Four guys

Brian Russell

Photo By Kris Vagner

Brian Russell is an actor from the traveling stage production of The Graduate, which played last weekend at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts. I caught up with him between performances, relaxing in Tuscarora.

Brian, you’re playing four roles in The Graduate?

I play the desk clerk in a funny little scene in the hotel when [Ben, the lead character] tries to get a room, and he’s really nervous because he’s never done anything like this before. And then I play a psychiatrist in a scene that isn’t in the movie, that’s from the novel. There’s also a scene where Ben takes Elaine to this bar, and there’s a stripper. I play a bar patron in that. And then finally at the wedding—you may remember from the movie the wedding scene where Ben busts through the door with an ax and kidnaps Elaine. I’m one of the wedding guests.

Do you have any good stories from the road?

The funniest thing, it probably wasn’t that funny to the people it happened to, but, we were doing the show last year, and I’m not going to mention any names on who was Mrs. Robinson at this time … there’s a scene where Mrs. Robinson wants to seduce Benjamin, so she disrobes in front of him in his bedroom. That scene is about 20 seconds long, and from offstage you hear her husband call. She thinks her husband is gone, but he calls, “Judith, Judith,” and that’s her cue to run back into the bathroom. So she’s out there, and she takes her towel off, and she’s naked in front of Ben, and it gets to the point where there’s no “Judith.” There’s silence. And the actress playing Mrs. Robinson is out there, stark naked, with no cue to relieve. I was in my dressing room, and all of the sudden I hear—I won’t say the actor’s name but let’s just say it’s Joe Smith—I hear over the monitor: “Will the actor playing Joe Smith please report to the stage? Joe Smith! To the stage! To the stage!” And it was obvious that he wasn’t hearing the intercom. He was nowhere to be found, and Mrs. Robinson was out there naked.

This was during a performance?

Yeah, this was during a performance. So eventually, what happened was, he was somewhere in the building where there wasn’t an intercom, and he eventually realized he was late. There was a female who was actually an assistant stage manager, a girl, who feebly tried to say, “Judith,” backstage to get Mrs. Robinson cued off, but she eventually just picked up her towel and left. She was a little mad at first, but it was all pretty funny. But that happens in live theater. That’s part of the deal.

What’s it like working with Morgan Fairchild?

Well, I’m not just saying this because I would probably say just some kind of general bland thing if it wasn’t great. She is one of the nicest people I have ever met in my life. There’s just no pretension about the woman. And she’s terrific in the play, and she knows everybody, and she’s so funny. She has great stories. She’s worked with everybody. I didn’t know this, but when she was a young girl growing up in Texas, she was Faye Dunaway’s stand-in in Bonnie and Clyde.

She hangs out with us—she likes to go out with us for a drink when we go out after the show. She’s still quite, quite beautiful. She’s a total babe. And I’ve told her that, so I’m not speaking out of school. And she called me "cutie" the other day, by the way, too. She was like "hey, cutie." I was like, "Morgan Fairchild just called me cutie."