Tortured artist. Playful eccentric. Cultural icon. Capturing Andy Warhol’s oeuvre and enigma is like getting lightening in a jar, but actor Tom Story who is playing the celebrity-obsessed artist in the musical whodunit Pop! at the Studio Theatre beginning July 13, doesn’t want to imitate Warhol.
“I am not a very good mimic, so there is no danger that I will ever mimic someone’s portrayal of him, or that I would ever be able to mimic him exactly,”
I watch and read everything ( about Warhol) and start to get an essence of him, that I can then turn into my own portrayal. This is a musical about Warhol, so it is already a specific kind of extraction of him. And it is a bit of a fantasy. So really I start with what the authors have given me in any scene and go from there. I don’t worry that much if I am doing a perfect rendition of the real Andy Warhol. I always start with what the character wants in the scene and what he wants through the whole play.
I note what other characters say about me in the play. I note what I say about myself. Then I start to build a character physically. I wear the wig and the jacket and glasses in every rehearsal. That is a great help. Then I figure how I walk, and talk and stand. Then I start to be able to feel things as another person. It’s a weird thing but once I find the physical life,I start to find the emotional life.
I am certainly not one of those actors who goes home and lives as Andy Warhol. But I do live with him in that I become obsessed with most things I do. You know so much of a performance is out of your control, although actors often get blamed. It is the scariest thing about doing this with your life, but so many things have to come together for a good performance to happen.
I have been in plays that have been brought to their knees by bad design or a miscast person or a bad director. I always try to make it better. I hate opening nights. I always think I do my best work in the last week of a run.” “I don’t know if it will be difficult to say goodbye to him ( Warhol). I have lots of other fun people to play in the season coming up.
There has only been one time in my life where leaving a character felt like a kind of death, and that was Katurian in “The Pillowman” at Studio. I think it was because I didn’t fully solve it until the last three performances, or because it felt like the most personal thing I have ever done. I still think the closing performance of that show is the closest I have ever come to being the actor I would like to be.”