Ben Guralnik is in his happy place … on West 54th Street

Ben Guralnik Interview by Jen Bush

What Do We Do About Walter will be opening at The American Theatre of Actors in November.  You can find Ben Guralnik in his happy place as he performs in this production.  We were thrilled to chat with him about his life and this play.  “I am a DC Native, but I’ve been in NYC for almost 14 years.  I studied acting in college, and there is nowhere I feel more comfortable and happy than on the stage.”

What Do We Do About Walter has many interesting elements to it.  “This play is very funny and also intellectual.  It’s got so much loaded into it, and we’re discovering and peeling back all the layers, even after 6+ weeks of rehearsal.  Greenfield did a fantastic job intertwining so many themes into it, and timely too!  I know he wrote this play over 20 years ago, but we are dealing with many of the same issues both in the educational system, and throughout so many aspects of culture.  Money makes the work go round!”

This piece is about rivalry in academia.  Mr. Guralnik has some thoughts on the current state of education.    “Uggghhh, where do I start.  It’s certainly not something fun to talk about, especially since there are lots and lots of faults with it.  I grew up going to a mixture of public and private school, so I experienced a bit of both, and the difference is night and day.  Fictional Bridge College may exist in the early 2000’s, but it is a perfect representation of the varying systemic issues we face today.  Education means so many different things to different people in our country, and I fear everyone is tailoring it a-la-carte to match their beliefs and needs.  The pandemic was absolutely a turning point, and it really put a magnifying glass on our faults and shortcomings.”

Mr. Guralnik has happily worked with The American Theatre of Actors before.  “I’ve done a few projects at ATA, and I feel so lucky to have found a great community with access to such a dynamic venue so close to the epicenter of the theatre universe. I’ve met so many great people working here, and I’m really proud of the work we’ve done here, especially The Sandman (from 2016-17).”

 This is Mr. Guralnik’s first time working with director Laurie Rae Waugh and it’s been a very positive experience for him.  “After years of trying to find projects to work on, this is our first time actually working together and it has been such a blast.  I love how direct and straightforward she is.  If she wants something, she will make her intent known, but also gives us so much space to create and develop.  She’s super suppotive and her attention to detail is very important, especially with such an intellectual piece like this.”

This is Mr. Guralnik’s first Irving Greenfield play.  He has the utmost respect for the man.  “Yes, this is my first play, and I am sad I never got to meet him.  I’ve seen a few of his plays performed, and he was quite a force.  Such a complex man, chock full of experiences and stories.  I would have loved to hear more about his days as a professor and in the education system.”

Mr. Guralnik is thrilled to be performing live again despite the fact that Covid is still hanging around.  He’s certainly not alone in his sentiments.  “I’m glad it’s finally back. Such a dark time for all of us. I did a few Zoom shows, which was fun, but nothing can replicate live theatre. I still believe that audiences should be wearing masks, and actors and creatives should be taking all of the steps and precautions, because Covid is far from over.  It’s all about weighing the risks and reward, and theatre is such a reward.”  J

This talented artist is not sure what’s next on his creative plate but welcomes the opportunity to be a part of new works that will find their way to the stage.  “Not sure yet.  Just taking it one day at a time here.  I’m hoping the pandemic was a busy time for writers, and we will all start to see that work come to life very soon.”

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