Indian Head Park actor explores life on a funny farm
Robert Jordan Bailey (from left), Jacob Abbas and Jonathan Kraft are in Buffalo Theatre Ensemble’s “The Drawer Boy." | Photo by Galen G. Ramsey, Buffalo Theatre Ensemble
‘The Drawer Boy’
Buffalo Theatre Ensemble, McAninch Arts Center at College of DuPage, 425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn
8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Sundays, July 13-29
(630) 942-4000 or visit www.atthemac.org
Updated: July 10, 2012 9:38PM
For Jonathan Kraft of Indian Head Park, the hard part in playing “crusty” Canadian farmer Morgan in Buffalo Theatre Ensemble’s “The Drawer Boy,” was the push he got as an actor. The show opens July 13 at the McAninch Arts Center, College of DuPage.
Ordinarily, Kraft says, he likes big comedies, “the bigger, the wackier, the wilder,” the better.
But to capture the character of “stoic” — at times “sadistic” — Morgan in Michael Healey’s story of remote Canadian farm life, Kraft opened himself up to the wisdom of director Kurt Naebig. The director, Kraft says, taught him how to be just as funny reining it in as he is letting it all hang out.
“The biggest challenge
for me,” admitted Kraft,
who now lives in Indian Head Park, “(was) to not play the part too broadly like ‘oh he he he, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, see what I’m doing here,’ but as an actor, to play it understated but clear, and Kurt really brings the best out in me doing that.”
The admiration between Kraft and Naebig is mutual.
They met when Naebig, of Lombard, was the artistic director of The Theatre of Western Springs, where he recently finished up a yearlong tenure.
“I spotted him immediately as a really, really strong actor,” said Naebig, who has directed numerous shows for Buffalo Theatre Ensemble and other companies in the Chicago area.
Kraft is also a quick study, said Naebig. He’ll give the actor a director’s note and when Kraft comes back the next day, “he’s not only internalized it and what he does in the scene, but he’s added to it and … made the director look like a genius.”
“The Drawer Boy” tells what happens to two isolated, Canadian farmers when a young actor asks if he can observe them and the farm’s daily routine in preparation for a play.
“It’s kind of a journey play,” Kraft said, “a lot is uncovered through the course of the whole show.” And he added, “just when you think you understand what’s going on, it changes … .”
Heart and fun
“It’s one of these shows that I think is really accessible,” Naebig said. “I mean it’s got a lot of heart and I think the characters are charming and fun and relatable.”
Simply great entertainment, agrees Kraft. “It’s an amazing, amazing play. It’s hilarious in some spots. It’s tender in some spots. It’s visceral in some spots. It’s what I would call the whole package lunch. You got a bit of everything right now.”
Kraft grew up in Bellwood and returned to Indian Head Park three years ago after about 15 years of performing regional theater out west in the San Gabriel Valley in California and other places.
When a romantic relationship faltered and he realized that his parents were also “getting on,” he took the package of events as a “strange sign” that it might be time to return to the Chicago area for a while, he explained via email.
Since his return, Kraft has also appeared in “Sly Fox” and “George Washington Slept Here” at The Theatre of Western Springs. After “The Drawer Boy” wraps, the next play he will perform in will be “Moonlight and Magnolias” which runs Sept. 6-16 at TWS.
To play Morgan, Kraft drew on his experience as a college student at what is now Brigham Young University-Idaho.
The only work he could find in the agricultural community was on his roommate’s father’s potato farm. The farmer used to mock Kraft for being a “city boy.” With some reason.
For one thing, on his first day of work, Kraft wore Converse sneakers. His new boss said the shoes were “mighty pretty,” but pointed out that they wouldn’t look so good at the end of the day, covered with horse manure.
Though he had some great acting jobs and fine experiences in California, Kraft said pursuing a career as an actor has not been easy. He’s slept in cars and on the couches of friends. To make ends meet, he has worked as a bartender.
Yet here he is, back in Chicago, still acting. “You love it,” he explained. “It’s in your blood.”
Or, he added with a laugh, “You do it just for pizza.”