Tristan McIntryre has been featured on television and film, but his role now is bound to be one of his most entertaining, both as a performer and for the audiences that come and see him, night after night-McIntyre has inhabited the role of Sheldon Pankton in the hit Broadway musical The SpongeBob Musical. While McIntyre has been able to truly “dive” into the role, he has also managed to learn a few things about himself as a performer along the way. I caught up with McIntyre as the show was currently playing in Philadelphia, PA at the Forest Theatre and we chatted about his career goals, and how working in the world of Bikini Bottom has helped to make him a more grounded performer all around.
Michael Cook: Congrats on The SpongeBob Musical, the show is absolutely revolutionary!
Tristan McIntyre: Thank you; I was a fan even before I even auditioned. I feel like everyone, especially in my generation, was a fan. When I was young I would watch it even Saturday or Sunday morning when I would wake up. I also remember the they first announced the Chicago production and my first thought was “Oh God, no way”! I saw Ethan Slater doing “BFF” and I started following it, and now suddenly I’m on it. It’s really wild, I have really hit the jackpot. It’s so much fun.
MC: The SpongeBob Musical is the kind of show that you never think would be able to make it on the Broadway stage, but the minute you see it, it’s absolutely captivating. That is the true magic of musical theatre and of Broadway though don’t you think?
TM: Absolutely. It’s also the magic of Tina Landau. Every time I am watching this, I am thinking that she has created this show from nothing. The ladders, cars, and visuals, it comes together so beautifully. She is brilliant.
MC: For those that have not seen the production, how does Sheldon weave into the story of The Spongebob Musical?
TM: As in the cartoon, Sheldon is the villain of the story. The amazing thing about the musical is that he also gets his own sub-plot with Karen, the computer wife that he built. In this musical, he is not necessarily looking for the secret formula, he is trying to take over the world. I won’t spoil it, but there are two conflicts in the show; one, the plan to take over the world, and two the giant volcano that threatens to blow up Bikini Bottom. He poses the main threat of the story, but at the same time, propels the story along.
MC: You are one of those performers that is a true triple threat, and is able to perform stage, film and television. What medium do you think that you get the most creatively as a performer?
TM: I cannot believe that you just asked me that, I’ve been talking about this non-stop. I cannot pick one actually, they are all just so different. What I love about theater the most is that I really love that through line where you have the create the character and enter the characters mind from the beginning and play it to the end, and make it a consistent through line, and you have to play the story. Not that you don’t have to do that with film and television, but with film and tv, it’s a test of having to know the material so well that you can tap into the arc of the characters journey and just play it. The first film that I did we did the hardest, saddest and toughest scene on day one and then did the beginning on day four; they both require totally different amounts of skill and knowledge. What I do love about theater is that theater is my first love, what I have enjoyed about it is that you totally play the character for two hours and you get to experience the journey, much more than you would on a film or a television set. You also get the audience reaction, and being in front of an audience is such a thrill, its so magical. Especially with this show, bringing to to different places, getting to see the different reactions, from a New York City crowd to a Boston crowd to a Southern crowd.
MC: Speaking of taking a show like this to different places, are you seeing stronger reactions some places rather than others?
TM: I think for the most part it is being received well, at least the people that are coming to the stage doors, they all love it. I started to read reviews when we opened in Schenectady, and some were positive and some were not, and then I just stopped reading them. Treat every work as if it’s Chekov and don’t think twice about what other people have to say about it. Some people don’t love it and you can tell because by the end of intermission, you can see people pick up and they’re gone. Sometimes you do the comedy bits and there is no response and no laughter and you can tell. The cast backstage, we can tell when the audience gets it and when they are not. It does not really affect our performance, I mean it’s men in tutus and brave colors, nothing matters in this production. I think some of the audiences that have been most quiet have been in the Midwest, and it’s not everyones cup of tea. We are going to do it and perform it anyway and we hope it sinks in with them, but we try our best.
MC: You have worked with many performers in many mediums, but is there any advice you have gotten from any performers or co-stars that sticks with you?
TM: It’s funny you say that, I am writing a letter to my teacher from college and I am haunted on her philosophy on acting; it doesn’t matter if you’re feeling it or not, because you’re not going to feel it eight shows a week. What you do should be so specific that the audience will know what you are saying no matter what. What you have to learn to do is to trust yourself, trust the text, and trust that what you have done is so specific that you can just do it and that everyone will get it. Trust; the biggest thing that I have learned. Do the work. Treat everything like it is Shakespeare and Chekov and you’ll be learning every single day like I am.
MC: Every performer or creative has a vision board of things that they want to accomplish. What is on your personal vision board for 2020?
TM: Before I got SpongeBob I left the country for the first time with my sister and we went to Israel. My goal then changed to be able do theater when traveling the world and the country. SpongeBob happened, and it was like “wow check”! It’s exhausting so I cannot say that I will do another tour immediately after this, but I am so grateful for what I am doing now. I think the next thing, now that I know I want a little stability is to either do Broadway and continue down that road or television. The dream is to ultimately be bi-coastal, and then crossover between both worlds. Its about what world happens first an then transfer to the other and go back and forth, keeping it fresh and alive. Honestly, its the text; the text is so important. I think ultimately every actors dream is good text that inspires you and makes you really want to do the character and the work.
MC: What would the Tristan that has been living in the world of SpongeBob now, tell the Tristan that walked onto the Spongebob set to start off on this journey?
TM: It’s funny you ask that because I watched my first archival footage recently, because of the venue differences. We are our own harshest critics; I saw a video of Jen Collela who just finished Come From Away for five years, and she was asked the same question. Her answer was “What I was doing was not as grounded as what I am doing now”. We’re only seventy performances in, I am sure I am going to be saying the same thing. I am ten times more grounded. I spent college with so many people telling me to listen; but when you are doing it as much as we are, my understanding of what it actually means to listen has totally and completely changed Not only am I more grounded, but I am learning so much more about character and about the world. Things that are slipped into the text mean so much more now, and you just have to trust it and trust each other and breathe. Be present on stage. I am more grounded and focused and I trust myself more; and I think it shows in my performance.
All Art Courtesy Of Production
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