review Fix: What inspired The Dork Knight?
Jason O’Connell: Well, certainly my love for all things Batman, especially the Batman movies, inspired the initial idea. At first, I was modeling it more along the lines of Charles Ross’s “One-Man Star Wars Trilogy,” which is just what it sounds like—one guy acting out all the events of those movies. But that’s not quite what I wanted from this. I wanted it to be about the obsessive love all “dorks” have for whatever it is they geek out over. How do our loves, our hobbies, our fascinations guide us, inspire us, and even get in our way sometimes? There are a lot of us out there now who loved things as children and have only seen our love grow stronger with time. When you’re in your 30’s, 40’s and 50’s and still find that you’re passionate about these things, you start asking yourself “Is this a good thing? Has this held me back? Or has it actually made me who I am and influenced me for the better?” And, of course, it’s just fun to talk about the things we love. AND to complain about them when we think they’ve been mishandled by the powers that be. It’s really much more about me and my personal story than I ever intended, and it’s also about the nature of modern day fandom. But for the real root of all of this, you’d probably have to go back to when I was in high school and began doing stand-up comedy and impersonations…. Channeling the actors who’ve appeared in the Batman films—Nicholson, Keaton, Bale, Ledger, even Schwarzenegger—is a big part of this show and a big part of why I wanted to create the piece.
Review Fix: What is it like to work with Tony Speciale?
O’Connell: Tony is wonderful because he is such a great champion of new plays and original work, and he just wants to create the best possible environment for the storyteller. I’ve worked with other amazing directors on this show in the past, and everyone brings something new and invaluable to the table. And I think I’ve unlocked something different and very exciting during this time with Tony. He’s kind, supportive, talented, and he has such a great wealth of experience as a director, particularly with solo shows like this one. It’s been a terrific experience.
Review Fix: Who will enjoy it most?
O’Connell: I honestly think there’s something in it for everybody. Certainly, a fan of the Batman films is going to get something special out of it, but the truth is that some of the biggest fans and supporters of this show have never even seen a Batman film before! So – while I wouldn’t have necessarily thought this would be the case—there seems to be something universal about it.
Review Fix: How did you prepare for this role?
O’Connell: Well, the role is me—at least for the most part – so there’s nothing easier in some ways. On the other hand, to be really honest about oneself, to be willing to share the embarrassing anecdotes and to allow yourself to be seen warts and all—especially in those moments where you were petty or deceitful or just not a very nice guy—can be really difficult. As for the various bat-personas I conjure throughout the show, well, I’ve been working on most of these impressions for years, so a lot of that work was done before I started writing the play, but I still like to brush things up by re-watching the movies a lot while I perform the show. It’s a great hardship for me, kicking back and watching my favorite movies again and again, but somehow I manage!
Review Fix: What did you learn about yourself as an actor through this production?
O’Connell: I learned the same thing about myself as an actor that I learned about myself as a writer, and that is that it’s okay to not have all the answers and for things to not always tie up and resolve as neatly as we would like. The messiness of our personal stories is unique and interesting, and that’s always a valuable lesson for an actor—to realize that what you bring to the project, simply by being yourself, is enough.
Review Fix: What’s next?
O’Connell: Well, as a writer, I’m working on a couple other pieces—one a solo show, and the other a full-length play, and as an actor, I have a lot of different theatre projects lined up. I’m doing a three-actor version of Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor” later this winter, and I’m playing Mr. Darcy in the world-premiere of a new adaptation of “Pride & Prejudice” written by my partner, Kate Hamill. I just finished performing in her version of “Sense & Sensibility” Off-Broadway and it was an amazing experience!
Review Fix: How do you want the play to be remembered?
O’Connell: I’d like it to be remembered as a really fun time at the theatre, but more importantly, I love it when people come away from the show feeling inspired or justified in their passions. I’d like it to be remembered less as a play about Batman and more as a piece that says it’s okay to love the things we love. That fictional characters and stories can have a profound and lasting effect on our real lives, and that it’s all what we make of it. As Hamlet says, “There’s nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” We can choose to celebrate the things that strike chords within us or be embarrassed by them. I don’t think loving “kid stuff” has to be an embarrassing proposition.