Chase Stubblefield and Alex Vaux didn’t just fall off the Russian-novel turnip truck. They know a good theater home when they see it. The pair is often found together in shows at the 2nd Space Theatre, an example of the fiercely loyal troupe of actors often found in Good Company Players productions there.
Their latest joint adventure is Neil Simon’s “Fools,” directed by Karan Johnson, a silly 1981 offering set in 19th century Russia from the famed comic playwright. Last year they played characters who were friendly with each other in three productions at 2nd Space. Now, with “Fools,” they kick off an antagonistic streak that will continue this season with “The Hound of the Baskervilles.”
I caught up with them via email to talk about the show and life offstage (what little there is of it).
Q: Let’s start off with a burning question, and please be honest with me: Are you two sure that you aren’t being held hostage by the folks at the 2nd Space Theatre? It seems like nearly every time I go to a show there, one or both of you are in it. They don’t chain you between shows and make you live in one of the dressing rooms, do they?
Alex: Haha, it certainly feels like I never leave there! I did escape briefly to Roger Rocka’s this season.
Chase: Living in the theater wouldn’t be so bad, I would save a lot on gas! It’s almost a full-time job especially when rehearsing and performing two shows at once. I like keeping myself busy though.
Q: Seriously, have you kept count of how many 2nd Space shows you’ve each done?
Alex: At this point? I think around 15 in an eight-year period for me, the bulk of which have been between 2015 and now.
“Fools,” opens Thursday, June 22, and runs through Aug. 22. 2nd Space Theatre, 928 E. Olive Ave. $20, $17 students and seniors
Chase: I’m not in the double digits yet, but I’m getting a pretty big head start! Since April last year, “Fools” will be my sixth show so far.
Q: Do you remember when you met each other? What did you think?
Alex: I remember when we did readings for the auditions for “An Ideal Husband.” He started his scene and I thought “Oh, man, he’s good! Rival!”
Chase: My parents knew of Alex before I did from seeing him in so many shows. My dad called him “Tarantino”, which I’m sure he’s tired of being called. Then when I saw him wearing all the Nintendo shirts at rehearsals I knew we’d get along just fine.
Q: Do you think you compete for the same kinds of roles, or do each of you have a certain look or type that differentiate you?
Alex: There were a couple times we have read for the same parts, but in regards to “I Hate Hamlet,” I knew I wanted to be Gary [a supporting role; Stubblefield nabbed the lead role]. For the past few roles I’ve had to grow a beard, which is weird for me. Hopefully I won’t have a beard tan line in this show!
Chase: Last year I felt we were stuck in different kinds of roles: the more serious, “straight-man” characters for me and him playing the wilder, more extravagant ones. This year we seem to have switched places! I’m grateful to get some experience outside my comfort zone though.
Q: In terms of subject matter and setting, “Fools” is not what you’d expect from a Neil Simon play. Give us a brief rundown.
Alex: Cursed village, I go in to educate, hilarity ensues.
Chase: Peaceful town with a lovable leader gets turned upside down by a smart-aleck interloper.
Q: Tell us about your characters.
Alex: Leon is a young teacher from Russia who has a very high opinion of his abilities as a teacher. He’s a little full of himself but he’s also kind of a romantic.
Chase: Count Gregor is tyrannical but ultimately harmless. He persistently proposes marriage twice a day to Sophia, the most beautiful girl in the village, but can’t seem to take a hint.
Q: “Fools” is about stupidity. What is the most stupid thing you’ve ever done?
Alex: I’ve missed the ground walking. It wasn’t uneven terrain either. Flat ground, was walking, took a step, foot missed the ground completely, and I fell on my face. I was 17.
Chase: I’ve missed an entrance that was only 10 seconds after an exit. I just casually went back to the dressing room and wouldn’t believe anyone about it later. It was only the 32nd show of the run, too.
Q: Do you think it’s possible for a smart person (and I count both of you in that category because you’ve both played smart people on stage, although when I think about it, that’s a stupid assumption to make) to forge a meaningful romantic bond with someone who is stupid?
Alex: I think so, Love isn’t always about intelligence levels. As long as they have good chemistry and get along. Although I myself wasn’t very good in chemistry class …
Chase: I think it’s important to recognize we all have our stupid moments. And every one of us is smart about some things and dumb about others.
Q: Last summer you did three shows together where you were friends or at least on the same side (“An Ideal Husband,” “I Hate Hamlet,” “Witness for the Prosecution.”) This summer you are antagonists (“Fools,” “The Hound of the Baskervilles”), where Alex is the hero and Chase is the bad guy. Is your backstage relationship between each other different from one year to the next?
Alex: Nah, we usually just talk about Nintendo.
Chase: We are definitely two different kinds of nerds, but nerds nonetheless. Theater and video games is where we overlap. Oh, and we both enjoy a glass of whiskey.
Q: Quick, Alex: Tell us a dressing-room habit of Chase’s that annoys you.
Alex: Nothing! Unless I’ve had too much soda and he is doing his hair in the bathroom.
Chase: Yep, I like to hog the bathroom sink.
Q: Now it’s your turn, Chase. Spill the beans on Alex.
Chase: Well in just about every show so far, we’re almost never both backstage at the same time. Although when he comes to the theater in his Ghostbusters regalia (more on that in a moment) it’s a sight to behold. His outfit is more elaborate than a lot of our costumes!
Q: I have this image of each of you as a toddler: Alex, you’re tossing out profanities in an Irish accent. Chase, you’re just four years old but speaking with a booming bass voice. Any relation to reality?
Alex: Canadian accent, but close for me. I do channel Bartley for a moment in this show though, so all those “Cripple of Inishmaan” groupies better watch out!
Chase: Not necessarily in low voice, but I used to love to recite or reenact movie scenes around the campfire as a kid. Needless to say I’ve become a bit shyer.
Q: OK, time for the personal stuff. Each of you tell us a little about yourself offstage. Where do you work? What are your dreams or desires? How would you save the world? (You can answer the first question only, if you’d like.)
Alex: I’m currently the head of the Ghostbusters: Fresno Division. We’re a Ghostbusters costuming group that does charity events and Comic Con appearances. We’re certified by Sony too, which is cool. As far as saving the world .. .well … the world was supposed to end in 2012 and didn’t so…you’re welcome.
Chase: Theater is pretty much my life lately, if I could make a living off of it I definitely would! But in the meantime I’m still looking for a way to pay the bills, I’ll get back to you on that one!
Q: What’s one thing audiences should know about “Fools” before going into the show?
Alex: There are three animals in the show, try and find them all!
Chase: Don’t take it too seriously and it should be a fun way to spend an evening!
Q: Anything else you’d like to say?
Chase: Air conditioning!
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