Meet Michael Bunin. Actually, you already know him; you just don’t realize it.

You can’t watch thirty minutes of television without seeing Michael Bunin a couple times. He shoots a zillion commercials a year. You’ve seen a bunch of them, trust me. They are very funny.

Michael has an uncanny ability to mix a likable guy-next-door vibe with cutting humor and the sort of insight that only the best stand up cats display. He grew up in Vegas and is one of those guys who knows everybody in town, theater or otherwise. On camera, his skill is so sublime that he can turn invisible (I’ve seen him do it.) in a crowd, or with a turn of his head, take all the focus for himself. He is one of the most capable and consistently working actors I know in Los Angeles.

Also, if you are foolish enough to sit down at a table with him to play some cards, he will keep you laughing the entire time he is emptying out your wallet. Seriously, it’s like aikido or something.

We were chatting about entertainment the other day, and theater, and storytelling.

Me: In the past few years, LA has felt to me like this giant machine that just churns out content. It’s like this factory that assembly-lines out as much stuff into the multi-platform universe as possible. Where does the modern, classically trained actor fit into this?

Michael: That’s one way to look at it and I think it’s accurate to a point. A lot of the content it churns out is very good, so to quote a very famous acting teacher… This is the business we’ve chosen.

Me: How do you balance doing those jobs that pay the mortgage with those jobs that bring you genuine fulfillment? Like, do you make a conscious effort to do say, a little Strindberg once in a while, or do a Shakespeare festival every couple years?

Michael: I’m an actor who is very simply looking for an acting job. Like any profession some jobs are better than others but I’m an actor and it’s my job to act. I am always looking forward to being on stage doing long form improv, that said whether it’s commercials, TV, kid shows, a movie, it doesn’t matter to me. It’s all acting in some shape or form and the more that you think it doesn’t satisfy some sort of need the harder you have to work to make it so. I’m not perfect…

Me: Whoa, whoa, let’s not get crazy…

Michael: There are some gigs that I just don’t necessarily enjoy right away but you have to try to find a way. That’s the job. At the end of the day I’m very lucky because I get to do what I like for a living.

Me: Many years ago in New York, an agent chastised me for wanting to work in the theater. He insisted I make a choice between the theater and what he called “show business. What’s the difference to you?

Michael: I don’t know that there is much of a business difference. I remember early on talking to some agents and managers who didn’t want me to pursue theater. I took that to mean that it’s less money. Each business has its ups and downs, good and bad so for me finding representation that is on the same page as me erases having to make that choice.

Me: What do you think about theater in Vegas?

Michael: I’m a big fan of what A Public Fit is doing. There are a lot of talented people and theaters in my hometown. As a Las Vegan it’s very exciting. I would love to see all the Vegas theaters get together to create a community that helps new theaters open, and pushes for the success of the whole community. If all these theaters can grow together, could be one hell of a scene.

SUPERSTORE — “Back to Work” Episode 203 — Pictured: (l-r) Michael Bunin as Jeff, Mark McKinney as Glenn — (Photo by: Brandon Hickman/NBC)

Me: What are you working on right now?

Michael: I am lucky enough to be back playing the role of Jeff on NBC’s Superstore again this season. The cast is great, the writing is great. They give me really fun things to play. This is a very fun gig! I also have a recurring role on the Amazon show The Last Tycoon.

Me: That sounds like a busy year. Final word?

Michael: This isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon. There is no such thing as a short game here.

Me: Aint that the truth. Otherwise, where would a couple of codgers like us be at this point?

 

Thanks for the sage words, kid. See ya on the flickering light box.

Have you met Rebecca Reyes?

Nobody has ever accused APF of being the strong, silent type. Not gonna lie, we’re really the talk-to-much, therapist-on-speed-dial type. So, yeah, here’s a talk I had with Rebecca Reyes.

