Brandon Petrie comes home to Madera to perform Chris in ‘All My Sons’
When Madera Theatre Project announced its inaugural season, one title immediately got a lot of attention. “All My Sons,” now in its opening weekend, is directed by Fresno State theater professor Brad Myers. I’ve been buzzing about his all-star cast all summer season. One of the players is Brandon Petrie, who has a long history with Myers onstage. I caught up with the actor via phone and email to talk about the show.
Pictured above: Brandon Petrie, center, plays Chris in Madera Theatre Project’s ‘All My Sons.’ Photo: Michael C. Flores
Q: “All My Sons” is a theater homecoming for you of sorts. You went to Madera South High School (and were a theater student of Ginger Latimer, artistic director of Madera Theatre Project). Now you’re returning to perform on stage once again. How does that make you feel?
A: In a lot of ways, what we doing this summer is a testament to Ginger. I won’t say how many decades it’s been that Ginger has been pouring into the lives of high school kids, but it turns out that the result is a large number of very talented people are really excited about coming back to PLAY.
Q: Let’s talk a little about the play itself. There are several profound themes, including greed, duty to family, trusting parents, and a critique of capitalism.
A: The show presents a lot of world views and asks the questions: Who am I responsible for caring for? Where does that line stop? At my front door? My business? My neighborhood? The planet?
For me the show really pulls up, in a visceral way, the pain and devastation unleashed any time personal profit is placed above its cost to another.
Q: You play Chris, whose brother died in World War II. Chris is engaged, and all appears rosy for his future. Yet his life changes in a brutal way. What is it like for you as an actor to go through that emotional arc?
A: It’s a heavy ride, that’s for sure. The great thing about Arthur Miller is that much of that journey is done for you by following the writing.
Q: You told me that the text in “All My Sons” is every bit as complex as Shakespeare. Why?
A: Arthur Miller walks this line between conversation where thoughts are being formed and intentions changed mid sentence, mid word sometimes. But next moment you are in a very complex, more illustrative, story. There’s a unique cadence to the way he writes that feels very easy to screw up. Like you are walking the stage with an unpinned grenade. Shakespeare also often puts his actors in the same predicament as the character during a scene. It’s like a little treat that someone made for you 70 years ago… or 400ish… depending.
Q: “All My Sons” is directed by Brad Myers. You worked with him extensively at Fresno State. He’s assembled a powerhouse cast for this show. Why are actors so eager to work with him?
A: Brad is a ferociously skilled actor in his own right, so he tends to direct in a very actor-friendly way. Rather than just laying out exactly how the actor will execute his vision Brad senses and pushes his actors in the direction they can best meet the character to create something more compelling than a single point of view could have achieved.
Q: Brad told me that your performance in his Fresno State production of “Rhinoceros” is a favorite of his. What do you remember about that show? Did you take anything away from it that remains to this day?
A: “Rhinoceros” opened my eyes to the effect and power design can bring to a performance. “Rhinoceros” was an absurd show about a man who does not belong in his world, desperately trying to fit in as his friends and colleagues dissolve into horror. The first time I tried on my costume my sleeves were two different lengths. When I asked the costume designer about it, a world of treasures opened up before me. Always ask designers how they see the character you’re playing. She had made all kinds of quirks in the costume meant to make me feel uncomfortable as the character. I really leaned into it; I asked for shoes that were too small and I never felt comfortable onstage in that show again. It was glorious! In “All My Sons,” Kelly Curry’s costume design is genius-level insightful to the inner lives of the characters.
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Q: Speaking of Brad, finish this sentence. “When you say Duke …”
A: “It makes me want to Pook!” Pronunciation is important here, and it’s all about the liquid U. One of Brad’s peccadilloes: If you ever dare to pronounce the word Duke as if it rhymes with Luke (rather than running with Puke) you will hear these words echo out across a dark theater, “Brandon, when you say Dook, it makes me want to Pook.”
Q: Now’s about the point where I mention that I just filmed a new episode of “The Munro Review on CMAC” featuring our first ever game-show format. (It should be streaming in a few days!) One question we asked was how many times Brad Myers has directed Brandon Petrie. (Yes, he counted for me.) Are you surprised to learn it’s 10 times?
A: It doesn’t surprise me. I love Brad. And I know it takes at least that long to love him. (Mischievous grin emoji)