Interview with Jason Hite – star of “Girlfriend” @ Berkeley Rep

(Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com)

“Girlfriend is the breathless testimony of a fool for love,” raves Rolling Stone, “a rock ‘n’ roll valentine that delivers subtle wisdom with an exhilarating kick.”

Fall in love with the boy next door at Girlfriend. Performances begin April 9 and continue through May 9 on Berkeley Rep’s intimate Thrust Stage starring Jason Hite and Ryder Bach.

I was able to check in with Jason Hite and got a little insight on his experience working at Berekley Rep, what it’s been like to create a new character from scratch and his dreams for the future. Read the full interview below.

Be sure to check out the great ticket discounts at the bottom.

How did you end up working on the Girlfriend at Berkeley Rep? Did you audition (if so, what was the audition like)?

The process of getting the job at Berkeley Rep was pretty interesting. I trained at the Young Rep program in Walnut Creek at the Lesher Center for the Arts, which is the educational program offered by Center Repertory Company. Berkeley had auditioned a few guys but hadn’t found what they were looking for so they were calling around trying to find more options. They eventually contacted Michael Butler (artistic director of Center Rep) and he gave them my info. I ended up coming in three times before I got the job. It’s definitely the biggest thing I’ve done in my career so far, so I was extremely nervous and excited.

Since this is a brand new musical, you’re creating a brand new character from scratch. What’s it been like?

Creating a new character has been so rewarding. It’s very freeing being the first person to take a crack at it. Nobody is going to see the show and say “That’s not how whatshisname did it”, ya know?

What’s your inspiration for your character?

My character Mike is very similar to me and yet not. I was a jock since I was a little kid all the way up till my sophomore year of high school. I played Baseball, Football and Basketball. Then, I caught the acting bug and gave it all up. Mike is the same way. He’s played sports his whole life but secretly has had this love of music. His relationship with his Dad is very stressful, basically nothing is ever right or good enough. So, from a young age, Mike has had to hide his feelings which makes any form of expression difficult. But put on some music and he comes to life!

Also, the show is set in the Midwest which plays a huge part in are show. The people are generally more reserved and conservative. So whenever Mike and Will are out in public, they need to be very careful about how they act, or the consequences could be severe.

What’s it been like to work with pop star, Matthew Sweet and book writer, Todd Almond?

Matthew Sweet has not been apart of the process. He gave us his blessing to do the show and basically stepped away. Todd Almond, on the other hand, has been in the room almost every day with us. It is such a blessing to the have the writer in the room. If a scene or line isn’t working, Todd will tweak it or cut it. He is so open to suggestions from other parts of the team as well.

Has there been a lot of revisions throughout the rehearsal process?

There have been various tweaks here and there. We’ve changed lines and cut lines. Probably the biggest changes we made were cutting an entire scene and a song. Again, it is so rewarding to be in a new piece where you can change things if it isn’t feeling right.

Were you familiar with Matthew Sweet’s album, “Girlfriend” before auditioning?

I was not familiar at all with Matthew Sweets music, but when I listened to the album for the first time I recognized that early 90’s pop/rock sound.

What’s your biggest challenge with working on the Girlfriend? And the most rewarding?

The hardest part is that the script is deceptively simple. In saying that, I mean, it is so conversational and real that it’s easy to put your own words into it or feel like your saying the line correctly when you’re not. Also, it’s just myself and Ryder Bach on that stage. So that can get quite exhausting. But those are just little tiny negatives in this otherwise amazing journey we’ve been on.

The whole team and staff here at Berkeley Rep are so on top of their game and make you feel overwhelmingly welcome and taken care of.

Describe your dream role, dream theatre & dream director.

My goal for my career is to never be pigeon-holed into one type of character. So anything that reinvents how future employers look at me is where I wanna be. I also want to continue doing new work and working with as many people as I can. My dream director is one that has a clear vision on what he wants but is still very open to the creative process. Also, I love a director that doesn’t say much about a scene. If a scene is ‘over-talked” or “over-analyzed” it can just make things confusing and the actor can start to second guess his instincts.

What do you want the audience to take away after seeing the Girlfriend?

I hope the audience leaves the theater realizing that this isn’t a “gay” specific show. Yes, The two main characters are gay, but the emotions and the awkwardness we share are so universal. The teenage years are extremely awkward and uncomfortable no matter who you are or where you come from.


SPECIAL TICKET OFFER!

It’s always sweeter when shared. Buy one ticket and get the second ticket at half price! (Ticket must be of equal or lesser value.) Good for evening shows April 10, 11, 13, 17, and 18. Call the box office at 510 647-2949 and use the promo code 5306. Tickets are subject to availability. This offer expires Wednesday, April 14.

Free 30-Below post-show party!
If you’re under 30, your tickets to the show are half-price, and on Friday, April 9, you can attend a free post-show party. Enjoy complimentary beer, wine, soft drinks, and snacks. Groove to DJ Pauline’s early ’90s dance party. Do you remember the smell of teen spirit? Do you know how to shoop? Got a song you think should be included on the mix tape? Send it to: pluppert@berkeleyrep.org

Berkeley Repertory Theatre
2025 Addison Street,
Berkeley, CA 94704-1103
Administration 510 647-2900 / fax 510 647-2976
Box office 510 647-2949
Box office hours Tues-Sun, noon-7pm
Groups save up to 20% — call 510 647-2918

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