Chris Berry: How About a Debut?

Clemson University turns out disciplined and talented singers, actors, and designers at a steady pace. We have reaped the benefits over the last decade of so many of them sharing their talents with us on our Main Stage. The Rocky Horror Show is full of them and one is Christopher Berry. Making his Main Stage debut as Brad, Chris can be found inhabiting all the freakout and innocence that makes Brad such a special character to the show’s cult audiences. We recently caught up with Chris and got to learn about his first Warehouse Theatre experience.

WHT: You are actually not a theatre major, correct?
Chris: Correct. I am currently a junior bioengineering major and a theatre minor at Clemson University!

WHT: Where are you from originally?
Chris: I’ve lived in Summerville, SC my whole life until coming to Clemson. This is my first show at The Warehouse and I am loving every second of it!

WHT: What’s your favorite production you’ve ever worked?
Chris: I have so many favorites! If I had to choose, I would say my favorite production ever would probably have to be when I played Tony in West Side Story this summer at the James F. Dean Theatre in Summerville.

WHT: Favorite experience in a theatre as an actor, tech, audience member, director, or anything?
Chris: Hmmm. My favorite experience being an audience member was probably when I saw Lés Misérables on Broadway back in the spring of 2014. I got the chance to see Ramin Karimloo portray Jean Valjean and I met him after the show! I think my favorite experience as an actor was when I brought tears to my father’s eyes as I laid there dying at the end of West Side Story.

WHT: What’s your favorite part of being an actor or stage manager?
Chris: The thing I love about an actor is the fact that I surprise myself. With all the work put into a role, it makes it so rewarding to come together with others who do the same and tell a story that I, Chris Berry, would not necessarily be a part of. It’s just really amazing to see how different (or similar in some shows) I can be from myself, have the audience actually believe it, and have it propel the story.

WHT: Is there someone’s work that you greatly enjoy?
Chris: I really enjoy the work of Kerrie Seymour. The acting techniques taught to us as her students make me think in a sort of mathematical and analytical way. After all, I am an engineering student.

WHT: Person you haven’t worked with yet in any capacity that’s still on your wish list?
Chris: I have worked with Preston Taylor Stone in Dog Sees God and Eurydice at Clemson University, but I really want to perform in a musical with him.

WHT: Person that has influenced your acting, stage management, or process the most?
Chris: The one person I credit to sparking my interest in theatre was my high school theatre teacher, Kathy Keber. When I first got into Theatre 1 class my freshman year, I wanted to drop the class immediately, but she made me stick it out. It didn’t take me long to fall in love with it.

WHT: Routine that you go through before a performance?
Chris: Oh God, I am a horribly superstitious actor. When I do warm-ups, I do them in the same procession. When I get into character, I stand in the same spot backstage. I take a cough drop at the same point during every show, and I even pee during the same parts of the show. Sorry Chelsea, it just so happens to work out that one of those times is during your Touch-A-Touch-A-Touch Me!

WHT: What is you favorite part about being in the arts in Greenville?
Chris: So many people are so supportive of the arts in Greenville! At Clemson, the main people who come to the shows are friends, family, or Theatre Appreciation students. In Greenville, people come for the fun of it and return because they love it.

WHT: How does performing such an in-your-face show in an intimate setting like The Warehouse affect your work?
Chris: It took me completely by surprise when I was onstage. I have seen the show live twice before, so I knew what to expect. However, the first night we had an audience shouting at us, I completely went blank and forgot my second line! I do love being able to interact with the audience at such a short distance from them. I even got to sit in a woman’s lap during Once in a While!

WHT: How are you preparing yourself for the audience interaction that is guaranteed to come with this show?
Chris: Thank goodness we had a few people sitting in the house during rehearsals to shout the audience lines out at us! Other than that, the first few performances were my real practice with the audience interaction. This is definitely something I am not used to as an actor.

WHT: How many times have you caught yourself singing Time Warp in the shower since mid-August?
Chris: I honestly have been singing more of Once in a While and Sword of Damocles. HOWEVER, if someone ever starts a sentence with “Let’s do…” I immediately sing “THE TIME WARP AGAIN!” I have definitely received some weird looks in the campus library.

WHT: How did your research for the show affect your performance?
Chris: It helped tremendously. Janice, our Musical Director, gave me an article to read titled “Inside Rocky Horror” which gave me so much insight to the character of Brad and how to stay true to a more 1970’s aura.

WHT: How many times have you actually seen the movie version?
Chris: The first time I have ever seen the movie version was the week before we started rehearsals!

WHT: How much did the iconic movie portrayals of the characters mean to / affect your choices on stage?
Chris: Barry Bostwick, who played Brad in the movie, made some choices that I could justify in the character I came up with. A lot of which I came up with on my own as opposed to the movie. I am a huge fan of trying to make the character your own.

WHT: Favorite thing about working on a script for the first time?
Chris: I love how it doesn’t make complete sense. People don’t come to Rocky for an in-depth storyline, they come to it to have a good time. The crazy thing about this script is that the audience knows it, too! They have to in order for them to shout out their lines at the desired time! You have to be word for word in this script and you can’t paraphrase.

WHT: Moment in the show that has changed the most for you from the beginning of rehearsal until now?
Chris: I think the moment that has changed the most is during my song Once in a While. There were a lot of choices thrown around, thrown away, and brought back with this song. Janice I’m sure was fed up with me every time I changed a riff or took a note up the octave, but we found a final product that we both are more than proud of. She is amazing at what she does and it has been so much fun to work with her.

WHT: Greenville’s shows usually run from three to four weeks with approximately 12 performances. What have you done differently this time in order to be physically ready to perform a musical that runs for six weeks and over 30 shows?
Chris: The most important thing that I keep reminding myself is to drink water, eat clean, and get plenty of rest. The chances of me not getting sick during this run are slim to none, with it being the change of seasons and me being sickly in general. In fact, I already have been sick this run. Thank goodness we didn’t have a show then! Like Jason D. Johnson wisely said to me: “Rub some dirt on it! You gotta get back in the game, baby!”

WHT: Favorite part about this rehearsal process or show’s progress?
Chris: My favorite part about this rehearsal and show processes is working with such a talented cast. I have seen most of them before onstage at The Warehouse and was in pure awe. I knew I wanted to act with them someday and today is that day!

WHT: One thing you learned during this process or something you rediscovered?
Chris: I learned how to willingly improvise during a show. If I improvise, it is usually because something went wrong. With this show, you kind of go where the audience throws you, and that is the best way to be “in the moment” at all times.

WHT: Piece of advice for a virgin audience member coming to see The Rocky Horror Show?
Chris: For someone who is seeing it for the first time, come for the pure entertainment! When else will you see a baton-twirling tranny, a British muscle man, a geek in a corset, a Nazi science teacher, and many other unique creatures all onstage in one sitting?

WHT: This show is good ole rock and roll. What’s your favorite song in the show and why?
Chris: My favorite songs in the show are Once in a While and Floor Show. Janice and I exchanged countless messages and conversations about Once in a While and it has been my baby since the beginning. Floor Show…well I’ll just let you figure that one out for yourself when you see it.

WHT: If Matt Reece suddenly couldn’t break away from his auction-addiction and refused to perform in the show this Saturday, who…and you can pick anyone in this world…would you want for the Narrator?
Chris: The obvious answer is Morgan Freeman. Or maybe the guy on the Allstate commercials.

See Chris Berry on our stage as Brad in The Rocky Horror Show playing through Halloween midnight!