Brief Encounter   PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Hunter Foster
The year 2008 will see theatre artist Hunter Foster in all his various modes.
Hunter Foster with wife Jennifer Cody
Hunter Foster with wife Jennifer Cody Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Currently, he is playing the title role in the Guthrie Theatre's production of Gogol's political comedy The Government Inspector. Earlier this year, he showed his musical chops, playing Molina in the Signature Theatre production of Kiss of the Spider Woman. Later this summer, he will exercise his skills as a librettist when the musical he's written with Rick Crom, Bonnie & Clyde, plays the New York Musical Theatre Festival and then Off-Broadway. And, finally, this fall, he can take pride as a theatre husband and brother, when his sister Sutton Foster and wife Jennifer Cody star in the Broadway musical, Shrek. Foster talked to about his busy schedule from Minneapolis, MN, where he is in rehearsal. We know you in New York mainly for your musical work. Is it a nice change of pace to do a straight comedy?
Hunter Foster: It is nice. I feel like I do both plays and musicals, but I guess the most high-profile stuff I've done has been in musicals. It's kind of the same thing, except in musicals the music kind of sets the tone and sets the tempo and the pace. The music informs a lot of what's going on in a scene. In a play, there's more responsibility on the actor to do that. That's a bigger challenge. I enjoy doing both, but it is nice to not have to warm up. Were you familiar with this classic play before they offered you the role?
HF: Not really. I'd heard of it. It's nice to get to know the play itself, what it's about, why it was written, and our interpretation of it, which is a completely different interpretation than ever's been done before. How is it different?
HF: Well, it's been adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher. He took a new spin on it. He gave it a more contemporary feel, even though it is still set in its original time period. There's a contemporary flavor to the dialogue and the jokes. He's made it, I think, funnier. The comic elements are funnier than the other versions of it I've read. I think today's audience can relate to it a little bit better.

Hunter Foster with director Joe Dowling
photo by Mark Vancleave Your character, who is mistaken by the whole town as a powerful government inspector, gives you tremendous opportunities as an actor to react to people and events.
HF: Yeah. I don't think there are any limits to how — I don't want to say "broad" — but we all kind of create this world that's slightly over the top. It's kind of freeing. You have a heightened reality, and you can go to places you normally can't go to in a normal production. What are you going to do after The Government Inspector?
HF: I'm going to do a show I wrote at the New York Musical Theatre Festival. It's called Bonnie & Clyde. It's hopefully a funny version the Bonnie & Clyde story that we developed and hopefully we're going to do a production in September. Where will the production be?
HF: The American Theatre of Actors. This is the first show you've written since Summer of '42, right?
HF: Yes. For Bonnie & Clyde, do you have a cast yet?
HF: We're just starting to talk about that. We're not sure yet. I'm also working on a commission for another musical that we're going to workshop next summer. And I'm writing a play that a theatre already has an interest in doing. I almost feel like, when I was writing Bonnie & Clyde, I was trying to write it like Mel Brooks might have if he wrote the story of Bonnie and Clyde. Both you and your sister, Sutton Foster, have appeared in Mel Brooks musicals: you in The Producers and she in Young Frankenstein. Do you ever get together and swap stories?
HF: She asked me a lot of questions [before going into Young Frankenstein], because I'd been in The Producers for two years, and she wanted to know all the ins and outs of that group. It was the same core of people on both shows. Mel loves Sutton, and I get along with Mel. I don't know if we ever got together and swapped stories about Mel. He's a legend and whenever we're around him, we're kind of in awe. You're going to have another family experience this coming season with Shrek. You won't be in it, but your sister and your wife will be.
HF: Right. I'm going to Seattle right after this is done and see the show and hang out with them. I'll kill two birds with one stone.

Hunter Foster with John Treacey Egan in <i>The Producers.</i>
Hunter Foster with John Treacey Egan in The Producers. Photo by Paul Kolnik
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