Rebecca was born in Vegas, she’s as much a fixture of this town as the APF senior staff. Maybe that’s why we dig her; that and her sly grin, (which is clearly hiding a serial-killer mentality that is equal parts sexy and terrifying. Just sayin.) She’s also a paralegal at Lagomarsino Law Office, which means she manages to have a respectable career outside of the theater, sort of a must these days. She once told me that even with her full time job, theater is still a focus of her life. So she continues to audition or act in short films or even make her own. “That’s my next favorite creative hobby,” she says. “Other than acting.”

So I asked her what she was working on right now.

Right now, I’m performing in Clown Bar at Majestic. I get to play a killer clown in a tutu and bleed glitter.

Why does NONE of that surprise me?

It’s actually a lot of fun! I’m also at the same time rehearsing for Hair also at Majestic. In between that and work, I’m preparing for an audition with Public Fit.

That sounds like a lot…

Who needs sleep, right?!

 

Photo by Richard Brusky
Rebecca in A Public Fit’s The Realistic Joneses from last spring

So what do you think about theater in Vegas right now?

When I started doing theatre in college, I felt like there weren’t a lot of acting options outside of college, and if there were, I didn’t hear about them. Now, there are so many wonderful companies and I feel like it’s easy for actors to find information about these companies. UNLV is even working with local theatre companies, which I think is great. Right now, we have such a great mix of shows being produced. I feel like every theatre company offers something different. You don’t have carbon copy companies, everyone has their own thing and I think that is helpful to bring more people to the theatre, there is literally something for everybody.

As you see it, is that the big difference in the Vegas art community between now and years past?

It has definitely become more art friendly. I remember going to First Friday before Zappos was in town. It was a little scary, fun, but scary. Growing up in Las Vegas, I don’t remember downtown being such a hub for theatre, yes, there was theatre, but now it just seems more so than ever. Downtown in general has gotten a facelift and I’m really happy about that. A lot of people tend to talk negatively about Vegas, but it’s my home, always has been, and I guess I’m able to find all the things about it that I love and focus on that. I have met so many wonderful people here and I meet more and more of them every day. I’ve not only made friends through theatre, but family #rarity #ponylife.

I don’t even know what that last part means.

You’re like a thousand years old.

Excellent point. So what do you wish there were more of here in town?

Support. I wish we supported each other more. I also wish we could find a way to bring more “non-theatre” people to the theatre. I think a lot of people right now are worried about day-to-day things, such as existing, working, stuff like that. How do we make theatre important to someone who has other things to worry and focus on, how do we use theatre to help them? How can we use theatre as a means for community betterment, rather than a selfish way to have fun and experience catharsis? I guess that is what I struggle with the most.

What is?

Is what I’m doing as a performer important? Am I helping people or should I be doing something else to help humanity. Do I act for me or for others? And who is to say that acting for yourself is bad? I don’t know. I grew up in a practical house, acting was not viewed as a useful talent. I hope that we give something back to the people who watch our shows and I hope that in some way it makes their life better, otherwise why are we doing it?

Well, why ARE we doing it? What’s your favorite part about it?

The variety, the people, and the energy. This is a town that has a lot of different things to offer, the theatre community has a lot of variety. The friends I’ve made through theatre and their stories, the energy of the city.

I get it. In closing, let’s make a quick list. In no particular order, tell me the 10 reasons why I’m clearly the greatest director you’ve even had the outrageous privilege of working with. Okay, go.

  1. His hair
  2. Goth Night (This is a reference to the night I made our entire cast and crew, as well as the APF staff go dancing at a local Goth night after a particularly grueling 10 hour technical rehears. Good idea or greatest idea ever? You decide…)
  3. His hair
  4. Fancy coffee orders that come with a garden on a plate
  5. His hair
  6. Puppies
  7. His hair
  8. He can build things
  9. His hair
  10. His hair again

Thanks, beautiful Pony. We are lucky to have you as an APF actor, and Vegas is better with you in it.

