Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bartender to Barksdaler--The Secret Life of Evan Nasteff

We've decided to save Jill Bari 3 to sneak in another plug for the final two weekends of Becky's New Car. So today we begin our--is it too soon to say "traditional"?--three-part interview with Evan Nasteff, the attractive young bartender who's setting aside his martini shaker Thursdays through Sundays to stir up some mischief in BNC at Hanover Tavern. When you're strategically seeking to attract a younger audience--and yes, Barksdale is making steps in that direction--it's not stupid to recruit the talents of a guy like Evan. He's young, he's hip, he's tatooed, he's completely comfortable appearing in swimwear--and at the same time, he's clean cut, polite, smart, and would make a good impression if you took him home to meet your mother. In short, he has the potential to attract a younger crowd while also pleasing American theatre's more traditional ticket buyer. Not a bad skill set--behind a bar or onstage at Barksdale. Becky's New Car runs this weekend and next before driving away and into the sunset. Everyone loves this quirky, contemporary comedy. What's the matter with you? You haven't seen it even once!?

Q - Hi Evan. Thanks for agreeing to talk with us. You're a new face in professional theatre in Richmond! Welcome. Where was your previous acting experience?

A - I'm four years out of college and thrilled to be returning to the theatre scene. Becky's is the first professional play I auditioned for in Richmond, and it will not be the last. I acted in high school, and ended up as a theatre major at Hampden-Sydney College. Hampden-Sydney has a small theatre program. As a result, everyone involved in it is completely immersed and extremely passionate. I had the privilege of studying under the amazing wife-and-husband team of Shirley Kagan and Matt Dubroff. Together they run the theatre program at H-SC, and they take turns directing plays, demonstrating their unique and contrasting styles. Because they're so different in their approaches, but equal in passion, their shows always feel fresh.

Q - What were your favorite shows with Kagan and Dubroff?

A - Playing Buckingham in Shakespeare's Richard III, which Matt set in the modern era and re-titled K-R:III. We were flying on wires, shooting each other, and fighting in slow motion. Very cool. Acting in Rashoman, a sort of murder mystery classic adapted for Broadway by Faye and Michael Kanin from an even more classic Japanese film, the 1950 masterwork by Akira Kurosawa. The film in turn was adapted from two dark Japanese short stories by Ryƫnosuke Akutagawa. Just like many Japanese film classics, the story in the play--a murder mystery told from several different perspectives--starts out quietly, the storytelling is very subtle, and then everything slowly builds momentum. There was some incredible work done in that show.

I loved performing in Noises Off!, a farce to beat all farces--just about the funniest thing I've ever read, seen, or been a part of. Shirley pulled out all the stops and we crashed over, under and through the revolving set to packed houses every night. I also flipped out over every single second of playing Marc in Yasmina Reza's Art, and every nanosecond of working with the amazing people in that show. It was my thesis. Grant Mudge from Richmond Shakes came and reviewed me. I got an A! Fun was had.

Also, in Noises Off!, I got to have my pants systematically fall down every night exactly when I wanted them to. Gotta love that.

Q - You're a much-acclaimed bartender at Off the Hookah, or so I've been told by several of your fans. Do you find any similarities between your work behind the bar and your work on stage?

A - Actually, being a bartender has a lot in common with theatre. Whether you're grinding out crushed red pepper in fine dining or slinging vodka-cranberries at a nightclub, people come expecting some kind of show. It's my job to give them that show. In fine dining, paying customers at the bar expect to be provided for, and in most cases, engaged in some sort of conversation. At Off The Hookah, we have different actors playing different roles. We have machines, bartenders who dispense drinks as fast as humanly possible; we have the girls, the eye candy behind the bar who keep the guys coming in droves; and we have the circus, the bartenders that throw bottles way up in the air and breathe 151-proof fire. I fall in the "machine" category. I would say "eye candy," but I'm not sure a sparkling sequin glitter-bra would look very good on me.

Q - I don't know. In Becky's your character comes on stage for one scene wearing nothing but a towel. And no one in the audience complains. How do you feel being exploited as a hunk of man candy?

A - Oh shit. You know, I didn't even feel that way at all, and--I haven't told the cast this, I was going to save this story for our cast party. On Opening Night, we had a party afterwards in Hanover Tavern's tap room, and... well, there was an open bar. This cute girl comes up to me, and I had never seen her before, and she goes, "So what were you wearing under your towel?" Not, "Good job!" Not, "I'd like to discuss your political stance on withdrawal from Iraq," but, "So what were you wearing under your towel?" That's one of the few times when I sorta thought, oh, maybe they are using me as a steaming hunk of whatever-you-called-it. But, the way I see it, whatever sells tickets, man. Everyone who knows me knows that I really don't have any boundaries at all, and I'm not afraid of anything--except spiders-- so it isn't an issue for me.

So she says, "What were you wearing under your towel?" and I said, "A top hat."

(Coming Soon - Part 2. Photo captions: top right - promo shot for Becky's with Melissa Johnston Price, center left - at the Artsies with his new friend Audra Honaker, bottom right, on stage in Becky's New Car)

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