(Formerly) Local Talent

A Fiendish Conversation with Benjamin Schrader

The Issaquah native returns to the Seattle stage in the Peter Pan prequel Peter and the Starcatcher.

By Seth Sommerfeld October 29, 2013

Benjamin Schrader (center) takes audiences on a magical journey in Peter and the Starcatcher.

Residents of Neverland don't ever have to grow up. Residents of Issaquah aren't so lucky. Such is the case for Benjamin Schrader. The Issaquah native has grown into a successful New York theater career, including a role in the original cast of the smash hit The Book of Mormon and hosting The Stage Door Supper Club weekly on Sirius XM Radio. A fan has even created a Tumblr—one with a playfully explicit name—dedicated to him.  Schrader returns to Seattle in the touring production of the Tony Award-winning Peter and the Starcatcher, which runs October 30–November 3 at the Moore Theatre. The wild musical romp tells the origin story of Peter Pan, and Schrader plays Mrs. Bumbrake, a proper English nanny caught up in the adventure.

For our latest Fiendish Conversation, we talked to Schrader about Seattle's impact on the national theater scene, Monty Python, and Costco nostalgia.

So how does Peter and the Starcatcher expand on the Peter Pan story?

It’s really kind of an alternative take on a character that you thought you knew. The story is told in a very creative, unexpected way. I think anyone just thinking that they’re going to go see Peter Pan or a telling of the Peter Pan story is in for a huge surprise, because that is not what they’re going to get. They’re going to get something off the wall and in the vein of Monty Python. Any preconceived notions kind of have to go out the window with the show because it’s really, really unique in the way it’s staged, the language of it. I tell people it’s a theatrical experience. It’s theater at its roots, ya know? Back in the Royal Shakespeare Company back in the old Globe. I’ve been in a lot of musicals and stage plays that are full of a lot of glitz and glamour. But the glitz and glamour of this comes out of what the actors are saying and doing; it’s really mesmerizing.

When did you first see it in New York?

I actually saw it in New York earlier this year. I wasn’t able to see it when it first opened because I was doing The Book of Mormon at the time, and we had the same schedule. It’s just hard to get away from the show you’re doing to see a show that’s running. So I saw it earlier this year and fell in love with it. After I saw it, I knew that the show came into my life to perform in it. I wanted to be a part of it. And that’s the thing I think audiences see, it’s one of those shows that makes them say, “Gosh, I’d like to be a part of that. I’d like to be in that world.”

What's it like to come and perform in the area where you grew up?

I actually get more excited. It’s almost like performing to New York in a way; the audiences are savvy, the audiences are theatergoers. So if anything, it feels like coming home, in a way, to the same sensibilities as New York. Although the traffic is a little better.

How do you feel growing up in the greater Seattle area influenced your career?

Seattle is so culturally and artistically independent, they’re creating their own works. It’s such a vibrant theater scene, a vibrant arts scene, dance scene. I feel like I was lucky to be exposed to that. So I guess exposure really is the answer. When I started to discover the arts—around 11 or 12, I’d say those are the most impressionable times in your adolescence—I was just kind of soaking up everything around me. I loved to be exposed to it at that age, at that time, and that set me off on a course for the rest of my life. It’s continued to influence me. I’m just lucky that my folks brought me there to grow up.

When you do get back to the area is there anything you have to do?

Issaquah was my stomping ground, so I definitely try to get some outdoorsy stuff in. I try to go hiking; take the car out to North Bend and head towards Mt. Si. That’s something I’m just thirsty for, living in New York City now. But it’s also just some of the most mundane things. I have two brothers that live there, and they’ve been working at Costco for years and years and years, and there’s something about going to a Costco with my family—which is such a novel idea in New York City—and just kind of walking around and doing my thing. I remember going to the first Costco in Kirkland. It’s such a mundane thing, but it’s so funny how that just sums up my childhood. Growing up in a family of four boys going to Costco was something we had to do every week, because we ate ourselves through a cart of food at Costco in a week.

What role do you think Seattle plays in the national theater scene?

This is now the stomping grounds for national pieces. National, New York things are now cutting their teeth in Seattle. I mean, I worked for six years on Next to Normal when it was still called Feeling Electric. I started that in Seattle, and then brought it to New York, and then it went through a transformation to become the Pulitzer-winning musical that is. So Seattle is 3,000 miles away in distance, but it is really just a heartbeat away. It has its finger on the pulse of theater in this country—especially musical theater—on a national level.

Peter and the Starcatcher
Oct 30–Nov 3, Moore Theatre, $23–$58

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