Gideon Glick: Matinée Idol
Gideon Glick embodies a very distinct kind of nervous energy. He seems to be continually negotiating the physical space he inhabits, attempting to charm the world around him into submission. It appears to be working. His undeniably idiosyncratic manner has landed him leading roles in such stage hits as Spring Awakening, and the current production of Significant Other. Critics and directors have praised his work saying he “puts honesty into every word” and his portrayals are made with “wonderful emotional elasticity”. Indeed, Glick has an uncanny ability to traverse and reveal the many nuanced vicissitudes of his character’s interior lives. And what a pleasure it is to observe.
I sat down with him a couple of weeks ago, and we spoke about how he’s managed to find himself in such praiseworthy company, the physical and emotional demands of intense theatrical work, why he’s finally beginning to feel comfortable in his own skin and why he’s so drawn to characters who feel anything but.
MS: Do you feel an affinity for Jordan Berman, your character in Significant Other?
Gideon Glick: Yeah, I'm neurotic. I can be obsessive. I get infatuated. I know what it’s like to be alone in the city. It can feel very alienating.
There's a big emotional outburst at the end of the performance. Where do you find the inspiration and the energy to do that eight times a week?
Well, it’s in the text. When you see the play, it starts at one place and ends at another. And I never leave the stage. Doing that everyday — the journey — it does it itself. So I have to maintain stamina during the week to conserve energy, but it happens naturally. When writing is good it does it for you.
What changes in your routine to maintain stamina?
It’s more emotional stamina. I have to get a certain amount of sleep. I like to get eight hours and eat as healthy as possible, drink lots of water. I steam a lot. I drink a lot of tea. I don't go out at night. I'm not drinking. During the day, there’s the emotional diet — which are the things that inspire me. I don't watch television. I try to read and look at art. Stay as open as possible.
It’s such an intense character psychologically. I wonder how doing it relentlessly changes you in the short and perhaps the long term.
I definitely feel more emotional. I cry a lot more than I normally do. I have a significant other right now so that's been nice because there’s a lot of loneliness in the character. The work has gotten more grounded, from the beginning to now, but I think that's natural in any show: the more you do it, the more hooked-in it gets and the more nuances you find. It’s interesting… I never studied, I didn't go to conservatory. I've taken classes here and there, and so the act of doing has been my conservatory, has been my study, so I always feel like I'm learning.
You’ve been doing this a while.
Yes, but I'm never really in a safe space. I've always been doing it publicly. In this play, there’s so much text to chew on that I feel very buoyed and through that it lifts you up.
The last time I saw you perform was last year at the Rattlestick in Sam Hunter's The Few. That was also a fragile, emotional character. Maybe you gravitate towards these types? Or directors see something in you?
I think it’s both. When I read these characters, what always makes me want to play them is that instinct feeling. I don't know. That's me. I like fragile characters. I like characters that are communicators or have a hard time communicating. That’s what’s interesting to me. Matthew, inThe Few, had a hard time communicating. He did express himself, but it was hard for him. Jordan, on the other hand, overexpresses himself. He essentially talks about himself predominantly throughout the entire play. It’s very millennial. He’s a person who is obsessed with the nature of finding somebody and as the play goes on he finds it more and more allusive and so he freaks out. I like comedy and I like pathos. I think both of these plays explore that very well.
What are you reading these days?
I just finished The Things That Didn’t Kill Me. It's a memoir by Jason Schmidt. It’s about his life growing up in Seattle with an abusive father who’s dying of AIDS and how he tries to make a moral universe for himself despite not really having the role models for that, and how he survived. I’ve just started a book called Disgrace [J.M. Coetzee, 1999]. I really like it. Did they make it into a movie?
If they did, I would never, ever see it. It would just be too much. I do love his prose; so economical and beautiful. What are you listening to?
I like to listen to music, especially if I'm on a run. I think about what the character might listen to and that emotional life. My character quotes Joni Mitchell in the play, and I went through a big Joni phase three years ago where that's all I listened to. It brings out a lot of nostalgic things for me and it’s always really nice to revisit something you’ve had a big connection to.
Let's talk a little bit about where you’re from and how you found yourself in New York and on the stage.
I'm from a suburb outside of Philadelphia called Lower Merion. I started acting very young in regional theatre. I started coming up to New York mostly in high school, I did an indie film when I was 16, and then I auditioned for Spring Awakening when I was 17. So I graduated high school doing that Off-Broadway and then, the next year, I went to Broadway and that's how I came to the city. That was almost 10 years ago.
