THE LEADING MEN: Jason Hite and Taylor Trensch, the Undercover Lovers of Off-Broadway's Bare

By Michael Gioia
15 Dec 2012

Hite in Joe Iconis' The Black Suits at Barrington Stage Company.
Photo by Kevin Sprague

How do you personally relate to the character of Jason?
JH: The big similarity is that I was, up until my sophomore year of high school, a complete jock. I played all different kinds of stuff — football, baseball… I played a little bit of basketball before I went to high school. So I knew how to conduct myself around very loud, obnoxious, masculine boys. At the same time, I always kind of felt — not necessarily like I didn't belong in that world, but… When theatre kind of unexpectedly fell into my lap right around sophomore year, it was such a drastic change, almost like everything up until that point of my life had been a little bit out of focus. It was like I had put glasses on, and everything seemed to be very clear. I knew exactly where I wanted my life to be, and I knew what I wanted my career to be. With that being said, I think that's probably one of the only similarities I have with him. Jason is very, especially in public, charming and [can] make anyone feel good. I was a little bit more subdued in high school — not to say that I was a wallflower, but I didn't necessarily think I had a lot to say. I didn't want to talk and have nonsense come out of my mouth. I didn't necessarily want to be judged because high school is a very judgmental place, so I kind of just wanted to get through under the radar.

Can you tell me about that moment when theatre "fell into your lap"?
JH: My sophomore year…I needed an elective to fill in my class schedule, and as a jock, especially the kid who didn't care too much for school, I wanted to take the easiest route and get into a class I wouldn't have to work too hard at and just fly by, so I chose drama. I couldn't have been more different than the kids in my class — I was a sports man. I wasn't necessarily artistic, but my teacher just saw something in me and said, "You have something" and encouraged me to keep going. By the time I was at the end of my sophomore year, I did my first show, which was Grease. It was a very pivotal moment. After that, I dropped everything. I dropped sports. I dropped the circle of friends I had at that time and kind of just continued on [with performing]. Right before we got to the summer, I went to my mother [because] I wanted to find a conservatory of sorts. We ended up finding this program called Young REP in Walnut Creek, CA — the educational program offered by the Center REPertory Company — and it changed my life. I ended up doing that for about four or five summers… That program made me who I am, not only as an artist, but as a person. I didn't go to college, so I equate that as my college education.


Hite in Bare.
photo by Chad Batka

Did your relationship with religion play a part in how you approached the work in Bare, which is set in a Catholic school?
JH: A little bit. I was raised Catholic. I wouldn't necessarily say that I'm a practicing Catholic right now. I have my own problems with organized religion, but — especially at the top of the show when Father Mike is delivering a homily to the kids — it definitely flashes me back. My dad was the choir director at the church that I went to, so I was around the church a lot, especially early on in my life. I definitely remember the kind of boundaries of Catholicism and the closed-mindedness of some people in that community. My grandmother is still a very devout Catholic, but, at the same time, she sees the problems with it, and she's a very open-minded person. When Prop 8 came and went in California, I had never really had that conversation with my grandmother about, "How do you feel about the issue of homosexuality?" We finally had it, and her response was, "How can anyone in this faith — or any faith — say that anyone is deemed less worthy than another? The thought of exclusion is not what we preach. Church is a place for people to come when they feel lost or feel like they need guidance or a path. To say that you're not allowed and that you don't belong here is a completely against everything that we've been taught." That's kind of, in a bit of a nutshell, my experience with the church [and] this show.

At the end of the first act, you have this passionate scene with Elizabeth Judd, who plays Ivy, and you "bare" yourself physically and emotionally. You're also very vulnerable in moments with Taylor Trensch, who plays Peter. Before you go on that ride every night, is there a bit of anxiety?
JH: To be honest, not really. I think any kind of anxiety I have, it's almost like I shake it off immediately, especially with the scene with Elizabeth and even more so with Taylor. I really don't have the time to think too closely about, "Am I okay with this? Am I okay with that?" With me and Elizabeth, it's all about choreography and making sure she feels safe and taken care of. And, the moments with Taylor… I actually love those moments where I'm not just laughing and singing a song with people. When I actually get to look into someone's eyes and deliver material — especially as beautifully as Jon has written it — the dialogue and words wash over you. There's really nothing better to do in the show, so, if anything, I prefer when it's like that rather than just "put me on stage." I kind of prefer darker material, and I don't necessarily know why, but it's just easier for me to go to a darker, more vulnerable place than to smile and laugh. Stafford talked [to me about] finding the kind of gentleness and lightness within Jason while still keeping the inner fire and passion still there, but not overflowing into every scene.