Eric Morin: finding just the right amount of sizzle for Fun Home - Drew Rowsome - 416 Scene - MyGayToronto
Eric Morin: finding just the right amount of sizzle for Fun Home 04 April 2018
Eric Morin is a quadruple-threat. Not only is he a powerful singer, dancer and thespian, but he possesses that elusive charisma that catches the eye and ear. And it doesn't hurt that he has leading man good looks that are striking in any, or out of any, costume. After seducing audiences with a memorable song and dance, tighty-whitey clad number in Hello Again, Morin is tackling four different roles in the multiple Tony Award-winning Fun Home.
Based on Alison Bechdel's best-selling graphic novel/memoir, Fun Home tells the story of a young woman discovering, and embracing, not only her lesbianism but that her father was a closeted gay man. The musical moves back and forth in time, dealing with memory, regrets, sexual awakening and what it was like growing up in a funeral home. When I bumped into Morin just as rehearsals began, he was explosively enthused about Fun Home and intensely focussed on the challenges it presents him. He readily agreed to take the time to answer a few questions by email.
Drew Rowsome: You have lots of experience with musicals, what is special about Fun Home?
Eric Morin: The joys and challenges of working on Fun Home is creating a clear and vivid history for the four characters that I am portraying. I serve the story to illustrate Bruce's sexual oppression by demonstrating his sexual urges that he sometimes acts upon. I arrive on the scene for a very brief period in all circumstances so I'm not only exploring the text that is on the page but also what is unsaid.
How did you get cast in Fun Home?
I already had a relationship with director Robert McQueen, musical director Reza Jacobs and Musical Stage Company artistic director Mitchell Marcus, having worked with them back in 2013 when I played the role of Whizzer in Falsettos. They were familiar with my work and since I am self-represented, they had emailed me to audition for the role. On Saturday night, I closed Catalyst's production of Vigilante in Ottawa and drove back to Toronto to audition on Sunday for Fun Home. I brought great vulnerability into the room and two days later, I received an email with an offer.
Having worked with much of the team before, how important is the feeling of family in a rehearsal environment for creating a family on stage?
It's incredibly important. We have a history with one another, so naturally we all know how one works and what it is we all bring to the table. Reza and Robert bring such heart to their craft and that is unique. There is also a familiarity that serves us all. The expectations before we start is huge and as an actor, I usually come to the table prepared, off book and have a strong sensibility of the character I am portraying and what the linear focus of the story we are telling is.
You have four roles in a musical that takes place in two time periods. How do you keep each role and time period differentiated? Which of the characters do you most identify with?
I've been working with Robert and Alex and Carmen Amini the costume designers, to interpret what it is I'm exploring in the rehearsal hall. I'm also working with different physical bodies to differentiate them from one another. I identify with Roy the most, as he has the clearest story arc out of the four. Also, in Alison's memoir, he was extremely present in the family's life as he babysat their kids and even went on trips with the whole family. There is a lot of history to draw from and I have had a similar experience with a married man when I was younger.
What is it like working with theatre legends Cynthia Dale and Evan Buliung [The Audience]?
A dream. I have always looked up to them both and hoped I would get to work with them. I've seen them onstage but it's amazing to be working alongside of them. The are both incredibly giving, curious and warm on and off the stage. The same goes for Laura Condlin [An Enemy of the People, Sextet], Sabryn Rock and Sara Farb. I am in great company. I still have fond memories of Cynthia Dale playing Charity in Sweet Charity, Sara in Next to Normal as Natalie, Sabryn in Caroline or Change, Laura in The Matchmaker and Evan in almost everything that he has tackled at Stratford.
What is your favourite number in Fun Home?
My favourite number is "Helen, Bruce and Roy." It is the scene in which you begin to understand the complexities within this family and the inner struggle and turmoil between Helen and Bruce. The most challenging is "A Raincoat of Love" as it isn't an easy sing. I play a David Cassidy-type character and this one number has challenged me to be quite disciplined in my day to day routine. No drinking or partying during this run!
Coming out stories and closets figure in all our histories. How do Fun Home's dilemmas resonate with your life?
Oh, that's complex. I mean throughout history it was implied that if you came out as an artist your career would be over. Or at least the fear of "What if." I am openly gay, but I don't want my sexual orientation to define what it is I can or cannot play on stage. I love performing as a "straight" male. I think I bring an unbiased attitude when it comes to playing what's on the page and I am not afraid to bring great vulnerability to the scene. Sometimes I find some straight male actors will play their roles with great stoicism and their performance becomes one note. I saw Fun Home on Broadway near the end of the run and felt that way about Michael Cerveris' performance. That is certainly not the case with Evan Buliung. He is fearless and you see the shattered man trying to hold everything together. It's exquisite.
When and how did you decide to embark on a career in acting?
I decided to embark on a career in the arts when I first got a taste for it at the young age of 11. My mom forced me to go to a theatre camp in London called Original Kids. I kicked and screamed and refused to go. She said try it for one day and then you can make up your mind. After the very first day, it was impossible for her to pry me away. I had found my home.
What is it like working with child actors again? Did you work as a child actor or in school plays? Does that give you an urge to mentor and/or remind you of early ambitions?
They are a joy to work with. They are so professional and they definitely keep us 'adults' on our toes. Hannah Levinson [The Sound of Music] is heartbreaking as small Alison. I also had the opportunity to work with her brother Michael Levinson in Falsettos. What a crazy talented family. I did four seasons of the High School Project at the Grand Theatre in London. It certainly gave me a taste of what I could expect in this industry and is the reason I pursued it at a professional level. I love mentoring. I hope to do more of it in the future,
Do you get a chance to work your sex appeal in Fun Home?
LOL. As Roy I guess I do but it's subtle. We talked about whether Roy could show more skin or whether he might kiss Bruce, but it doesn't really ask for it in the scene. We found the anticipation and tension of wanting something to happen is more tantalizing; Less is more in this case
What is your favourite past role? The one you are most proud of?
Oh man, that's a tough question. That's like Sophie's Choice . . . I'm proud of many of them. Gabe in the Canadian premiere of Next to Normal, D'Artagnan in The Three Musketeers, Robert Donnelly in Vigilante, to name a few.
What musical role would you like to get a crack at?
George in Sunday in the Park with George, the emcee in Cabaret . . . The best would be originating a role that has yet to be written.
What is next after Hello Again for the provocative theatre company the ARTillery Collective that you helped found?
We are considering a few things. We would like to do a double bill of two Canadian plays by playwright Bryden MacDonald, Little Dog Laughed by Douglas Carter Bean, a concert of Sunday in the Park with George, and La Cage aux Folles starring local Toronto drag queens.