You mentioned a significant other… where did you meet?
He approached me at a gym in Philadelphia.
Was it love at first sight?
I think so. Well, no. I wasn't sure if he was gay or straight. I didn’t know if he was coming on to me or not, so I can’t say it was love at first sight. But it was deep infatuation, and we’ve talked every day since we met, which was about four months ago. It’s been five years of me dating and this is the first guy I feel… it feels weightier than the others.
You told me that you once had been in a “throuple.” Are you very progressive about your ideas on love and sexuality?
I think so. I used to be more idealistic than I am now. I'm nonjudgmental and open.
So when you imagine a future with someone, what do you envision?
It’s hard to say because now sharing that person with anybody would not be OK. I hope this doesn't come off as rude, but I find sometimes people can be aggressively open and that, for me, is not attractive. All of a sudden it doesn't feel natural; it doesn't feel like a personal expression. I was watching “laughter yoga” the other day... it’s really funny to watch. It feels very aggressively open. Does that make sense?
Absolutely. How do you identify?
I guess I have always identified as myself. When I was younger I liked being somewhat provocative in my life and my way of speaking and as I've gotten older, that's become less interesting to me. I guess I find that people can be provocative for provocative-sake and it doesn't feel sincere and for me sincerity is most important and most integral. So I don't see myself as queer. I don't see myself as masculine. I don't see myself as feminine. If I had to categorize, I think “dandy” is my favorite classification, but I don't even know if I consider myself a dandy.
Tell me a little bit more about that, because I have a very specific idea of what a dandy is.
What’s yours? Like Oscar Wilde?
An aesthete outwardly and also very vain.
When I think of a dandy, I think of maybe wearing a broach and putting a flower in your fedora, maybe a touch of the feminine. No, it’s not feminine. It’s whimsy. But that's one hundred percent uneducated. That's how I've always associated dandy and it has nothing to do with history, nothing to do with Oscar Wilde. I think it’s a touch of the whimsy. That’s the way I've categorized it.
Being very confidently individual and expressing yourself naturally.
Yes, whatever feels sincere.
And you’ve been given the freedom and the privilege and the opportunity to have that kind of expression.
I agree. I'm very lucky.
How do you account for that?
Well, I came out really early. I think my upbringing was never censored so I was taught to think for myself.
So you thank your parents?
I never had a fear of coming out. I never had a shame, so I never dealt with shame and, to be honest, the only time I ever really felt shame was when I was in a three-way relationship and people looked at me with a kind of disgust or a kind of fear or disdain and that was the first time I felt reluctant to share something about my life with people and I never felt that about my sexuality and I think that really forms who I am today.
And isn’t that precisely what we’ve been fighting for? For children to have the opportunity to grow up without those feelings of shame?
I would say I am a product of that. When I came out, nobody else was out. And now it seems that kids are coming out much earlier and it’s much more public.
Maybe because of social media?
Yes, and it’s exciting. I think we all have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. But I think it has its benefits.
Do you consider yourself a public persona?
I like Twitter. I definitely think my Twitter is a representation of me but its not all of me, it is a persona. It’s sincere, but it’s just an element, it’s not 100 percent. We all have so many facets. When I was younger I was very afraid of feeling fake. But it doesn't have to be fake, it can just be another part of you, and once I came to terms with that, my anxiety ceased and that was enlightening. I’m different with you than I am with my boyfriend than I am with my mother. But they’re all me. I think we all have different sides. And they all come alive with different people or different circumstances. And I bring that to my acting. It’s like a different text, a different mind that was behind it and thus your character is different, but still an aspect of you.
Do you know James Grissom? He’s writing a book on Brando. And we did an interview and he was talking about how there’s a moment in On The Waterfront where Brando has to seduce his female counterpart and he didn't know how to do it and it wasn't working, so he decided to channel a women. And he decided in that moment to become a woman, and all of a sudden it worked and she was entranced and that was the shot. I just thought that was very interesting. He didn't relegate himself to being only masculine.
And in the performance, it’s just subtext. Did you ever see the photograph of Brando with a black man’s cock in his mouth?
I have. There’s a debate if it’s real or not. Although, I do think he was a bit gay. I think James Dean was, too. I’d like to think all great artists are in touch with their sexuality.
Joshua Harmon’s play Significant Other continues through Aug. 16 at the Laura Pels Theater, NYC. RoundaboutTheatre.org
Gideon Glick was photographed in New York City on September 13, 2012; May 14, 2014 and July 13, 2015.