We spoke with Seattle artist Nicholas Japaul Bernard about creativity, experience, his headlining role in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, opening June 7.
Why are you excited to take on the role of Hedwig?
God, there’s so much. It’s a hell of a role, and not the kind an actor gets to do everyday, so that’s exciting. I haven’t been in Seattle that long (It’ll be a year on June 19th) so to have one of the major theater companies in the area trust me with this material is pretty exciting.
I’m excited to tell this story, I’m excited to collaborate with new artists, I’m excited to figure out what my “rock voice” sounds like, I’m excited for this wig, I’m excited for the well-deserved sleep I’m gonna get after every night of me running around stage in the throes of Hedwig’s trauma, I’m excited to let Seattle know that I’m here.
There’s a lot to be excited about!
Why do you hope people will see this production at ArtsWest? What do you think will set it apart?
First and foremost there is a black body on stage; you should be in the audience.
I think what’s going to make this production special and what’s going to get people coming – and coming back – has to do with the voices in the room: a gay director, a gender queer/non-binary actor, and a gay-black-disabled actor. If you know the show then you can see that these three voices all have stake in this story and all have direct links to the subject matter. Also, the fact that Hedwig will be sharing a set with Lady Day blows my mind and I have no idea how it’s going to get done. Scenic Design is not my ministry so I tip my wig to all the people who will be making this happen.
What is exciting to you about working with Dani Hobbs and Mathew Wright?
I touched on this earlier, but our voices all coming together to bring out the best in this show is going to be exciting. My fingertips buzz if I think about it too hard. With Dani’s lived experience of existing in the space between the binary, my lived experience of being trapped in a body that I never asked for, and Matt’s directorial eye combing through the script – capitalizing on the amount of potential play and commentary in the work – it’s just gonna be f***ing great.
Who are your theatre, music, and performing role models?
Well, being egregiously homosexual, I look up to female performers for the most part, so:
For Performance: Tiffany New York Pollard (she has universal presence and appeal and you can’t teach that.)
For Acting: Viola Davis, Audra McDonald, Heather “Do you mind if I snatch your wig right quick?” Headley, Glenn Close
For Vocals: Whitney Houston, Renee Fleming, Beyonce, Darius De Haas, Stevie Wonder, Steven Pasquale
In terms of an over all role model, I have a few, but they all fall into the category of anyone who has been told no by friends, family, strangers, society, and their own bodies. Whether you made your dreams come true or not, I am standing on your shoulders and I am beyond grateful for this view.
What, in your opinion, makes ArtsWest special as a place to make and see theatre?
I would say the size. It’s just big enough to do very high quality productions, but just small enough that it can do ridiculous things like have a double feature night with Hedwig and Lady Day. Artswest’s greatest strength is that it’s straddling two worlds; a masterclass in finding the beauty in the messiness that is the in-between. There is no better enviorment to mount a production like Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
Catch Nicholas in Hedwig and the Angry Inch.