He’s the coolest kid in school and he’s never done— the T. The T? The Tongue! Bret wants to give Kendra The Tongue! Oh my god, you guys! Heading into the homestretch of our TheatreBloom exclusive interview series, “A Little More Homework” we sit down with Jake Schwartz of Third Wall Productions’ 13: The Musical to get the “t” about “The T.”
Thanks for sitting with us, Jake, would you give us a quick introduction to yourself and we’ll get started?
Jake Schwartz: I’m Jake Schwartz and I play Bret. I go to Carver Center for Arts and Technology. I’m a junior, I’m about to be 18.
Is this your first time doing theatre?
Jake: Noooo. I’ve been doing theatre since fifth grade, a million years ago. This is my first musical. I’m typically a “dramatic actor” so this is a nice change of pace to be doing something comedic and community based. Recently I was in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot as Judas Iscariot. I was in Stop Kiss at Carver too, I was Detective Cole.
Bret is the big popular kid. How are you and Bret similar and how are you and he different?
Jake: Well one major difference is I was never popular growing up. That’s partially because I believe that popularity is being happy with yourself. I was always very content with being who I am. So I wasn’t trying to fit in growing up. It made me a little bit of an outcast, but now everything’s okay because I’m at a school where I can accept myself and love myself and really, if anyone judges then they’re the ones with the problem. I guess I’m similar to Bret in that we have this air of confidence? But we’re both kind of awful with girls.
What’s your favorite subject in school?
Jake: I guess lunch isn’t an answer…but I get an easy way out because at my school I get to take acting as a class so I’m going to say acting. It’s my favorite because I’ve always wanted to be an actor. Actually, that’s not true, if I may elaborate. When I was a little kid I always watched Disney channel, once again, I’m comfortable with myself. I can remember having this dream where it was like “I’m Jake! And you’re watching Disney Channel! Bah-bah-bah!” I’m such a nerd. But ever since then I knew I wanted to act and stuff. And then I started watching super hero movies, like Iron Man and Captain America. And I thought, “I can do that.” There has to be one for a skinny, awkward male, maybe Spiderman! I knew from that point on that I wanted to act. This is going to sound so cheesy but it became my goal to act, get on television, and make everyone in the world laugh or smile at least once. Is it going to happen? Probably not. But it doesn’t mean that I can’t try.
So that’s the perfect segue to officially ask you what you want to be when you grow up?
Jake: I want to be an actor. That’s all I want. I’ve been looking at colleges. NYU is a big one, Pace University, Columbia Institute in Chicago…though that’s a little far away from home and I’d miss my mom and dad and stuff. I hear Towson has a great acting program so I’m not counting that out.
What is it like being almost 18 and in the upper grades in high school and having to play as a character who is 13 and in middle school?
Jake: It’s difficult but so interesting at the same time. I just think back and remember I was there. I was Evan at one point. I was never Bret? But I was definitely Evan. I was that awkward nerdy Jewish boy who just went to a new school. I’m seeing Pierce, who plays Evan, embody the character and it’s all coming back to me. I’m not only looking at the characters but I’m looking at my cast mates because so many of them are actually in middle school and I see a little bit of myself and people that I once knew in them for good and for bad.
The show talks about bullying. How do you feel about bullying?
Jake: I dealt with bullying a lot growing up. It’s a very touchy subject for me. But I’m very against bullying. I volunteer from time to time in a seminar where people who are being bullied can just come and talk in a safe space where no one judges them. I work with “Best Buddies” have you heard of that program? If I see something, I do something to stop it. That’s an advantage at my height, I look somewhat intimidating.
I just remember back to when I was in middle school, and elementary school even, I was so bullied just for being the new kid. And I had this lisp where I couldn’t talk properly. I just worked my tushy off to educate myself and now I guess I’m kind of okay with myself, and even if I get bullied from time to time, it doesn’t bother me as much. And if anyone is listening right now— hello in there— the advice I will give to you is that you are not alone, even though you feel it— I definitely felt it— I will just say “stay strong, even though it’s hard, and keep rocking!”
The show also talks about labels. How do you feel about labels?
Jake: Um, so I got a label myself as— and tell me if I’m not allowed to say this—
You are allowed to say anything that you would feel comfortable saying.
Jake: Okay cool. So I got labeled as being gay. Just being an actor gave me the label of being gay. Which is ridiculous, just because you act doesn’t mean you’re gay. Look at Chris Pratt and Ryan Seacrest. Labels aren’t true— I mean I’m not sure I really understand what a label is? It’s just people deciding you are something whether you are that thing or not, right? It’s other people’s judgements of you. In my sad opinion, they’re a part of life. No matter how long school goes on, they’ll never end. I’m not going to say accept it? But I am going to say be proud of the label that you get and be the best jock or nerd or cheerleader or teacher’s pet or you know, whatever, that you can be! I was labeled as the weird actor so I got into a school full of weird actors and I’m the best weird actor I can be. People told me I was so weird that I’d never be able to sing in a show. What am I doing right now?
What would you say has been the biggest challenge about this show for you?
Jake: You know; I’ve been training for musicals for a really long time. I’ve gotten— I wouldn’t say close, but I’d been prepared for musicals like Rent and Kiss Me, Kate. I think my biggest challenge is, believe it or not, is not the musical aspect of it? But the generation gap. These kids are so much different than I was in middle school. I see those similarities that I mentioned earlier but they are so different than I was! Just the language that they use and the way that they treat each other and the way that they treat me. They treat me like I’m a grandpa sometimes. And I’m like “Guys! I’m not even 18 yet, I know I turn 18 on June 5th, but still!”
