An Interview With At the Table Actor Justin Okin
The Road Theatre Company proudly presents Michael Perlman’s At the Table at the Lankershim Arts Center on May 17th through July 7th, directed by Judy Moreland. This riveting play deals with the problems of social media and how far we have grown apart as human beings. Every week we will spotlight a member of the cast. This week the light shines on actor Justin Okin.
Q: Who do you play in At the Table and what purpose does this character serve?
A: Stuart, who is the embodiment of white privilege. He loves provoking his friends with ideas that he knows they will find outrageous simply to see how they will respond. He’d probably tell you that he is liberal and openminded but his humor is not appropriate and shows just how little he understands about his privilege vs. the struggles of just about anyone who has ever been oppressed. This privilege allows him to feel entitled to say pretty much anything he feels like saying and his charm allows him to get away with it, at least at first.
Q: What are your challenges as an actor?
A: This play is very wordy, very fast and involves a tremendous amount of people talking over one another, so getting word perfect on lines has taken up a lot of the work. There is also the challenge of listening to the right conversations at the right times when several are happening at once. For me personally, the biggest challenge in terms of playing Stuart has been figuring out how to make him sympathetic. He represents so many white men in this country who think they are woke, but really don’t have the first clue about what they are talking about when it comes to oppression, and rather than cast these men aside as people who will just never get it, it is important to me that people walk away from this play thinking that there is a chance that they eventually will if they can find it within themselves to just pull a chair up to the table and simply listen, rather than try to command the room.
Q: How are you preparing?
A: Among many other things, this play is about a group of people who get together, get intoxicated, talk, play, laugh, and have fun. This cast has been really amazing about embracing that in our work, not just in rehearsal, but on our days off. We have gotten together at restaurants, bars, and in one another’s homes, simply to get to know one another and get a sense of the rhythm of our conversations and how they change after those first few drinks. It has been a lot of fun. Other than that, we all just listen to Judy (Moreland), our director, and do just about everything she asks us to because we all adore and trust her so much.
Q: What do you feel is the theme or message of the play?
A: While it is not said overtly, I believe the play is telling us that the more privileged we are, the more of a responsibility we have to stop talking and start hearing more from those who have not had it so lucky simply because of how they were born. White liberals especially need to stop being so proud of themselves for being “openminded” and “accepting” and really start accepting that there is a tremendous amount of work to do in this country when it comes to equality.
Q: Talk about your fellow castmates and your director.
A: It is rare to get to work with a cast that is stacked from top to bottom with actors who you can turn to in any moment and have a spontaneous and honest moment with. I have tremendous respect for each and every person on that stage, and I strive every night to return the favors they do me with their vulnerability, humility and a sense of play. Judy Moreland is one of those directors you work with whenever you have the chance. She is incredibly smart, interesting, curious, and most importantly, a phenomenal leader. Her instincts are spot on, and she communicates them in such an effective way. You look forward to notes from her because you know they will always propel you towards a more 3-dimensional take on the character and a more honest telling of the story.
At the Table will play at the Lankershim Arts Center (5108 Lankershim Blvd. North Hollywood, CA 91601). The show opens on Friday, May 17th and runs through July 7th. Street parking available. For tickets call 818 766-8838.