THE LEADING MEN: Sebastian Stan, More Than Meets the Eye in Broadway's Picnic

By Brandon Voss
03 Feb 2013

Stan in "Captain America."
© 2011 - Paramount Pictures

You studied at Rutgers University's Mason Gross School of the Arts and spent a year abroad studying acting at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, but when did you first discover your passion for acting?
SS: I did some theatre, mostly musicals, at my high school, but it was probably when I attended Stagedoor Manor. I specifically remember doing the musical Sweet Charity at Stagedoor. I was playing Vittorio Vidal, which is a very funny part, and some other small roles. I couldn't really sing that well, but there were so many fun bits, and I just remember the tremendous adrenaline rush I felt from being onstage and hearing the audience enjoying it. That's when I really began to understand the cycle of cause and effect between actor and audience in the theatre. It was a great feeling, and I've always cherished that.

What did it mean to you as an actor to make your Broadway debut in Talk Radio? SS: It was a very special sense of accomplishment — especially for someone like me who went to theatre school and theatre camp. Stagedoor was so much about kids wanting to make it to Broadway, and you're singing songs like "Give My Regards to Broadway," "42nd Street," and all that stuff. So of course it felt nice.

What was your first Broadway show as an audience member?
SS: Hmm, good question. I feel like we went to see Cats or something at some point, but that was before we even moved over here. I can't remember.

Would you be interested in doing a Broadway musical in the future?
SS: I don't think so. I don't think I've got the stuff that Broadway musicals are made of. But there are definitely many musicals that I enjoy. Hair and Rent might be my favorites.

I don't know how much your singing voice has improved since Sweet Charity at Stagedoor Manor, but you show off some impressive dance moves in Picnic. Was learning that choreography a challenge?
SS: It was pretty easy, for the most part. Once the basics were down, it was more about having fun and then forgetting about the basics. I just thought about Elvis Presley and how he could never stop moving when the music was going. I figured that Hal had probably seen Elvis and copied him.

You're headed to the theatre now for an evening performance. What are your pre-show rituals?
SS: I share a dressing room with Ben Rappaport — he plays Alan Seymour, Hal's best friend — so we put on some '50s music and just hang out, do some vocal exercises, and get in the groove of it. [Read the recent Playbill feature about Stan's Picnic co-stars.] That's about it. The real switch for me always happens shortly before I enter, when I hear Ellen's voice on the recording telling everyone to turn their cell phones off. Once I hear her voice, I just look down at my feet, see that I'm standing on the ground, and I know I'll be fine.