Local Talent

A Fiendish Conversation with Mark Siano

In our new Q&A series, we chat with local artists and performers about their craft. Up next: the Soft Rock Kid.

By Allie Oosta January 17, 2012

Photo courtesy marxiano.com.

Comedian Mark Siano is, roughly, a quintuple threat. By day, the thirtysomething is a receptionist at a medical clinic. By night, he’s the Soft Rock Kid, mocking the hits of the ‘80s and ’90s with a troupe of backup Freedom Dancers. Or he’s crafting a Clandestine Cabaret show, or a Triple Door musical act (coming this March) called “Modern Luv,” about the perils of relationships in the texting-and-Facebook era.

Siano has developed a cult following with his music-comedy antics, but for his latest project, he’s staying offstage and playing producer to White Hot, the new psychodrama by playwright Tommy Smith. It’s a far cry from the silly fun Smith and Siano have as members of sketch troupe the Habit. Instead, tragedy unfolds onstage as a young couple’s marriage crumbles, thanks to Shakespearean-sized helpings of madness and betrayal. Siano found the show so compelling, he knew he had to be a part of it.

As we continue our new series of Fiendish Conversations, Siano tells us about the show, his busy days, and what’s up next.

What’s your preshow routine?
I work a 9-5 job, and as soon as I’m off the clock (and sometimes sooner, thanks to my uber-accommodating employers), I hit the emails, and get the word out about the show. Producing involves a lot of hanging up flyers, handing out checks, making spreadsheets, bugging people. My daily activities—mainly being a receptionist for an OB/GYN clinic where I talk to women about their problems on the phone all day—has made me a much better listener and problem solver.

How did you approach this show?
While I have produced dozens of shows over the last five years, this is the first time I have no artistic stake. I’m usually helping direct or performing on stage, but now I’m aiding someone else’s vision. [Director] Braden Abraham is a pro so I’m happy that I get to work with him. Also, this show is a drama, so instead of constantly making jokes that could be added to the script or scene, we’re making jokes to relieve ourselves from the really heavy material. The jokes are therapeutic—like a release valve.

What’s the highlight of this performance?
Great acting and a great script. I am particularly enamored with Hannah Franklin [a member of Washington Ensemble Theatre] who has the majority of the lines. She has been one of my favorite actresses to watch in Seattle the past couple of years.

What is the best performance in your field (local or touring) you’ve seen in the last year?
Tommy Smith’s Sextet at Washington [Ensemble Theatre] inspired me to do this show. I also loved Jose Bold’s December.

What local artist, performer, or producer in your field should we watch for?
Cafe Nordo is the new up-and-coming company—they’re rapidly going from small to medium to large. It’s art, food, and performance. Really groundbreaking work. Always entertaining. Always silly.

If you weren’t a performer, director, comedian, producer, etc., what else would you want to try?
I don’t know their actual title, but I’d be an Olympic event coordinator. I f*cking love the Olympics. When the US beat Russia in hockey in the 1980 Olympics, I was four years old and my dad immediately took me to the ice rink and laced up my skates. I grew up with fervent sports enthusiasm—my old world was sports.

What do you think of critics?
This sounds like a kiss-up answer, but I love critics. People get upset with a bad review, but that’s something you need to improve your game. They’re simply spreading the word—if there are people out there attending theatre, I’m happy.

White Hot
West of Lenin, Jan 20–Feb 11, $9–$18
UPDATED 1/19/12. The opening of this show has been pushed back to Friday, Jan 27.

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