Sean Hudock is a talented actor based in New York City who recently started The Wild Root Company, a non-profit production company committed to cultivating bold new works from emerging storytellers. We sat down for some tea and chatted about his career, aspirations and goals. Towards the end I threw some rapid-fire questions at him and he knocked them out of the ballpark.
The Playbill Collector (TPC): When did you know you wanted to be in theater?
SH: When I was very young I was passionate to the point of obsession with magic. Specifically, putting together and performing magic shows at family gatherings. I still have no idea where it came from, but there was this energizer bunny thing inside of me that kept me researching new tricks and dedicated to making sure that every family event was complete with a magic show. That was probably where the performing bug bit me, even though we weren’t a theatre-going family. Around that time I also got to know an incredible man named Paul Ryan Rudd who I knew was an actor but found out much later in my life in theatre was actually a renowned classical actor in New York in the 70’s and 80’s. Paul and his family moved to my hometown when I was just starting elementary school and I became good friends with his son. By proxy I got to know Paul very well. Paul had an incredible energy about him that I was instantly inspired by. His love of language, laughter, theater, art, wit and Shakespeare was magnetic. That was my first glimpse into the world of the performing arts and I knew very early on that that was where I would be spending the rest of my life.
TPC: Did you get your degree in theater?
SH: Yes. I went to the University of Richmond, a small liberal arts college in Virginia where I double majored in Theater and English with a focus on arts management and non-profit philanthropy. My first semester at Richmond I started an improv comedy troupe called Subject To Change that I’m proud to say is still going strong. The faculty and resources at Richmond were first rate and incredibly supportive.
TPC: You and I met at Titan Theatre Company’s A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM. Can you tell us about your experience with that show?
SH: I don’t take on a project unless I know there’s an immense wall to be climbed to make the work happen, a challenge to be faced head on in telling the story, or unless someone says “that’s impossible.” I like “impossible” things. Midsummer was, without a doubt, the most challenging and seemingly impossible project that I’ve ever undertaken. On top of performing a bare-bones, nine-actor ensemble take on Shakespeare’s Midsummer, the main conceit of the production was that the audience would be picking our roles out of a hat each night, so the nine of us had to know every single role in the play and have those roles performance ready literally at the drop of a hat. Daunting and nerve racking don’t begin to describe the rehearsal and pre-show jitters, but when all was said and done it was an incredible exercise in relaxation, focus, trust, staying present, listening and collaborating with the audience. We all grew immensely during that process, and the show was incredibly well received by audiences and critics. There’s a rumor we’ll be scaling that mountain again in a remount of the show later in 2014.
TPC: Did you move straight to New York after graduating?
SH: My sophomore year of undergrad I applied for an acting apprenticeship at The Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey. A few days before the end of the program I was in one of our final acting classes when there was a knock on the door. The theatre’s Director of Education and Associate Artistic Director wanted to speak with me privately outside, at which point I was sure I’d been voted off the island and was going to be packing my bags early for some odd reason. Turns out an actor in the theatre’s main stage production of Brecht’s Life of Galileo had gotten ill after their first preview and they needed an immediate replacement. I said “yes,” had a few hours of rehearsal in the role, went on that night for the show’s second preview, and stayed with the show for the remainder of the run. That was my first professional theater experience, which began a relationship with a terrific company that I am very grateful to have continued for seven seasons. They’ve given me training, my Equity card, and countless priceless artistic opportunities and experiences. After graduating from college I worked steadily, doing shows in Russia, Minneapolis, touring around the country before settling in on New York three years ago.
TPC: You have also done television, commercials and a well acclaimed movie “Private Romeo”. Who did you play in the film and what was that experience like?
SH: The experience was incredible. The film is an all male feature film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Julietset in a military academy directed and adapted using Shakespeare’s language by the brilliant Alan Brown. I play Gus (the “Benvolio” character, “Romeo’s” best friend), who is the youngest of eight cadets at the academy. Over the course of the film two of the cadets (played by Seth Numrich and Matt Doyle) fall in love and the story follows the path of Romeo and Juliet with a few creative liberties taken. The film made a successful round on the international film festival circuit and was released in theatres and on DVD in 2012. We filmed around the time when Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and DOMA were on the chopping block and when a series of tragic gay bullying stories had been making their way back into the headlines. We were all adamant about telling a story that addressed those very heavy social issues, but we didn’t want the film to have an immense weight. We didn’t want to focus on any potential tragedy. As far as we were all concerned it was time to start telling stories about hope and love and the celebration of equality and brotherhood and coming together. That’s where the “adaptation” part of the film comes in. I still get emails, tweets and messages from fans of all walks of life saying how much the film has meant to them, which means a great deal.
TPC: What is a show you would love for someone to come to you and say “will you do this?”
SH: Prince Hal, Macbeth, Hamlet. I’m also working on a new play right now called Room at the End of the Hall that I’m looking really forward to diving into soon.
TPC: What are you working on now?
SH: I just launched a non-profit production company called The Wild Root Company which focuses on developing previously unproduced works from emerging and early career playwrights and screenwriters, with a focus on bringing audiences into the fold of what goes into the development of new work. Although the company has been in the works for quite some time, we officially launched at Playwrights Horizons in January with a reading of a new screenplay based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and Damned called “Gloria” deftly adapted by rising young writer Daniel Mitura. In addition to showcasing the work to an audience for the first time, the reading served as a fundraiser for the Ali Forney Center for Homeless LGBTQ Youth. The reading, which was directed by two-time Drama Desk nominee Ed Sylvanus Iskandar and featured a cast of 18 incredible actors including Tony winner Dick Latessa, Tony nominee Zach Grenier and Genevieve Angelson, was an great success and we raised funds and awareness for an extraordinary cause. Wild Root is focusing on developing a few other very promising works right now, including new plays by Rocco Natale, Jonathan Kravetz and a musical.
TPC: Who’s on your team?
SH: The team fluctuates with each project, but every endeavor starts and ends with the writer and the script. My job is to build a team of artists (dramaturg, director, actors, designers, etc.) who can align with the writer’s vision to bring the words and world on the page to life.
TPC: Who picks the director?
SH: Sometimes the writer has someone in mind, sometimes we tear through the New York Times and scour the internet to find out who is doing work that might compliment the writer’s vision.
TPC: Are you shifting from acting to producing?
SH: No. I’m equally passionate about both.
TPC: What are your long-term goals for The Wild Root Company?
SH: In 3-5 years I’d like to have a permanent space for us to work in.
TPC: Give me one or two shows on or Off Broadway that you love?
SH: Off Broadway, BUYER AND CELLAR is a must-see! On Broadway, WAITING FOR GODOT and NO MANS LAND. The rep pairing is brilliant.
TPC: Who is an actor you would love to work with?
SH: Ian McKellen.
TPC: Who’s your favorite leading lady?
SH: Judi Dench.
TPC: If you could do a musical, what would you do?
SH: I’m a big Titanic buff (the ship, pre-movie, pre-musical). Incidentally I also love the score of TITANIC THE MUSICAL so any role in that show would be great.
TPC: What’s your favorite snack backstage?
SH: A banana. My friends from Midsummer will appreciate that one.