Alex Wyse discusses switching roles in ‘Bare’, the musical’s influence and his Twitter account

Since Bare-ing it all at the New World Stages, Alex Wyse has been busy with other projects which now includes a concert at 54 Below on April 8.

Wyse, who most recently played the role of Alan and understudied as Peter in the off-Broadway revisal production of Bare, a story about two boys who fall in love at a Catholic high school, will perform with Santino Fontana, Lindsay Mendez, Kate Wetherhead, Phoebe Strole, Colin Hanlon and several others at the concert which celebrates the music of composer-lyricist Adam Gwon.

In addition to being recognized by Broadway fans for his role in the dramatic musical, Wyse was the inaugural candidate for the Star of the Week column here at StageDoorDish.com. After a brief conversation, Wyse agreed to participate in an interview.

The interview will be brought to you in two parts. The first part, provided below, discusses topics including Bare, the transition from playing two very different characters within the musical, its influence on young audiences, Wyse’s love for musical theatre and his infamously witty Twitter account.

Alex Wyse

Alex Wyse

SDD: Where do your tweets come from? In what corner of your mind do these things come from?

AW: I remember my friend showing me what twitter was in like, 2009 and I was like, “I don’t understand this. I don’t want to be a part of this.” And I think he’s created a monster. So, I hope he feels sorry. Let’s see, where do my tweets come from? I guess from every part of my brain. I just like to write jokes and make people laugh and make people think. It’s really about making people think. I don’t know. Is that the right answer?

SDD: There’s no right or wrong answer, it’s just so funny. When I look at my feed I’m like, ‘There’s Alex saying something really bizarre but it works for him.’

AW: Well good, well good. I hope I can bring the children of America closer to their own hearts through the advent of Twitter: that’s what I hope.

SDD: That’s really deep.

AW: Yeah. Well, you know, I’m kind of a deep guy. So, what can I say, Sam? What can I say?

SDD: What have you been doing since Bare?

AW: Let me open my calendar. Wait, did you see on Playbill? Les Mis is returning to Broadway. Oh my God. Well, this is just crazy. Well, I’ve been auditioning a lot and I’ve been doing a couple concerts. I did Missi Pyle’s concert, and I did a reading. I did a reading that was a new David Friedman musical. I’ve been seeing my friends and family and catching up on life. And I’ve been doing a lot of writing, which has been a lot of fun. Because it’s been my own creative thing that I get to dictate and I get to decide what happens in my word documents. So that’s been really fun and that’s kind of how I spend my time.

SDD: Do you ever think you’ll end up writing another musical or is the writing mostly for you?  

AW: I hope so. I’ve still been working on that show, Nighttime Traffic, that I had in the New York Musical Theatre Festival. I’ve totally rewritten it and revamped it and I’ve also been working on this play that has been great fun for me to work on. I’ve kind of just been keeping to myself right now. Hopefully though, maybe in the next couple of years, I’m going to get those things out there and start some new projects. Writing is really great for me. Whenever I’m not acting, it’s a great outlet for all those pent up things that I need to get out. But I’ve just been doing it for myself these past couple of years. And we’ll see where that takes me. I’m really enjoying myself with the stuff I’m writing so I guess that’s what matters most.

SDD: That’s definitely what matters. What are you most proud of that you’ve done?

AW: Each show that I do is like some other piece of the puzzle or like another step on the journey. I don’t know if I could really pick, but let me give you something that’s good and printable. You know what? Maybe it was doing my show at the New York Musical Theatre Festival because it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and the thing I did where I was most on the line.  And where I probably failed the most because the show ended up being not really what I wanted it to be. But because it failed and because I had to pick myself out of that, it ended up being more valuable, probably, than anything else. But I’m also really proud of the fact that I got to be on Broadway. You know, that’s a dream I had since I was a little kid and I didn’t know if it would ever come true for me. And the fact that it did, I’m really amazed, still, and very humbled by that. It was really special.

SDD: And now you’re going to be back in Les Mis next year as one of the boys on the barricade, right?

AW: Yeah, that’s going to be me. Yes, yes, but I’m going to be one of the ones that’s already dead when the show starts. I’m just going to be a lifeless body. They requested me specifically because I’m so dead in the eyes. So, there you go, there’s my next job.

SDD: I have the big scoop now.

AW: That’s right. Tell your readers.

SDD: So I want to ask about switching roles in Bare. You actually started the show as Alan but filled in for Taylor Trensch as Peter. And I heard you even had to transition from playing Alan to Peter during intermission for a show?

AW: I only had to go on mid-show once, but I went on a total of nine times as Peter. Switching was really crazy. Actually, you’ll appreciate this, I was like, ‘I couldn’t believe that that day happened.’ That was just the craziest shit ever. I just felt like my head was going to explode. I just didn’t even know what was what, I was so frazzled from the whole thing. I was really proud that I got through and I did it. And I went to the stage door, and some woman, she was like, ‘will you sign my program?’ and I was like, ‘Oh sure of course! Thanks for coming’ and she said, ‘We liked you as Alan better.’ And I said, ‘Oh thank you! Thank you so much…’

SDD: What can you say to something like that?

AW: Like come on! I know what a shitty thing to say, right? I was like come on, come on! That was hard. That was really hard.

