Playbill On-Line (Chat):
Transcript of An Online
Chat with David Garrison

Last update January 28, 1998

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As experienced by Andreas Carl at on September 29, 1997.

Most people know David Garrison as Steve Rhoades in Married... with Children. On September 29, 1997, he was the star guest in the Playbill On-Line chat area. The event was hosted by Playbill On-Line's webmaster Andrew McGibbon. At the time of the chat, David played Bruce Ismay, villain of the Broadway musical Titanic. Therefore many questions are related to this musical and his Broadway career in general. I cutted out David's MWC related and other very interesting responses to members' questions and bring them in the first section of this page. You can find the rest of the transcript in the second section. By the way, my chat name is "fondue".

Married... with Children Q&A (First Section)

MarySunshine - How did you get started? What were your influences? What advice would you give to those aspiring?
My advise is, run for your LIFE! Like so many other kids I started doing plays in high school, I then went to Boston University School of Theatre Arts. From there to Arena Stage in Washington, DC. as a member of the company for three seasons. As luck would have it, the last show I did at Arena moved to Broadway. It was a Christopher Durang Play with music called A History of the American Film (with Swoozie Kurtz and Walter Bobbie among others). It wasn't a hit but it was enough to get me started in NY.

jgrayson - oh my lord, that was you on married with children!?!?!?
Oh your lord, yes!

Sondheim1 - You have done so many different things in your career....What do you enjoy doing most...T.V. or stage?
Going back and forth between the two. Just about when 8 shows a week have worn me out it's a pleasure to go be paid a lot of money to do one show a week. Just when I can't bear another day on the freeways it's nice to come back to 8 shows a week.

jgrayson - What was "Married With Children" like ??
About 4 years. It was fun to be a part of a show that broke all the rules. However, it's difficult to maintain a series. In every successful show there is an exciting beginning period and then sort of a benign middle and then usually a too long and drawn out demise. I decided to leave the show somewhere in that middle phase. It was a tough call and sometimes my checkbook wakes me up in the middle of the night and says "excuse me, but you were an idiot."

Purple - How old were you when you first started acting??? and what was the first show you were in?
I was actually 10 years old and my older sister was playing Anna in her high school production of The King and I. There weren't many Asian children available in the immediate vicinity so I was pressed into service. My first line on stage was "walk on water?" I was gratified to see that the line still exists in the current revival at the Neil Simon Theatre.

fondue - You returned to "Married With Children" for four episodes. Did you hesitate to come back or did you immediately agree?
A little bit of both. For several seasons the character of Steve came back in a completely new incarnation. The most fun was returning in a fantasy episode about pirates. Later I was invited back to be included in the 200th episode.

fondue - Do you enjoy watching "Married With Children" episodes you are in?
I try not to watch myself... ever. I'm always disappointed that I don't look like Mel Gibson.

Goldie - I see you like white water that your way of relaxing???
It's the best ride in the park and a great mental enema.

BrerRabbit - What is the answer to the mystery of life?
Don't face the facts. They'll do you in. Good night everybody.

Other Q&A (Second Section)

Goldie - Of all the parts you've played this one must be the most villainous... does it hurt to see the audience leering at you at the end. You are soooo good though.
I've decided to take the boos and hisses at my curtain call as a sort of left handed compliment. I'll be in therapy for 20 years, but it's worth it to know I'm being a really bad guy.

Sondheim1 - What does it feel like to be part of such a wonderful show and cast?
I've had a lot of happy experiences in the theatre. But I have to say that this cast is the most extraordinarily talented and generous group of performers I have ever worked with. I'm anxious to get to work every day and I have a feeling that we'll all remain friends for many years to come. During the difficult preview period everybody pulled together and did the very difficult work necessary to make the show into a hit.

Sondheim1 - What is it like to be performing on the stage during the sinking of the ship?
After a while you start to feel like a piece of livestock standing on the side of a hill. One leg seems to get shorter than the other. I have a standing appointment with my chiropractor.

MarySunshine - Did you do a lot of research on the character you portray in Titanic? If you would, tell us a little about him and how the character stays the same and differs in the show.
One of the most interesting aspects of working on the show has been the amount of research everybody in the company has done on his or her own character and on the story of the voyage itself. There's a seemingly inexhaustible supply of research material to draw upon. Mr. Ismay is particularly fascinating because he was a very complex man. Not all that comfortable socially. He was an extraordinary good business man who was asked to stay on in his capacity as managing director of the White Star Lines against his personal wishes when JP Morgan bought the company in a hostile take-over. Morgan felt that Ismay was essential to the profitable running of not only White Star but all the other lines in Morgan's syndicate. Unfortunately, after the accident, Ismay became a convenient lighting rod for anti-trust feelings on both sides of the Atlantic and even though he was cleared of wrong-doing by both the US Senate and the British Board of Trade Inquiries he lived the rest of his life in isolation. I don't consider him a villain, but I think it's true that he came closest to embodying the excess, arrogance and blind faith in technology that ultimately brought about the Titanic disaster. He was a man of his era and as a member of the privileged classes had the faults of his peers.

MarySunshine - How did the cast adjust to the set in Previews? Do you still get occasional mishap from anything?
The most difficult part of working with this set in the Lunt-Fontanne is that we're essentially trying to put 3 pounds of potatoes in a 2 pound sack. The backstage show is possibly more interesting than the onstage show. In terms of acrobatics at least. The other tricky part of working on the set has to do with the double rake. Not only is the stage raked the maximum from orchestra lip to the rear of the stage but as the ship sinks the entire middle section of the stage rises to a 45 degree angle. So not only are you sliding towards the audience but you're also sliding towards Times Square at the same time. This requires developing your gripper muscles in your toes. On occasion, there have been times when the hydraulics in previews were a little temperamental. We had on occasion to improvise slightly different stagings during the sinking portion of the show.

