On stage and in the rafters at the American Theatre of Actors and in many other off-off Broadway houses around town, you will find a straight-talkin’ mountain of a man designing your set, hanging your lights, and then playing the lead character role in your show. Ken Coughlin was in the final cast of 13th Street’s legendary LINE and in Steve Silver’s realistic account of organized crime in NYC in the 80s, The WatchTower.
To name a few.
Ken embarks on another tour of duty with friend and colleague, Laurie Rae Waugh and Irving Greenfield for BANNED in BISBEE, opening [where else] at the American theatre of Actors. From here he will take a play he directed at The Dramatists Guild into a full run in NYC. Ken was also in a film by controversial author James Crafford.
Busy busy busy
So, Ken, welcome back to the pages of OuterStage. Reintroduce yourself to our readers.
I have been performing on stage since I was 5. In the late 1960s I took up guitar, and spent much of the 1970s and 80s performing as a singer / guitarist. I was thrust into acting in the late 1980s when I was asked to take on the role of Carl Lindner in A Raisin in the Sun. Since then, I have appeared in well over 100 different stage productions, and several Independent Films.
Tell us a little about your role in the play and how it effects the overall plot.
My character is Captain Jack Boxer, the lead character in the Depth Force series of novels written by Irving. The novels were actually banned in Bisbee Arizona, and my character has materialized in Bisbee, to right that horrific wrong.
Do you feel the play resonates with audiences today?
The play is relevant, and to an extent, talks to some of the current political climate, though it primarily references events of 17 years ago.
An actor in NYC? Are you a native New Yorker? If so, how has NY theater changed in your time in it. If you’re from elsewhere – so how’s NY working’ out for you?
Born and raised. I have seen the Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway theater expand, as Broadway prices started to soar. I’ve also seen the decline of Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway theaters over the past decade.
To you, what makes up a real actor (I say real as good can be interpreted so many ways)
I think dramatic acting for the stage and acting for the big or small screen, require a number of the same qualities, such as gaining an understanding of your character, and being able to present an emotional performance that rings true with the intended audience. Where I think they differ is, for the big and small screen, you only have to get the emotion right once.
For the stage, I consider it my responsibility to make sure every audience gets the best performance I can give. I consider it my responsibility to make it seem like it’s the first time I’ve said every line in the play. I try to ensure my scene partners get the same energy and emotion from me every performance, so as not to trip up any of them.
Beyond that, have fun, because if you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.
What’s your next endeavor?
I will be directing the first production of Divination by Dorian Palumbo.