SDD: Well I just think you’re a terrible actor, overall, but you know…

AW: You know what, I agree with you. I totally agree, and I hope you tell everybody that.

SDD: I do. I actually say, ‘If Alex is in that show I’m not going. No way.’

AW: Yes, that’s what I say too.

SDD: Good. I mean, that’s really the whole thing.

AW: Right?

SDD: Did you have a preference between Peter and Alan? Because Alan was very comical and light and Peter drives the whole show.

AW: Well, I’ll tell you this. There were upsides and downsides to both. When I was playing Alan, it was really fun and kind of easy and I felt like I was hanging out with my friends and just being the support for this story. It was a very, very different job when I had to step into Peter. I was very scared and I felt like I had a huge responsibility and I took it very seriously. It was completely exhausting and really not that much fun to have to live through. It’s really tough. Honestly, I don’t know how Taylor [Trensch] did it as much as he did or how anyone would do it that much because it was very sad. You really had to put yourself in a very vulnerable place to do that. I felt really honored to do that because I know how much it meant to so many of those kids who were coming to see it and I felt like a had a really big responsibility to all of those kids to help tell Peter’s story and then to help tell their story. I didn’t take it lightly. It felt like this big load I was lifting. It was very, very special to me. I felt so blessed to have done that.

SDD: What do you think that you learned from that experience either from the cast or from the show that was so heavy?

AW: I’m not sure what I could say. You know what, I don’t know if there’s a lesson that I learned from being there, as much as it was an experience of community. Being with this cast who I love so much. We had such an amazing time together and they’re all such great, talented people. The experience of really banding together with them through the good times and the bad times of putting up a show, and there’s always good and bad times in putting up a show. The experience of doing it with these people gave me new friends and new memories, and having to play Peter stretched me as an actor in a way that I hadn’t gotten to do in a little bit. It brought me these experiences. You know what the amazing thing was about Bare? When we were in previews, all these people from New York were seeing the show. We had a lot of mixed buzz going around. People were saying ‘Oh, I saw the original and I don’t like this new version.’ Everybody had their opinion about the new version of Bare. It felt like, ‘Do you like the new version, do you not like the new version?’ But then, after we opened, and that kind of died away and all of those New York people had seen the show and they were off doing their next thing. Then we had all of these kids coming to see the show, all of these kids who were 16 and had never seen Bare and this was a story they needed to hear.  And so we had all these kids who were coming again and again to see the show who were so moved by it and we would talk to at the stage door. There was one boy, who had experienced something so similar to what was being portrayed on stage and he came to the show like ten times and meeting him made us feel like, ‘Oh my God, we are doing something that really matters.’ It’s not about, ‘Do you like the new version, do you like the new songs?’ Look at this story we’re telling that’s really touching people and these kids are coming to see the show who need to hear it. It’s like this cathartic experience for them and it felt, eventually, like we had this responsibility to these kids to do it for them so they could move through whatever they were going through. So, that was the biggest experience of Bare for me were all these awesome, awesome kids I kept meeting who I was so humbled by. It was very special.

SDD: Did you expect that kind of reaction from people about the show?

AW: Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t feel as close to this show, because playing Alan I was just like ‘here are my jokes, waka waka,’ and that was great and fun but I didn’t really feel like I was part of that experience that these kids were having until I was meeting them and seeing what they were going through watching the show. And then, when I had to step up and start playing Peter, it became a new experience for me. It became much more than what it was in rehearsal. In rehearsal it was making up new jokes and having fun.

SDD: Would you be interested in a film version of Bare? Do you think that’s something you and the rest of the cast would consider?

AW: Absolutely. Of course we would because we all loved doing the show and we would love to get it out there more. We all miss it so much. But, unfortunately, I don’t think there is any film version in the works. But they are still trying to do the cast album and hopefully that’ll be happening. So that’s great. But let me tell you, we all miss it a lot.

SDD: Did you make up Alan’s adlibs or was that something that was given to you?

AW: I made things up every night. They told me that I couldn’t. They actually yelled at me. They said, ‘You need to stop doing that’ and I said no. I was respectful and I stuck to the script, mostly, but there was one place where I would make up some new little thing. It was the “choosy Jews,” line. The joke was I keep going and Missi would cut me off and so I would have new things to say every night about how ‘choosy Jews choose chosen chicks.’ It was really fun. The most fun part about playing Alan was like, ‘Oh, what am I going to say tonight?’ And sometimes it was not knowing and just going out there and making shit up. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t but it was always an adventure. It kept it really fresh and alive for me. It was really cool.

SDD: How does it feel going from being a Broadway fan to being in New York and part of the theatre scene and the Broadway scope?

AW: It’s incredible because I still am just a fan. It’s an incredible thing to be a part of something that you love so much and that you’ve loved since you were a kid and I hope that I can keep being a part of it. Sometimes it gets hard when you start to compare yourself to your peers which is really easy to do. Most of my friends are actors and we’re all doing this together. It’s really hard to keep your focus looking forward instead of side-to-side but I just try to remember that I have been fortunate enough to be a part of this community in the first place and it’s no small thing. I need to make sure I never take that for granted because this is a really cool, weird community that I never want to leave.

Tickets for the 54 Below concert on April 8 can be purchased here. Stay tuned for the second part of my interview with Alex. 

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About Samantha S.

"I found the theatre and I found my home.” ― Audra McDonald

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