 

 

If you want to see Rebecca Reyes wear a tutu and bleed glitter (and who DOESN’T??) then make sure you catch Clown Bar at Majestic Rep, opening tonight. Here’s the scoop:

http://www.majesticrepertory.com/shows-1

 

Are we the result of our actions, or is the true sense of our own selves merely a result of others’ memories of us? And if there is no one to remember us, then what are we?

The following was a letter we received from a longtime collaborator and artist whom we hold very dear, the extremely talented actor/director/teacher Jane Walsh. She sent us this after our last reading of the 2016-17 season, Incognito. As part of our mission, A Public Fit has a talkback after every performance or reading that we do; it’s called The Buzzz. This is exactly the type of discussion we hope to promote. Thank you, Jane, for your wonderful note, and for your endlessly valuable participation in Las Vegas theater.

 

Letter posted with permission.

The parentheticals are my own, for clarity. -DK

Dear Ann Marie and Joe,

Congrats on another strong staged reading! It was a fascinating piece and I can see why you and Joe selected the work. I very much enjoyed watching your actors perform and tell their story. It was especially delicious to see Shawn’s (actor Shawn Martin) work. I just didn’t realize the depth of his skills and talent and I’ve now got a hunger to see him sink his teeth into another one of your productions. Marcus (Actor Marcus Weiss) is wonderful as well and it was lovely to get the chance to speak with Pietra (actor Pietra Sardelli), what a lovely spirit.

I posed my question to the cast because of my own unexpected discoveries when working on Gabrielle (during APF’s highly acclaimed production of When the Rain Stops Falling) and was eager to hear their responses, if I caught the cast off guard or was too intrusive my apologies.

I’ve been thinking hard about this work since last night. On the drive home, I recalled a tender conversation I had with my Aunt Mag a few years ago. She’s 91 now but I suspect her response would still be the same.

I asked her, “What is the toughest part of living into your late 80’s?”

I naively thought that she would bemoan her decreasing mobility, diminishing appetite or the typical aches and pains. Not so.

She said, “No one remembers me. Everyone who knew me is gone.”

She wasn’t referring to loneliness; everyone adores and can’t get enough of her- family, neighbors, her church. She went on to share that no one remembers her as a daughter,

no one remembers her as a high school girl,

no one remembers her wedding, or what she was like as a young bride or young mom,

and now, very few remember her in her middle years.

And because no one is alive who remembers her, it’s corroded her sense of self. She said, and I paraphrase, “When no one is alive to remember who you were, it’s hard to remember who you really are.” It was one of the most heartbreaking moments I have ever witnessed.

Your memories and people who hold you in their memories secure the foundation of who you are. I think that’s why Henry gets so upset when he can’t see his wife. I think that’s why Evelyn needs to have Einstein’s brain to prove who she really is. I think that’s why Tom desperately needs to discover the answer to Einstein’s brilliance, because in doing so he will have affirmed his identity and his purpose as a pathologist. He bets his identity and career on this belief.

I keep thinking about the title, Incognito. To keep your true identity a secret. And yet all the characters were trying to define their identity through recall, work and others. And the writer is very focused on the anatomy and understanding of the brain…. So is he suggesting our true selves are a secret because we DON’T fully understand the brain? Or that the brain will always hold secrets from the self? Or we’ll never get a true understanding of ourselves because we’re covered in so many memories and those around us perceive through a narrow lens?

Or that we’re constantly hiding ourselves from others to avoid the unknown?

I’ll be thinking on this for a while.

Thanks again for a lovely evening.

much love,
jcw

 

Are we the sum of our actions, or are we the product of our own perception? Or, perhaps more poignantly, is our “self” merely the sum of others’ recollections of us? Hard to say. But maybe this is why theater is so important, so enduring. It asks these questions in ways that no other medium can. -DK

Random Thoughts on Julius Trump

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