Q&A: CTC’s James Smart finds joy in sharing music on stage

James Smart

Who: James Smart, 25, CTC conservatory actor.

Smart began the summer by playing a talking pair of smelly shoes, among other roles, for the Young Playwrights Project. In As You Like It, he plays Charles, Amiens and Audrey, and he can also be seen on stage as Ed “Shreddy Eddy” Learie in Airness.

When choreographing his air guitar solo, Smart said he came in with a specific attitude for his character, borrowing moves from AC/DC, Green Day and The Ramones.

“I knew what the song (“I Don’t Want To Grow Up” by The Ramones) was about, and I knew what I wanted to look like in the song,” he said. “I had this image from the ‘Scott Pilgrim’ poster where he’s hunched over and really driving into the guitar. … That’s the neutral (position) that Shreddy Eddy lives, and we worked from there.”

Where he’s from: Smart has had many homes throughout his life. He was born in Baltimore, Maryland, grew up outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, started acting in Chicago and is currently in his third year at Columbia University, earning an MFA.

First theatrical memory:

After auditioning for his first play in middle school, Smart was shocked to be cast as the main role in You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.

“I was kind of this skater kid that figured he’d give it a shot because his sister did,” he said, “and I ended up really loving it, and I did it in high school, and I did it in college, and I really fell in love with it since then.”

Proudest theatrical moment:

At Columbia, one of Smart’s best friends wrote a play called Leaving to be Left and asked him to play a main character in it and to write the music.

“I’d written a lot of music before, but I’d never been asked to put it up on stage or collaborate with anybody,” Smart said. “He wrote the lyrics and I wrote the music, and getting to share that process with him was really fun and joyful. And then getting to share the songs that we made together with the cast and the audience was such a unique experience and something that was really special.”

Musical talents: In addition to playing guitar, Smart is a drummer and played the tuba in his high school band.

What he’s listening to: Aside from his usual favorites, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, Smart is trying to reconnect with bands from his youth.

“I’ve been listening to a lot of pop punk things that I was listening to in middle school and high school, mostly in an attempt to revive that rock ’n’ roll nerd part of myself,” he said.

What he’s reading: Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.

What he’s watching: “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.”

“I love cooking, and I love cooking shows, and I love that show in particular because I love getting to understand culture via food,” Smart said.

Favorite food: Smart loves soup because it’s easy to make on the fly.

“It’s just a really easy way to explore a lot of different styles with the same ingredients of broth, meat and veggies,” he said. “You get to play with flavors in a very fun way.”

Tags : AirnessEd “Shreddy Eddy” LearieIn As You Like ItJames Smart

The author Kevin C. Vestal

Kevin Vestal is from Westerville, Ohio, and is a rising senior at Miami University in Ohio, studying journalism and professional writing with a minor in theater. Last summer, he interned for The Florence Newspaper in Italy, and he is excited to cover Chautauqua Theater Company and the Family Entertainment Series for the Daily. An avid thespian, Kevin recently performed on stage in Tartuffe and also has an irrational fear of wrists.