By Tony Schillaci and Don Church
“Where’s your lunch?” we
asked in unison as Chad Allen bounced into the TheaterWorks conference
room. The 33 year-old actor had agreed to an
informal lunchtime interview with Metroline, while in rehearsals for
the upcoming play The Little Dog Laughed.
As he took a chair, he backed right back
out of it. “Give me a minute,” he
smiled, and in a flash he returned with a crisp red apple.
“No lunch today – just a straight
six-hour reading – and this interview is part of the day.”
At that, director Rob Ruggiero appeared
in the doorway. After our hellos he placed his
shoulders. The obvious rapport between director
and actor was immediately evident. “You’ve got
about 45 minutes, and then I need
Chad back to
work!” Both of them had big Cheshire cat grins on
As Rob left, we asked
Chad “What’s it
like working with Rob?” “So far, it’s been really
good. We’re just doing readings right now, but the
play has a gay theme, so it’s comfortable to work openly as a gay man
in a gay play with a gay director. Before I came
out, as an actor I had no reference to gay people in the theater or
TV. If they were gay they just didn’t let it be
known – or at least I didn’t know.”
In answer to: “What brought you to
TheaterWorks in this comedy just at this time?”
“Jacques (Jacques Lamarre, Director of Marketing/Public Relations at
TheaterWorks) saw me a few years ago at (the)
Playhouse) in Temporary Help. He
remembered me when the casting for this play was being discussed and
they called me. When they sent me the play and I
read it I thought ‘yeah, I’ve got to do this’. So,
I got off the plane in one degree weather – do humans actually survive
in one degree air temperature? – and I immediately wanted to be home
California with my
partner and my dog. But then I realized that
Hartford was a real city with a small
town feel, kind of like
Seattle, and I got over
the temperature shock. I’d only been to
Connecticut before, so the urban
Hartford was a surprise”.
Chad Allen (family name Lazzari) has
been acting on the stage since he was about five in musical shows like
Oliver! and The Music Man.
He recalled that when he was eight he got the role of Tommy,
the autistic boy in the 1982-1988 TV series St. Elsewhere.
how did you, at eight years old, know how to portray an autistic kid?”
Chad Allen answered “Once they decided I
looked right for the part I was exposed to autism by meeting real
autistic kids and studying them. But I also had a
vivid imagination where I could go and lose myself.
I played in my mind. I could sit and play
soldiers and cars and tanks and battles, all in my mind.
My first narcotic was my imagination. I
call it a narcotic because in the world that I lived in I was
protected by my imagination. My mother always said
that artistic kids are stuck in their own world – much
like autistic kids are”.
That world allowed him to play Tommy
Westphall in such a realistic way that many fans truly believed that
Chad Allen himself was autistic.
appeared alone on screen in the last scene in the final episode of St.
The transition from child actor to adult
star in show business is rarely successful, but
Chad partially attributes his working through this critical period and
being accepted by the audience as an adult actor to
his years (1993-1998) playing Matthew Cooper on Dr. Quinn,
added, “During those years I grew into an adult with the audience
watching. There was lots going on in my life, but
I had to concentrate on the work, and that helped the transition to be
easier”. A scandal sheet outed
while he was working on Dr. Quinn, and he came out
publicly in the Advocate in 2001.
Chad referred to
the book When I Knew by Robert Trachtenberg
Chad has a
contribution about his awareness of when he realized he was gay.
Before chatting more about his
TheaterWorks debut in The Little Dog Laughed on January
25, we touched on his popular HERE! TV series The Donald
Strachey Mysteries. (If you missed them on TV they’re also
available at Netflix).
Chad films this
Vancouver – there are two
in release, Third Man Out, and Shock to the
System. Two new episodes are being released in
the spring, and two more are in the works. His
character, an openly gay P.I., is in a comfortable loving gay
relationship and to
“his relationship is the best part of the character, I love that
Not only is Chad Allen a triple-threat
actor (theater, TV, movies) he also puts on his producer’s hat for the
soon-to-be-released-nationwide “Save Me”, starring Chad, Robert Gant
(Queer as Folk), and Judith Light (Ugly Betty). A
provocative film about a young man in an “ex-gay” ministry, it has
already won the top award at the Southwest Gay and Lesbian Film
Festival and will be an entry at Sundance showing on January 21-23.
Chad won’t be at
Sundance due to his commitment to TheaterWorks, but his Mythgarden
Production Company will be well represented by his working partner
Christopher Racster, and co-star Robert Gant.
When we asked
Chad about why he
agreed to leave the
California sunshine to
work in Hartford in January, he
broke out into his easy (yes, and sexy) smile and said “because I’m an
actor….I love the theater, because that’s where actors
go. Theater is the actors’ medium.”
He explains that unlike movies and TV,
theater is where you connect as an actor to an
audience in the most frightening, exciting, and immediate way. “Theater keeps my soul intact”, he
shared, and we could see his soul reflected in his intense eyes. “Most
of the parts that I play are characters with inhibitions. I have to find a way to cover my own inhibitions – theater
helps me to do that”
When asked if he had any advice for
young actors he said “If you want to be an actor – then act.
Work in community or regional theater, anything you can do to act.
There are lots of ways for people to show themselves off, to
get themselves into the public eye, to be celebrities.
But to be an actor you need to act.
Connecticut is amazing;
it has so many regional theaters, places for actors to work at their
Hartford Stage, Yale Rep,
Goodspeed.) You need to work at acting and it needs to be a passion.
Sometimes I think, well I’ll just enjoy the house and the dog
and my partner and I’ll retire and teach oceanography and just do a
play now and then just to keep in. But then when I
read another good script or play that excites me I know…I’ve just got
to do this. That’s what acting is.”
In addition to acting he finds time to
do charitable work, with his AIDS/LifeCycle ride fundraiser and his
honorary board member status on the Matthew Shepard Foundation. (To read more about Chad Allen’s life,
coming out, and charitable works, go to
Being on a bicycle for so many hours during the year is one of
the reasons that
has such stamina and such a fine physique.
Time has been flying by.
This intelligent, handsome and thoroughly nice young man has
held our complete attention for forty five minutes with his infectious
charisma. Before we wrap it up, we ask, “What kind
of things would you like to do in the theater in the future?” Without
Chad leans over
and says with great enthusiasm, “You want to know my secret dream?
Now I am giving you a scoop! I
haven’t told this to any other reporters! I would
love to do a musical again. It would
take some extra training, voice, dance, but I know I can do it!
And you heard it here first.”
Then, like a young gazelle, Chad Allen
smiled and bounced out of the room. Can’t wait to
see him in The Little Dog Laughed.
And then, sometime in the not to distant future, maybe, just maybe, in
The Little Dog Laughed – The Musical!
The Little Dog Laughed
By Douglas Carter Beane
January 25-March 9, 2008
TheaterWorks in Downtown