Benjamin Gross in Young Frankenstein at Strauss

Interview with Benjamin Gross
Where did you grow up?
Born in Monroe and grew up in Calhoun, where a lot of my family still is. I once I landed a job that allowed me to work from home, I decided to come back to my momma’s cooking for a while after having moved all over the country in the past 12 years building my IT career.

What’s your profession?
I currently work for Logistics Healthcare with a US Secret Clearance as a Senior Cybersecurity Analyst. Put simply, I analyze “the cyber” and do my best to keep the hackers out of our military networks. It’s a huge job and it’s only getting more difficult, which is why I desperately need the creative outlet that the Strauss gives so well!
What was the first show you performed at Strauss?
Way back in 1997 during English class, I slid on my knees halfway across the classroom as a GORGEOUS redhead walked in who I had a major crush on. I grabbed her hand, looked up at her and said, “Oh what marvelous work of art is woman!” (badly paraphrasing Hamlet) and she looked me right in the eye and told me I needed to audition for a play with her tonight. When she asked me for a ride to the theatre, she could barely finish the question before I was already nodding my head with an enthusiastic “yes!” I drove her to the Strauss Youth Academy for my first audition (and later my first role) as Mr. Brooke in Little Women. After one of our shows I wandered over to the Strauss main stage to get a peek at “AFunny Happened on the way to the Forum” and I WAS HOOKED. I immediately auditioned for the next show, “7 Brides for 7 Brothers” and was lucky enough to join most of the Medford boys on stage as Ephraim, where I would also become friends with my now-brother-in-law, Tony Sanson. It’s still one of the shows I’m the most proud of.
Tell us one of your favorite Strauss memories?
In 7 Brides for 7 Brothers, there is a musical number that is a full 7 minutes long, which may not seem like much, but in August, with long sleeves, shaggy red hair, and stage lights it can be the longest 7 minutes of your life or the very best. One night during the run, this dance which included jumps, kicks, lifts, spins, twirls, and all manner of complicated choreography, the entire sound board just DIED only about 10 seconds into the number and all of the music stopped. The dance continued, we never faltered, and the ensemble began clapping the rhythm for us as we performed the biggest dance of the show for the Act I closer. Then, near the very end of this 7 minutes of memorized brilliance, the sound board came back to life, and while the CD had been playing the entire time in silence, once the speakers were fixed we realized that we were only 2 BEATS OFF in the music from where we should have been! Scot Baronet had drilled that beautiful choreography into us so much that it was just instinct. The very best part was that the audience caught on to what happened as well, gave us a round of applause when they saw the grins on our faces as the music came back on, and then a thunderous standing ovation a few seconds later as the song ended. I’m pretty sure that Scot was glowing brighter than the spotlights were in the light booth because I could see him beaming with pride as we held that final pose!
What was a performance you enjoyed most?
This is a tough one, but I’d have to say “Over the River and Through the Woods” was the performance I most enjoyed. It’s not as well known of a show, but the basic plot is a single, Italian-American guy from New Jersey breaks the Sunday dinner routine to visit his annoying but lovable grandparents on a Wednesday to tell them he’s been offered his dream job in Seattle. The news doesn’t sit well with any of them, and the scheming to keep him there begins with the oh-so-casual invitation of a beautiful young woman over for dinner that Sunday. It’s a beautifully written family “dramedy” that, as someone who never had the chance to grow up with his grandparents, gave me the chance to experience that feeling for a few short, lovely weeks. No other show has quite naturally made me cry on-stage during every single performance, just because of the quality of the actors I got to share the stage with and the beautiful script. It was one of the final shows that Chris Ringham directed and I couldn’t have been more honored to be a part of it.
What excites you most about Young Frankenstein?
Honestly working with Walter Allen and this phenomenal cast has been the highlight for me. I was sad when I realized we were on the final day of blocking rehearsal, and I knew that I wouldn’t have another chance to see the script, “come to life” every night. Walter really does an amazing job putting so much more on the stage than is written on the page, and it’s beautiful to watch. The creative process has been such a blessing for me, and being able to share with everyone else in the audience the culmination of the past 5 weeks of laughter we’ve all shared as a cast and as friends is the greatest joy I could have.
You can see Benjamin Gross at the Strauss Theatre in “Young Frankenstein” playing now!
Call 318-323-6681 to purchase tickets.


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