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Humans of Company One: SHOCKHEADED PETER actor Jake Athyal
Yeah I was, I was a journalism major at Suffolk. And it came down to a point in the audition process when you’re looking for an Indian man who is physically fit and considers himself an athlete, the pool becomes very very small.
Do you consider yourself an athlete?
Yes, I would definitely consider myself an athlete. I did track. I was a gymnast during my freshman year. That was a very painful 8-9 months of my life, but it paid off because I got into CHAD DEITY. The other people who were cast were extremely fit and extremely athletic so it was more someone who could go up to their level as well. Shawn had been auditioning for a while and finally Nael Nacer, who is an excellent actor in Boston who Company One has cast on multiple occasions, was doing a production of Car Talk and I was an usher at Suffolk. Nael did an amazing job and I went up to congratulate him after a show and we ended up being friends. He mentioned to Shawn that they should audition me for the CHAD DEITY role and I auditioned four days before the first read through. Luck really played a lot into it.
Without giving too much away, what is SHOCKHEADED PETER about?
I’ll let you know when I figure it out myself! Do you know the history behind it? So Heinrich Hoffman wrote this in the mid 1800s. He went to find a book for his son for Christmas and looked around and didn’t feel like any of the books adequately portrayed what life was really like. So he came up with his own book that showed the repercussions of what happens to children who don’t behave and misguided parents, and it worked its way into this musical. On the surface it’s about children that misbehave and the ramifications of that. Right under the surface though there are so many things that you can connect with today. Most of the time it’s not even about children. It’s about unrest bubbling under the surface. It can be viewed as political, almost like a rallying cry. For example, one of the biggest issues I have with the education system today is that we are trying to cut out creativity. There is this overwhelming need for math and science to be a priority. We have this one-size-fits all education system and it’s just not the case. Johnny Head-in-the-Air, one of the characters in SHOCKHEADED PETER, doesn’t fit into that. He just day dreams forever and it’s beautiful to think about this world that he escapes to.
When I came to rehearsal, it was great to see how collaborative it was. Can you speak a little about what that process is like?
It’s all because of Steven Bogart. It’s sometimes really difficult to maintain a collaborative process and get a product from it, but Steven somehow manages to do it. There have been so many experiences when Steven just says “stop thinking so much about it, and just do it!” We jump and, we don’t know how, but we always manage to land on our feet around him and it’s something we don’t take for granted at all. He’s allowed us this freedom in which our boxes of creativity have expanded exponentially. Also, the band throws out these incredible out-of-the-box ideas, and as actors we are able to put them on its feet. It’s the epitome of collaboration.
What do you like about Boston? What inspires you?
I love this city! I’m also very closed in because when I came from India I came to Boston. It’s amazing to see the diversity, the opinions, the age range. It’s almost an assault on the senses. When you come to a Company One show you find people from all over, speaking different languages, and that’s what we live for. The beautiful thing about a C1 play is that you don’t come to it, see it, and walk away from it. People talk about the play in the lobby, they think about it on their way home, it stays with you. It just captivates.
What would you like to change?
There is nothing I would want to change about Boston because Boston as we know it is changing right now. It’s an extremely exciting time to be in the city because there is so much bubbling under the surface. Back in India we read about these exciting times in the 50s and 60s, things were happening. Things were changing. And to be in that situation right now with such a strong feminist and racial movement. I love what Boston is at this moment…I don’t know what it will be, but that excites me.
What is your News Years resolution?
I’ve always had resolutions and never kept them. I realized that there are so many things in Boston happening right now that I learned to just embrace the fact that things are going to change. So instead of me trying to force anything, I just want to allow Boston to happen to me.
What’s up next for you?
Well I’m joining the Peace Corps. I’m being sent out in 6 months time. I’m being sent to Ghana or Sudan for two and a half years. I’m a little scared right now but I think it’s healthy to be nervous. I’m going to be working in education reform or farming, whatever they need me to do. Anything I can do to help.
Anything else you want to include?
Come to see the play! It’s stunning and something that Boston has never seen, so they don’t even realize they need it, but they do!