Legacy of the Working Actor: An Interview with Kevin Spirtas

Feb 16 2015 | 10:55 AM

Say the name Kevin Spirtas and you'll get a response from a small but knowing breed. The actor, best known for his seven-and-a-half year stint as Dr. Craig Wesley on Days of Our Lives, is a favorite among soap opera watchers. (The same can be said of another niche audience ? horror film fans ? thanks to his performance as the heroic Nick in Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood). Well said audience is doubly blessed then, by the show Legacy Falls, now running as part of the 10th annual New York Musical Theatre Festival: not only is the show set in the topsy-turvy world of daytime drama, but Spirtas plays a pivotal role. Legacy, written by James Burn and Ian Poitier and with music penned by Burn is a kind of Soapdish with a modern bent, and one that calls for Spirtas to demonstrate his chops as not one but two distinct characters ? Edward Trafford, a veteran actor, as well as Jack Monroe, the character played by Trafford on the show within the show. "Edward has been on the soap for just under 30 years," Spirtas explains. "He feels very limited because he stayed too long, like he's locked in a jail." Spirtas, who embodies both the optimism and the resilience of the working actor, acknowledges that there are plenty of real-life actors stuck in the soap world who resent their station in show business, viewing it as a disregarded genre by many. "There are some people who have made a lifelong living out of it and they are honored to be a part of it, and think it is a gift to be a working actor, and then there are others who are miserable and always complaining." The actor avows that he is one of the former, but understands the mindset of the latter. "My feeling is, if you're not happy doing something, move over and make room. There is a line in a song where Edward says 'I had dreamed of a more dignified future.' Edward is ego-driven, but I, as Kevin Spirtas, and many other actors in the soap world think anything that lets you work on your craft is a dignified living." He adds that he has his own personal criteria in choosing projects. "If it's a fun story, and the people are fantastic, that's what I look for when choosing a piece." And if Days asked him to reprise Wesley, a role he played from 1998 until 2005? "In a heartbeat!" The dual roles of Edward and Jack came Spirtas' way following the closing of a long-running New York show, Silence!, the musical parody of The Silence of the Lambs, in which Spirtas took on the role of the nefarious Dr. Chilton. This time around, however, his character leans more toward victim than villain. After Edward begins a relationship with his male assistant, his whole career and image are threatened when the romance outs his personal preferences. And yet Spirtas is quick to point out that this is indeed a musical comedy. "It's a wonderful spoof, about the hirings and firings and inside backstabbing and catfights, all that you assume comes with a soap opera," he says. "It's a great romp of a piece, and the music is great." However, Spirtas also recognizes a lot of himself in Edward. "This could have been my life," he says, matter-of-factly. "I completely sympathize with this character and what he goes through, and I also get to work out a lot of my own stuff." One thing is certain: no grass grows under Spirtas' feet. "My first love is musical theatre," he reminds." I started when I was eighteen years old, and it's the thing that makes my heart sing the most." He travels all over with his one-man show, Night and Days ("I always keep my musical instrument working"), and can also be found on the web series Hustling, which is about to return for its second season. And after nearly a quarter-century in Los Angeles, Spirtas has moved back to New York City full time to get back "in the swim" of the stage musical. He certainly has the chops for it, having understudied Hugh Jackman during The Boy From Oz. "Hugh was a great guy, really fantastic," Spirtas says of the experience, "and an incredible force to watch and learn from." Though he never got to go on for Jackman, famous for his stellar onstage attendance record, "the gift was that I was part of an incredible Broadway show, and I'm ready to be back in the community. I know there will be a time when I have my own Broadway show, and I won't leave it either." Information about Legacy Falls can be found at http://www.nymf.org/tickets/2013-events/legacy-falls/