Friday, October 5, 2012

Q&A with "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" star Matt Holzfeind

The cast of Bailiwick's "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson"
Step aside John McCain, there’s a new maverick in town. The cast and crew of the Chicago premiere of the off-Broadway hit “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” are here to declare sexy as the fourth branch of government.
I chatted briefly with Matt Holzfeind,  the star of the rock musical. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: The show has been praised for being unorthodox. Is that justified?
Matt Holzfeind: I suppose. It takes a look at an historical figure in a more modern context. As a work of theater, it plays with style and finds a new and surprising way to tell the tale. It’s highly theatrical.
Q: Why “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”?
MF: It’s an incredible part in a show that is utterly fascinating. This role calls for me to do a lot of things that I don’t normally get to do in musical theater and I am excited to take on that challenge.
Q: Do you find it daunting to play an historic figure?
MF: It’s kind of great thing to try. I’ve been in brand new works and productions of existing plays. I’ve played fictional characters and real people. The chance to work on a thing like this was exciting. With characters based on real people, It’s a cool  to have a template to work from. As actor you draw from your own experiences, but to be able to add your experiences with someone’s real life is just awesome. I’m making an amalgam of my experiences and his.
Q: Sounds like you’ve done a lot of research, then?
MF:  More research than I usually do. Mostly because he’s a guy many Americans are familiar with.
Q: Any books that were particularly useful?
MF: Jon Meacham’s American Lion. Of course, it focused mostly on his time as president. I also read up on anything I could find on line. He’s a multifaceted political figure and most people have strong opinions either for or against him. Fortunately, he is portrayed in the show with a lot of artistic license, so I just needed to have a good, general idea about what he was about.
Q: What is it about him that you identify with?
MF: He had a very strong bond with family, friends and close advisors. He made sure they were taken care of. He had a loyalty to people that is unique in today’s landscape. I have that a bit in my life. I would fight for family and friends as much as Jackson did for those who were in his inner circle.
Q: What ways are you different?
MF: One of of his strengths (and one of his weaknesses) was his assistance on always thinking he was right. It initially kind of made him popular, because he could make decisions and get things done. It also made people feel like he didn’t listen to both sides, though. I try to take everything in. I’m not married to things one way or the other. I’m ok about experiencing things that may ultimately change my perspective or point of view.
Q: The show is giving away tickets on election night with proof that you voted, do you consider yourself political?
MF: I would say I’m political enough in that I am aware of what is going on. I try and stay informed, but I’m not political from an political activist standpoint. I have an understanding of where we are and what is at stake, depending on who gets elected president.
Q: What do you think Jackson would say about the current presidential election?
MF: He hated debt. I mean he really loathed debt and what that meant. If he saw our debt, people in federal government would lose their heads. As the founder of the Democratic party, I also think he’d probably have a problem with the current Democratic party and the political process in general. We are more divided politically than we ever have been.. If he could see today how divided we are, he wouldn’t like it. f
“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” runs through Nov. 10 at the National Pastime Theater, 941 W. Lawrence. Tickets, $15-$30. Free 9 p.m. performance on Election night (Nov. 6) with proof that you voted.

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