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Ben Shenkman Heads Back to the Stage

The Tony Award-nominated actor discusses his work in the Public Theater's production of Jonathan Marc Sherman's Knickerbocker. logo
Ben Shenkman
Tony Award nominee Ben Shenkman has starred on Broadway in Sight Unseen, The Deep Blue Sea, and Proof and is perhaps best remembered as Louis in the 2003 HBO miniseries of Tony Kushner's Angels in America, which earned him Emmy and Golden Globe nominations.This month, Shenkman heads back to the stage as Melvin in the Public Theater Lab's production of Jonathan Marc Sherman's Knickerbocker. TheaterMania recently spoke with Shenkman about the play and his other projects.

THEATERMANIA: This is the third production you are appearing in at The Public. What keeps bringing you back?
BEN SHENKMAN: Mainly, the people. That was the case each time before, and this is no different. I've known Oskar Eustis [the theater's artistic director], and thought this would be a great opportunity to work with him.

TM: What can you tell us about the show?
BS: It is about a not-so-young man, who has just turned 40, and is about to become a father for the first time.

TM: This is the first time you are back on the stage since 2004. Were you waiting for the right production to come about?
BS: I wasn't consciously staying away from the theater. Before I knew it, much more time had passed than I had imagined. I worked with every one of these actors in Knickerbocker before, and I like Pippin Parker, our director, so it was the right time.

TM: What else piqued your interest in Knickerbocker?
BS: I've always liked Jonathan's writing. His characters have a way about them and they are fun. This play is mainly sitting and talking. Now, I will tell you my guilty secret: my favorite kind of acting is sitting and talking. Standing and talking is good, but this is better! I'm really happy.

TM: You do a lot of television work, and you recently played two characters at the same time when you were on Lights Out and Damages. How challenging was that for you?
BS: I don't think it is challenging, but it is rare that you do it. I come from a repertory theater model, so it was a treat to go from one set to another.

TM: You were also on the short-lived sitcom, The Paul Reiser Show. Were you disappointed that NBC canceled it so quickly?
BS: Of course. When you are there, you see the writing on the wall. It's my second series where the support of the network was less than 100 percent, for whatever reason, so it wasn't a shock. There was a lot of affection and enjoyment among the cast and crew of that show. We wanted to work together a lot longer.

TM: You recently booked a recurring role on Lifetime's Drop Dead Diva, playing Jane's love interest. Can you tell us a bit about your character?
BS: I am playing a neurologist who begins a relationship with Jane. It is nice to be part of a show that has this original, intelligent lead character and my character gets to have a relationship with her.

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