Recently, I had the privilege of talking with actor Michael Linden. Michael was a Chair of Rock in the national tour of Spring Awakening, as well as playing Seymour in two different regional productions of Little Shop of Horrors. He is currently on tour with HAIR. In addition to being an awesome-famous-actor-guy, Michael shares my love of food! What could possibly be better?
For readers who don’t know what a Chair of Rock is, can you explain the role in your own words?
A Chair of Rock is a title exclusively reserved for the ensemble of Spring Awakening. We were costumed in street clothing and were sat with audience members who reserved special onstage seating on either side of the stage. During the song “Touch Me” we grabbed handheld microphones that were hidden in our costumes and participated in the show as cast members. It’s one of the most interesting choices I’ve ever seen or been a part of in a show. It also provided a link between the world of 1891 (the time period of the play) and present day.
You were a Chair of Rock on the SA national tour, which I imagine was quite the amazing experience. Any notable stories of surprised audience members?
Often times people who participated in the on stage seating were huge fans of the show and knew what was up before we revealed ourselves. There was no greater thrill to me than someone who hadn’t seen the show before when I surprised him or her during “Touch Me.” One girl was actually ANGRY that I lied to her by not telling her I was in the show before it started. I came out a few minutes before act two started and she refused to talk to me! I think I won her over by the time the act started, but I just couldn’t give myself away!
Did any audience members get up and start singing when you did?
Nope—I’m not too sure what I would have done in that situation. I might have handed them the microphone.
Funniest onstage blooper?
The first time I went on for Ernst in Spring Awakening, I split my pants right down the middle within the first ten minutes. By the time I could get offstage, I was pretty much wearing a makeshift skirt.
What are your feelings about breaking the Fourth Wall in a show, especially since Spring Awakening and Hair both do this?
I think it’s one of the things that makes theater so unique. 3-D movies are such a huge deal now, but when people go and see a show, they get the 3-D experience every single time! I know there are audience members who absolutely hate when cast members go into the house, but I think it’s all in good fun. As long as we’re not invading personal space, it adds something really special to a theatergoing experience.
You’ve been on tour with some pretty great shows. What is your favorite part of being on tour as opposed to regional productions?
Eating. Being able to explore different cuisines in different parts of the U.S. and abroad is so exciting. It really allows me to get a grasp on the culture. And then eat it.It’s also exciting to be in a new venue frequently; I had no idea how many beautiful theaters there are in the U.S. And having new audiences respond to different things in different ways keeps things so new and exciting.
What is your favorite city that you’ve visited on tour?
That’s a tough one; L.A. was great and I loved Portland, Oregon, but I think Chicago has been my favorite so far. Not only is there a lot to see and is the food scene fantastic, but the entire city embraces theatre so much.
Your food blog makes me really hungry. What, would you say, is the most amazing foodular experience you’ve gotten to blog about?
The food trucks in Portland, Oregon were amazing. They have entire city blocks full of hundreds of options. They really have an amazing system that allows anyone with culinary skill and passion for feeding people to start their own business. The last day I was there, I ate at five different food trucks before I left just so I could try as much as possible. I should buy stock in Tums. Also, I’m in the process of pre-production for a cooking show; it’s in the very early stages, but be on the lookout for that!
Favorite role that you’ve ever played?
I have to say, playing Bat Boy in Bat Boy: the Musical was unbelievably fun. The show is so zany but still delivers a powerful message with such an awesome rock score. I could sing that music all day every day!
What is/are your dream role(s)?
So many! Any time I see a nerdy role, or someone who gets to sing a pop song, or has a great dramatic moment I usually want to sink my teeth into it. Also anything Sondheim.
Any notable backstage rituals?
Riffing. But I guess I do that all the time.
What was the first Broadway show that you ever saw?
Peter Pan with Cathy Rigby. And she just closed her final tour of it a few weeks ago! I’ll always remember the first time she flew in through the window.
If you could perform opposite anyone in the world, who would it be and what would you perform?
Meryl Streep. Side Show.