5 Questions I’ve Never Been Asked: Christopher Sieber
To read Savage Love, the nationally syndicated neutron bomb of a sex-advice column that Dan Savage has written for nearly 20 years, is to love him, loathe him, lust for him and want to spurn him all at once. Sassy, pissy, fresh as a swish of mouthwash after a lurid session between the sheets, Savage is written entertainment and oral argument and thick on the brain per column inch. In short, eminently readable.
Which is also to suggest that Savage’s 1999 book, The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant, detailing how he and his boyfriend, Terry Miller, adopted a child, reads today like a remarkable snapshot of its era. Terrific then as now for a misty eye and laugh-induced crow’s feet, the book is nonetheless a pre-Bush, pre-9/11, post-Clinton, post-LGBT-liberation celebration-cum-warning — a peek back at, in my view, comparatively worse times, back when AIDS was more of a mortician’s cash-cow and gay marriage lacked a legal toehold in America. I remember the late ’90s’ struggle with nomenclature: boyfriend or partner or husband or wife? Savage calls Miller his “boyfriend.” I think it’s a wonderfully provocative, almost noble — and generational — quirk.
Then again, Savage, whose background happens to be theater, lives his life like performance art. If you don’t know the tale of how he tried insinuating himself into the presidential campaign of radical-right errand-boy Gary Bauer, Google it and admire his gumption. And now, of course, The Kid is a musical.
You could see that coming, right?
Absolutely. With book by Michael Zam, music by Andy Monroe and lyrics by Jack Lechner, The Kid, which earlier won the 2009 BMI Foundation Jerry Bock Award for Excellence in Musical Theatre, is being produced by The New Group and directed by Scott Elliott, with musical staging by Josh Prince. And starring as Savage is Christopher Sieber, which is to say that, in our view, he is perhaps the only actor working in the American theater with the range and plausibility to take the part on. Twice Tony-nominated for best featured actor in a musical (first for Spamalot, then for Shrek) and working on Broadway steadily for more than 10 years, Sieber is notably and vociferously out — not a late-to-the-party out like, say, Ricky Martin, but a smart-timing-out, coinciding with his role in the 2003 ABC series It’s All Relative, in which he played one half of a gay couple.
Sieber, too, has an air of the idiosyncratic about him, whether its the secluded New Jersey island he inhabits with his partner, Kevin Burrows (notice the updated nomenclature), or simply the adorably goof-prone antics he embraced as part of Spamalot. It’s called acting, of course, and in some senses we all do it: acting as a sex-advice columnist, acting a character. It’s charm and the merry insouciance that accompanies it that makes Sieber such wise casting. (The Kid also features Lucas Steele as Terry Miller, and Kevin Anthony, Susan Blackwell, Jill Eikenberry, Jeannine Frummess, Ann Harada, Tyler Maynard, Brooke Sunny Moriber, Justin Patterson and Michael Wartella.)
And now, 5 questions Christopher Sieber has never been asked — and a bonus question:
1) What’s the most perceptive question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
It was early on. My high school teacher, Deb Bendix, asked me, “What are you afraid of? Be afraid, be terrified, but don’t let it stop you.” I think about that every time I start to doubt myself. My dad also asked me once, “Are you on fire? Are you cut in half? No? Then you’re fine!” I always think of that, too, when I get overwhelmed…try it!
2) What’s the most idiotic question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
Not really idiotic, just a peeve of mine. Them: “Are you an actor?” Me: ” Yes…” Them: “What have I seen you in?” People, as flattering as it is to be recognized, it is not my job or responsibility to tell you my resume. My final reply is always, “I have no idea, what have you seen me in?”
3) What’s the weirdest question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
Someone asked me once at a talkback after performing Bobby in Company, a show where you basically never leave the stage, “Was that you singing live?”
4) You play Dan Savage in The Kid. Who is he, really? How do you play someone so well known? Are there moments in the piece that help you to be consciously different from the person that Savage really is?
Thank goodness I don’t have to embody Dan Savage, or do a life study of him, I just get to tell Terry and Dan’s story.
5) As members of the LGBT community increasingly integrate into and become accepted by society, is it imperative for more of them to become parents? Playing Dan Savage, are there values a gay parent can instill in a child that — stereotypically speaking — a straight parent cannot?
As far as the LGBT community goes, just like straight couples, it is up to what the couples want and need. The difference is that two men have a few more hoops to jump through — they can’t just get pregnant like a lesbian or straight couple can. In my opinion, it is everyone’s right to be a parent if they want to be. As far as what a gay parent can instill in a child or be beneficial to: a child of a gay male couple will never lose a Halloween costume contest…ever.
6) Your reputation as a versatile performer is fully earned. In the musical theater, though, what sorts of roles aren’t being written that you’d personally like to see? Can anything be a musical?
First of all, thank you. Because I am a smart-ass, I would like to see something with a title like Steelworkers! A Love Story or Lucky Bitches or Grandpa’s Kisses. I think anything can be a musical…doesn’t mean it’s going to be good, though.
Leonard Jacobs is the founder and editor emeritus of The Clyde Fitch Report.