We’re less than a week from opening night of our upcoming production: A Case for the Existence of God by Samuel D. Hunter, here at NC Stage. The cast, director, and design team are working to tell the beautiful story of two seemingly very different people who, as one character puts it, “share a specific kind of sadness” and end up finding the humanity in not only one another, but also themselves.
We can’t wait to welcome you to this character-driven drama filled with a quietly riveting storyline, empathy, heartbreak, and hope, but in the meantime, we’d like to introduce you to the two actors who will be sharing this story with us. Philip Kershaw and Ben Mackel are not NC Stage newcomers, so we wanted to give you more than just their (diverse and accomplished) resumes. Instead, we asked them to take some time to sit down with Audience Relations Manager, Maria Buchanan and talk with us about themselves and what they want you to know about this unique story.
MB: Ben and Philip, let’s start with who each of you are! In the last show at NC Stage, What the Constitution Means to Me, the audience left questions for the actors after the show. One of my favorites was “describe yourself in three words”. We have time for more than that, so let’s go with five words!
Philip Kershaw: ….Not. Sure. Where. To. Start…..
MB: haha- that’s fair. I’m not sure how I’d answer this one either, actually…
Ben Mackel: Woods. Mountains. Singer/songwriter. Composer. Actor.
MB: Hmm.. Would we say singer/songwriter is one word?? I guess I’ll give you a pass. But that does bring me to my next question: what’s something about you that we might not know?
BM: I toured Europe as the 1st chair F Horn player in a collegiate wind band in high school (which was a long time ago, so don’t expect me to be any good now).
MB: What?! How fun! Now it’s just you and your guitar though?
BM: And my three piece stringband, The Blue Eyed Bettys!
MB: Fantastic. Glad you’re keeping that musical talent going. (Readers, for more on this fun band, check out theblueeyedbettys.com). What about you, Philip? What’s something about you that we don’t know?
PK: Well, my first real hike, aside from my *brief* exploits as a Boy Scout a long time ago, was in the Blue Ridge Mountains last year with Charlie and PiLar while working on Be Here Now.
MB: Loved that show and loved you in it and hope you’re able to get out and about in the beautiful mountains of Asheville while you’re in town! Next question: what brought each of you to theatre?
PK: I kind of fell into it a few times before it stuck. First in elementary school because my friends were auditioning, then high school because of an not-so-elective class and finally midway through college because I was bored. Most importantly, I had wonderful teachers who encouraged me to give it a real shot and a family who supported my dreams. I cannot express how grateful I am for all of the continued support and guidance.
MB: Teachers are so important. (speaking of, if you’re a teacher reading this, contact the box office about discounts for educators at NC Stage!) I’m so glad you’ve felt so supported! But you’re not just an actor right? You’re a director as well?
PK: That’s right!
MB: And I hear that maaaayyyyybe we’ll see you back here later this season in that capacity as well?
PK: Maybe! 🙂
MB: Can’t wait. Ben, what about you, what got you into theatre?
BM: My sister started taking classes at Flat Rock Playhouse. I followed her when I was 10 years old.
MB: That’s great. A true Asheville native. Let’s move on to A Case for the Existence of God! I’m so excited to see this one. It’s a two-hander, so it’s a pretty intense show for both of you. Do you find that you relate to your character at all?
BM: I’d like to think that I have the positive naïveté that Ryan has, but I have also shared his ups and downs. I’ve also spent the last year and a half working with a “mortgage guy” to achieve a similar goal.
PK: I think we (my character Keith and I) both share being relentlessly logical (or at least we attempt to be). I would say that Keith is far braver than me. I deeply admire that quality within him.
MB: And are there any stark differences or things that are difficult for you to relate to, Ben?
BM: While I’m an uncle to several awesome kiddos, I’ve never been a single dad.
MB: And that’s actually true for both of these characters, as well, right? So we know that the show is going to explore the experience of parenthood, especially from the perspective of a single father. What else should the audience know about this play?
BM: Anyone who has ever been a human can grow from this heart-achingly beautiful show. Especially if they accept the empathy and hope that the show is laced with.
PK: Yes, the full spectrum of the human experience will be on display. I don’t want to say too much, but I feel this is a great story that you will think about for a long time.
MB: Oh man, I’m even more excited than I was before this chat. Thanks so much friends! Break a leg!
A Case for the Existence of God runs at NC Stage October 13- November 5, 2023. Tickets and more information can be found at ncstage.org Opening weekend specials include: Pay What You Can Night Friday, October 13 and Half Price Ticket Night on Saturday October 14! Join us Sunday October 15 for a mini reception to celebrate the opening of the show.