Robert Bruce McIntosh has engaged and enchanted audiences with his wonderful portrayals in lead roles in Hamlet, Manly Men Doing Manly Things, The Incredible Egg, The Suicide and The Angry Young Man, a modern Misanthrope. Rob also teaches Acting, Playwriting and Theatre History at Repertory Company High School for Theatre Arts in Times Square. He now tells us about his role as Fletcher Driscoll, who returns to his hometown to direct a production of “Romeo and Juliet” and winds up in his own star-crossed drama with the recently divorced Jeff who works at the college where he is doing the show.
WS: In your opinion… why COMPOSURE, why now?
I think this play does a wonderful job of presenting the challenges of falling in love with another person when you’ve still got tons of baggage of your own to deal with. I love that, while the central characters happen to be gay, their struggles aren’t solely related to their identify, but are universal struggles of trust and commitment faced by any two people trying to make a relationship work. That said, in the current political climate, I think it is also important to tell stories where LGBTQ characters are front and center, presented as well rounded, complicated people whose humanity and rights to respect and love can’t be denied
WS: What is the most challenging thing for you about playing Fletcher?
Well, the most obvious difference between Fletcher and me is that he is gay and I’m not. You might think that that would be the most challenging aspect of the role, but as it turns out, it is not at all difficult to fall in love with CK Allen. He is a wonderful actor and an all around amazing human being and he made it very easy to build an honest and intimate relationship between our characters. Also, Scott and Fritz made it very clear that they were not interested in Fletcher being a stereotype in any way, so the fact that I happen to be straight wasn’t seen as an obstacle. Probably the most difficult thing was grappling with the relationship with Tommy. Without giving too much away, Fletcher is recovering from an abusive relationship with someone he has very conflicted feelings about. I spent a lot of time working to understand what makes a person stick around in a relationship that is abusive and demeaning, but which also gives them more intimacy and feeling of belonging than they get anywhere else. I still feel like I’m figuring it out, but then so is Fletcher, so I think that’s OK.
WS: You’re a very talented actor who also works with theater students. Has that at all influenced your character? If so, how?
Fletcher happens to be a director working with college students on a production of Romeo and Juliet, so certainly my teaching experience comes in handy in the moments when I am addressing my imaginary “cast”. I have enough experience working with young actors that it is easy to bring that teacher/director aspect of myself to the role. More than that, it has been an interesting challenge to personally apply the lessons I teach in my acting classes to my own work in rehearsal. I actually shared a monologue from Composure (slightly rewritten) in my New Play Production class as part of a lesson on creating emotional connection with a character. It was exciting and scary to put myself on the spot in front of my students, but it opened the door for many of them to go deeper in their own work so I’m glad I went there.
WS: What do you want to see really land with audiences?
It is important to me that the audience believes and cares about the relationship between Fletcher and Jeff. If they are rooting for us and want these two complicated men to find a way to find each other, then I feel like we’ve done our job. I also hope that we are dealing honestly with the emotional complexity of recovery from an abusive relationship. I know some in our audience may have experienced something comparable in their own lives, and I hope that our portrayal feels truthful and respects their experience. If someone in the audience feels their own life and struggles reflected in the lives of the characters on stage, then hopefully it will provide some sense of acknowledgment and of not being alone in the struggle.
WS: Why did you become an actor?
When I was a junior in high school, my parents took me to see a touring production of Camelot. I vividly remember how astonished I was to realize that these people got to spend their time telling that story again and again, in city after city, all over the country. It seemed like magic to me. I knew I wanted a part of it, so I tried out for my high school production of Oklahoma, got a part and never looked back. I have always loved the creative process, working and reworking moments to make them feel as natural and spontaneously real as possible, even though obviously they are also artificial and rehearsed. Something about working with the stuff of life, true human experience, interaction and emotion, is endlessly challenging and exciting to me. It engages my whole person as an actor, a director and a teacher. I can’t get enough of it.