KEVIN CRAIG WEST - An Eye-Opening Script
Kevin Craig West has landed the roll of Ulysses Grant’s trusted valet in the debut production of GRANT & TWAIN. A freed slave, Harrison Terrell was part of the closest circle of confidants to the former President as he lived out his final days while racing to complete his memoir.
“I ain’t goin’ nowhere else but here, General. This is where I live." - Harrison Terrell
Where are you from and where do you live now? I’m originally from New York, but I live in L.A. now.
Did you start out wanting to be in the theater? No, it wasn’t my intention. I was part of a very artsy family so I had an appreciation for it. But I was asked to play a janitor on stage for one performance of a production called Road to Light. And, that became my road to light. I got the bug and wanted more. Ultimately, I was fortunate to become an intern with the New York Theater Institute. That was the beginning.
Roughly how many plays will you perform in this year and in how many different locations? Well, I’m in Atlanta now, then I go to Massachusetts in 4 days to do a reading with WAM. Then L.A. I’m back the following month to Chatham for GRANT & TWAIN. I’ve been asked to collaborate on a film in the works in France next year… You go wherever you’re called.
Cite a couple roles you’ve truly enjoyed and tell me what made them so appealing. The first was a part in Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses (not Kafka’s). I played 7 different characters. One was Eros. I went in with the assumption that I would only be wearing a blindfold and a mask – essentially naked for the performance. For me, it was quite empowering. I ended up wearing a kind of flesh-colored Speedo, but I found it to be really freeing. The second was My Children, My Africa. I was called in to replace the original actor with only 10 days of the production left. The part required a dialect and hefty monologues – one, 9 pages long. It was a lot to ask someone to step into. I had to retain all this information and perform the task. It was inspiring and motivating and invigorating and fulfilling.
Have you done, or will you do any research for your character? I will do tons of research. I’ve done a bit already. The rehearsal process is my favorite part of stage work. The individual research is wonderful, but the exploration of the character with others is an amazing process.
What films or books have influenced your impression of the Civil War? Ken Burn’s Civil War, Glory, Gettysburg. I love historical pieces. They shed light on what we’ve been told. They also force me to explore and learn. One of the great things about this profession is the rediscovery of history through the eyes of a character.
Are you a Civil War buff? I’ve occasionally hit a few correct answers on Jeopardy! but I am definitely not a Civil War buff.
It’s early in the process, but can you give us a little insight into your character? He’s a stoic, empathetic, upstanding person. I’m looking forward to discovering more about him.
Have you worked with playwright Elizabeth Diggs or director Regge Life before? I haven’t worked with either. I’ve been a fan of Regge’s work for so long that I imagine that maybe we worked together long ago. (He laughs). And I met Elizabeth at a reading of GRANT & TWAIN last January. Her characters just leap off the page.
What might the audience take away from this production? This is a story no one has known about. It was eye-opening for me. I hope the audience can gain a piece of history and open their minds to learn more.
GRANT & TWAIN will be performed at PS21, Chatham, NY. Performances: Sept. 27, 28, 29 at 8pm. Matinees: Sept. 29, 30 at 2pm. For tickets go to http://ps21chatham.org/event/grant-twain/.