BrerRabbit - Did you ever become Stage Struck? If so how old and what happened?
I don't know that I'm stage struck but when "A Day In Hollywood..." was out of town in Baltimore I exited the 2nd act in the black out and ran headlong into Tony Walton's red velour wall. Until the end of the run, if you looked very carefully, you could see half of Groucho Marx' face on the stage left doorway. So, hence, I've struck a stage anyway!

BrerRabbit - Do you see any particular part of Mr. Ismay in yourself?
I tend to be a little fatalistic I'm afraid. Mr. Ismay's dark side is somewhat appealing.

mad8d - Could you please describe your experience in Randy Newman's Faust? I heard it is a great show!
So far, the Devil in Randy Newman's Faust has been my favorite role. It's a wonderful project - just strange and twisted and funny enough to suit me.

jgrayson - I am a freshman majoring in musical theatre at ole miss--do you have any advice for all of us about to enter the chaotic world of theatre??
Yes, dentistry. Dentistry is good! Seriously, just keep working. Work breeds work.

BrerRabbit - Did you know "Titanic" would be such a huge success when you began the project?
No, I was guilty of the same jokes as everybody else - 20,000 Legs Under The Sea, Der Frozen Cavalier [maybe "Der Rosenkavalier", Andreas] - but after I heard Maury Yeston sit at the piano and bang out the first 20 minutes of music I knew there was something very special there. That and the knowledge that Richard Jones would be staging it convinced me to try and be a part of it.

jgrayson - In your eyes, what is the most horrible crime Ismay is guilty of?
Under estimating his responsibility after the fact. The actual "blame" for the tragedy probably historically rests more with Captain Smith. However, that doesn't excuse the relative indifference of Mr. Ismay to the possibility of error or failure.

Andrew - I enjoyed seeing you in "Guys and Dolls" a couple of years ago on tour, Did you enjoy playing the part of Nathan Detroit?
I loved it. Although, it's hard to play Abe Burrough's jokes in Tokyo. One of the many pleasures of that tour was the chance to work with Patty Ben Peterson who, along with Judy Blazer, is one of the most under appreciated and extraordinary leading ladies we have in the musical theatre.

njbuck - How long are you going to stay in the show?
At least until next spring.

Cougar - What is your favorite song in the show and why?
The Blame. Because I get to sing it. That with all due respect to Brian D'Arcy James, who sings a whole lot better than I do, but he'll have to plug his own material on his own chat.

pippin95 - Tell us about the "becoming" of the "Titanic".... Workshops, early previews, moving into the theatre (which had to be built in), and the troubled preview period.
The show underwent considerable changes from the first preview until opening night. It was remarkable to watch the company pull together and do the difficult work that needed to be done. All in broad view of a critical NY gossip mill. Whole songs were deleted from the score, new ones written, scenes altered, characters written out and set pieces changed all within four weeks. Rarely does a show make such substantial changes under such pressure and have them all turn out to be the correct changes. The difference in the show from the first preview to opening night was nothing short of astounding.

Elisabeth - Are you that guy from the "Titanic"?
Elisabeth - So are you???
Elizabeth, where have you been for the last 45 minutes? There's going to be a quiz later.

Goldie - Have you ever chatted on-line do you like it?
No, so I suppose after tonight I'm no longer a chat room virgin.

BrerRabbit - Will you go on tour when "Titanic" goes on tour?
I don't know that yet. But I do know that "Titanic" will tour. It's first port of call will be the Kennedy Center late next summer.

pippin95 - What is your reaction to the critics who were anxious to "sink" "Titanic" -- before it opened, even?
It's difficult enough to encourage original pieces for the theatre, both musicals and plays, but when writers and commentators are more interested in handicapping successes and failures rather than being advocates for new work it makes it all the more difficult. As I said earlier, "Titanic" had to do a lot of difficult work in front of the theatre community rather than being able to go out of town as shows used to do in the "old days." It's interesting to me that the out-of-town press and the International press have all had very favorable reactions to the show. And it was almost as if the local press was disappointed that they couldn't write about a mega-flop as they might have imagined it could have been. This is the only business where we tend to eat our own young. Criticism certainly has its place, but I would hope that artists could be allowed to finish their work before judgements were placed upon it.

Goldie - Will it ever be possible for the "Titanic" to go on tour? Is the equipment (hydraulics etc.) difficult to move?
The tour design will look the same to the audience but will be engineered differently using a travelator instead of hydraulics under the stage floor.

MarySunshine - Hi. I'm in a happy cheery mood tonight. Would you like to just spt anything out tonight for the record? :P
Do you mean "spit?" Sure, why has Marv Albert been allowed to wear that hair piece all these years?

Sondheim1 - To what extent do you think Rosie O'Donnell helped the success of "Titanic"?
I think her contribution was enormous. I also must say that audiences by and large shared her enthusiasm. There's no question that the combination of good word of mouth and her plugs on television got the box office moving.

jgrayson - God speed, David. I am going to bed. I have ballet at eight o'clock tomorrow morn. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Jamie
God speed yourself. Have a great barre and don't forget to stretch.

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© Andreas Carl 1998