What is your favorite song?
Jake: I love Archie’s song “Get Me What I Need.” But I have to say that my favorite song is “Getting Ready” because all the main characters are getting ready for this big climactic scene. It really reminds me of “Christmas Bells” from Rent where there is just so much going on and you never really know who to focus on— Oh Mark and Mimi— or in this show, oh there’s Evan and Archie and ooh! There’s Bret in the middle! There’s so much happening! I mean I could be really cliché and say “Any Minute” is my favorite because that’s my big song. That’s where I have to kiss Archie. I mean it’s just a stage kiss and I’ve had to stage kiss plenty of people before. What actually makes me nervous is how my dad is going to react to that. Hi dad!
What’s your favorite scene in the show?
Jake: The scene where Kendra and Lucy are fighting over Bret. One: girls have never fought over me before. I think Bret is hilarious in the scene with his candy machine comment, he’s just so endearing there when he says how he feels.
What has being a part of this show taught you about yourself?
Jake: What’s it taught me about myself is even though I’m a nerd there’s still a little bit of “cool guy Bret” in me. I don’t have to be so hard on myself all the time. I’m a little cooler than I give myself credit for. If I wasn’t then I wouldn’t be able to play a Bret, I’d be playing an Evan. Maybe I got lucky with the role because of my height? Maybe it was destiny or fate but I’m very happy that I accepted the role. It actually came down to this and another show. Something written by Eugene Ionesco. Not a fan of all that absurdism. Sorry, Miss Brandberry. I’m going to show her this interview, give her a copy of it, and show her that I gave her a shout-out.
But you’re happy you took this role?
Jake: I’m honored, I would say is a better word. I wouldn’t have expected in 100 years to get the email saying “Congratulations, you’ve been cast as Bret.” I was in my dad’s room and we were just talking, I think about football…I don’t sportball…so…yeah…sports. Anyway, I looked at my phone and said, “Hey Dad, I got an email from the casting director,” and he said “Well, open it.” And then I said “Hey Dad, I got cast as Bret.” And he said “Your little brother’s not in this show…” because you know my little brother’s name is Bret.
Hold on— sidetrack one moment here. My older brother, Josh, is the football star of the family. I completely felt like I lived in his shadow all through growing up. My little brother’s name is Bret. If you combined all three of us— you get Bret from the show! Okay, where was I? Email! Right! I looked at it, was so excited, and my Dad asked who Bret was and I said, “He’s the popular guy.” And my dad asked, “Why did you get him?” And I sort of said the same thing. I had no idea. But yeah, so I’m Bret. And hopefully I won’t get up and make a fool of myself, but isn’t that what acting is, really? Getting up and making a fool of yourself for the amusement of others?
What is it you are hoping people will learn from seeing this show?
Jake: To be yourself. I hope that the people watching take more away from Evan, Patrice, and Archie, than from Bret, Kendra, and Lucy, who are total jerks. There’s such a good lesson in the show about being yourself and not changing yourself to be what other people want you to be. Everyone goes through that dark time of “I’m not good enough” or “Am I good enough?” People need to realize that they are good enough. I think this show teaches the message that you are so good enough! You are perfect the way you are! Everyone reading— if you have six fingers or three toes, you’re so perfect and beautiful and I would give all of you a hug if I could. The human being is such a beautiful creature and this show in a way symbolizes that and they do it using a bunch of 13-year-olds!
Why do you want people to come and see you in the show?
Jake: I hinted at this earlier, but it’s my dream to make everyone in the world laugh and smile at least once. If I can make even just one person laugh or smile in that theatre? And it won’t be my mom because I know she’s going to be crying, but if I could just make one person smile in that theatre…I feel like my day wasn’t wasted. I can shake their hand at the end and they can say “you were really funny, you made me laugh, you did x, y, z…” and I will say thank you!
13: The Musical opens on May 13, 2016 and plays through May 22, 2016 with Third Wall Productions at the Episcopal Church of the Messiah— 5801 Hartford Road in Baltimore’s Hamilton neighborhood. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased by calling 443-838-4064 or purchasing them online.
To read Part 1 of “A Little More Homework” featuring Taylor Casalena, click here.
To read Part 2 of “A Little More Homework” featuring Jake Clark, click here.
To read Part 3 of “A Little More Homework” featuring Andi Rudai, click here.
To read Part 4 of “A Little More Homework” featuring Morgan Hewitt, click here.
To read Part 5 of “A Little More Homework” featuring Margaret Hamilton, click here.
To read Part 6 of “A Little More Homework” featuring Christopher Owens, click here.
To read Part 7 of “A Little More Homework” featuring Carly Victor, click here.
To read Part 8 of “A Little More Homework” featuring Ma’issa Wright-Kerr, click here.
To read Part 9 of “A Little More Homework” featuring Aidan Slowey, click here.
To read Part 10 of “A Little More Homework” featuring Maren Wright-Kerr, click here.
To read Part 11 of “A Little More Homework” featuring Anike Sonuga, click here.
To read Part 12 of “A Little More Homework” featuring Anastasia Johns, click here.