Tapping into Spirituality on Stage and Off

| July 27, 2011 12:34 PM
"A Strange and Separate People"
Where: Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street, New York, NY 10036
Opening July 14, 2011
Closing July 30, 2011
Price: $18.00

Actor Jonathan Hammond has performed on Broadway, Off Broadway and all over the country. He can be seen now in, “A Strange and Separate People.”

It seems acting was in my blood from as far back as I remember. I memorized TV shows like “Alice” and “Happy Days” and “performed” them for family and friends, spent entire Saturdays blasting show tunes in my basement, and begged my parents to take me to the theater.

After a high school career of leads in the shows, I attended the prestigious Musical Theatre Program at University of Michigan. I didn’t come straight to New York after college like most do. I had a dream of doing Shakespeare professionally but knew I didn’t have the training for that. I have always been a bit of an “old soul” and even when I was 21, I knew I wouldn’t be cast as that age. So I applied to all the big drama schools and after a few years of working professionally, I attended Harvard University’s Institute for Advanced Theatre Training. It was there that I was exposed to and immersed in Chekov, Ibsen, Shakespeare, Aeschylus, as well as all kinds of productions including experimental and the Avant Garde theater.

After grad school, I came to New York and got an agent. For the first eight years, I spent a lot of time out of town doing regional theater, which was great and helped me really begin to find out who I was as an artist — how to “negotiate” every possible situation that might come up while working on a show. And, I was building up my resume.

I got a bit of a break when I got a lead role in the national tour of the Lincoln Center Production, “The Light in the Piazza.” “Ragtime” on Broadway followed. But it’s actually been my work Off Broadway that has helped establish my career in New York. I have done several productions with Off Broadway’s prestigious Transport Group including the New York Revival of Mart Crowley’s “The Boys in the Band” in 2010. I got nominated for a bunch of awards and won an OBIE for it.

I’m now in “A Strange and Separate People” with Noah Weisberg and Tricia Paoluccio at the Studio Theatre. The play is written by Pulitzer Prize finalist Jon Marans (“The Temperamentals” and “Old Wicked Songs”), and directed by Jeff Calhoun, who has directed and choreographed for Broadway (“Big River,” “Brooklyn the Musical,” “Annie Get Your Gun” and the upcoming “Bonnie & Clyde”). It is initially a three-week run (July 14-31), but we are hoping it moves on to a commercial run. The producer is Darryl Roth, who won a Tony Award this year for producing “The Normal Heart” on Broadway.

In addition to his acting career, Jonathan Hammond is also an Interfaith Minister, a credential he hopes will inform his role in "A Strange and Separate People." Photo courtesy of Jonathan Hammond.

Along the way, this life in the arts has been difficult; it’s everything you’ve ever heard — unemployment, lots of rejection, nepotism, little compensation sometimes. At one point, around 2005, I was feeling pretty burnt out and disillusioned with Show Biz. I had a bit of an existential crisis. I have always been a “spiritual” guy (although not traditionally religious) and decided that to study spirituality in a more formal way. I wanted to understand and deepen my relationship with a “higher power,” with the deeper meaning of life, with the cosmos. I became a student at the OneSpirit Interfaith Seminary in New York and embarked on a two-year course of study that included not only all the major religions, but also spiritual counseling, healing of all kinds and ceremony. It was an amazing experience the culminated in ordination as an Interfaith Minister.

A real inner transformation occurred for me in seminary. It helped me make peace with who I am, opened me up to a greater sense of compassion for others and awareness of connectedness with all of life. All of this, to my surprise, not only made me a better actor, but helped me clarify exactly how I wish to participate in Show Business; what I believe my own unique voice in the theater might be, and what values I wish to uphold in my artistry.

Jonathan Hammond’s performances have earned him an OBIE Award, Elliot Norton Award and Outer Critics Circle Award.

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