Last time we caught up with actor Hrach Titizian, he had just completed a run on the FOX-TV hit “24” and was featured in the film “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” opposite George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, among others. Now, he has hit the Broadway stage and stars alongside Robin Willians in “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,” opened Thursday after previews. Asbarez’s Georges Adourian caught up with the actor to discuss his experiences on Broadway and future plans.
Georges Adourian: Recently, previews of the play ‘Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo’ began on Broadway. How did it go? And, when is the play slated to start?
Hrach Titizian: Yes, we are having previews right now, and won’t technically open the show until March 31st. So far the preview performances are going very well and the response from our audiences is extremely positive. We are very pleased with the show and anything we work on from now until opening night are just minor tweaks to improve the show as best we can and get ready for critics to see it. We are scheduled to run until July 3, but ticket sales are so strong that an exension is very possible.
G.A.: What is the play about?
H.T.: It’s based on a true incident where two American soldiers shot and killed a tiger at the Baghdad zoo in 2003. Without ruining anything for you, this is the opening scene of the play. The tiger then haunts the streets of Baghdad seeking the meaning of life. The lives of the two american soldiers are forever changed, along with an Iraqi translater who encounters the soldiers and is being haunted by Uday Hussein’s ghost. There is no set story line for the play, but it’s about life, death, existentionalism, religion, philosophy and greed. It poses many questions that leave the audience thinking. It’s nothing like anything you’ve seen before.
G.A.: How did you get involved in the project?
H.T.: About two and a half years ago, my agents sent me on the audition for the first run we did at the Kirk Douglas theatre in Los Angeles. After about 6 auditions, I got the role. Although the schedule would prevent me from working on film and television gigs, I was very excited because I fell in love with the play when I read it and had a feeling it would end up being something bigger. After that first successful run, we moved the show to the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, which is double the size of the Kirk Douglas. During our run there, the play was nominated for a pulitzer prize. Another year passed, and we are now on Broadway.
You are working with the legendary Robin Williams. What’s that experience like?
H.T.: Robin Williams is one of the sweetest, most generous actors I’ve ever had the privilege to work with. And I’m not just saying that; I mean that 100 percent. It’s the honest truth. I had no idea what to expect when I first met him and I have to admit, it was a bit intimidating. But once I started talking to him and we got to know each other, there was no need for me to be intimidated. He’s a great actor and a great guy. Sometimes stars are stars not only for their talent, but for who they are. He has an incredible work ethic. He’s usually the first one at rehearsal, and really works his butt off. He takes notes from the director with no ego, just pure openness. Unfortunately, I don’t have much stage time with him since our story lines are separate.
G.A.: You’re at an interesting stage in your career. What are your thoughts?
H.T.: I’m just taking things step by step. Having been doing this a while now, I’m very aware of how this business works and the type of career I have. I don’t have the type of career that takes off overnight then dies down relatively quickly. That happens all the time. I also don’t have the type of career where I’ll be struggling for years and years and years. Of course I always want to work more and get better jobs, but who doesn’t? I feel my career is pretty much righ on track and each year is consistently better then the last. That’s a good sign. I haven’t changed my name, so sometimes it’s tougher to audition for certain roles since my name is very ethnic to middle America, but I’m too proud of my name and being Armenian to change it just to please people in an attempt to get more work. I’d rather keep it real and continue to work hard so eventually more and more doors will open up until my name won’t even be an issue, regardless of what roles I play. I’m curious to see how the next year or two will play out.
G.A.: Have you ever wanted to work on Broadway?
H.T.: Definitely. I love the theatre. There is nothing like performing in front of people, whether it’s a black box theatre with 30 seats or a Broadway house with 1400. I love it. And most only dream to do a play on Broadway, especially a straight play (not a musical) because they’re a lot more rare. So yes, my dream came true. But I do have many other dreams and goals, some professional some personal. But I’m glad to check Broadway off my list.
G.A.: What’s coming up for you?
H.T.: As of now, I have nothing else. This show will be taking up a big chunk of my time, and hopefully I’ll get back to film and television soon after. But if another Broadway offer comes in, I’d be very interested. And on the personal front, I’m engaged to the woman of my dreams and I’ll be getting married next year.