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Sharing the stage

Gay partners both have roles in touring ‘Beauty’

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Matt Kopec, left, and David Baur. The actors and real-life partners say working together has not been problematic for their relationship and they actually prefer it. (Photo courtesy Center Stage Marketing)

‘Beauty and the Beast’
Through June 24
National Theatre
1321 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
800-447-7400

To hear young actor David Baur expound on the bliss of touring with the Disney musical “Beauty and the Beast” (now at National Theatre), you might think he is playing the lead or one of the more featured roles. In fact, he’s a member of the ensemble who’s best remembered as the tumbling carpet.

Still, he loves the part, and so much more. There’s the memorable score by Alan Menken (music) and Howard Ashman and Tim Rice (lyrics), a supportive cast and crew, and traveling from city to city. And, as any actor will tell you, it’s always great to be working, but it gets even better — Baur’s fiancé, actor Matt Kopec, is in the show too. Also an ensemble member, Kopec plays a townsperson, assorted enchanted objects (knife, pepper pot and gargoyle), and has a short featured bit as creepy Monsieur d’Arque, director of the local insane asylum.

The upbeat couple got together during their freshman year at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, where they both studied theater. Since graduating in 2009, Baur and Kopec (who both turn 26 later this month) have worked in theater professionally without interruption and also managed jobs in the same shows more often than not, which is no easy thing to pull off.

“We’ve been with ‘Beauty and the Beast’ for a while. I joined the show in January 2011,” Baur says. “And Matt joined six months later in July. Just before I left to go on tour, Matt and I exchanged rings. We wore them on our right hands. And then last Thanksgiving on the beach in Fort Lauderdale, when we talked seriously about marriage for the first time, we moved the rings to our left hands. When we actually do marry we’ll upgrade our bands. I’m thinking something from Tiffany’s.”

But is all this working and living together too much togetherness? “No,” Kopec says. “We built up to it. Although we didn’t live together in college, we spent a lot of time together in class during the day and performing at night. At school, we played arch enemies Bernardo and Riff opposite each other in ‘West Side Story.’ We learned how to separate our professional and personal lives early on.”

“Just after college, we worked for nine months together performing on cruise ships,” adds Baur. “After living on top of each other as roommates in the tight confines of our tiny room on the ship, we consider hotel rooms on the road are a luxury. If it were up to us, we’d always work together.”

“Beauty and the Beast” premiered on Broadway in 1994 and ran through 2007. It’s based on the same- titled 1991 Disney hit film that was adapted from the traditional fairy tale about beautiful Belle’s happily-ever-after romance with the kindly Prince/Beast. Baur and Kopec especially enjoy the show’s several rousing song and dance numbers. A former competitive gymnast, Baur brings tumbling skills to his role. Kopec describes himself as a singer/actor/dancer (in that order) and is taking advantage of the run to hone his dancing skills.

Baur rates the musical as his second favorite animated Disney feature just behind “Aladdin,” mainly because he had a crush on that film’s cutely drawn title character.

The upbeat couple plans to marry later this year in a quiet civil ceremony in New York. And sometime next year they’d like to include family and friends in a big celebration back in Ohio where their parents live just 30 minutes apart. “Plans are all a little tentative right now,” Baur says. “We’ll do it our own way and don’t feel any reason to rush. We know it will work out.”

For Baur and Kopec, the fairy tale tour will soon draw to a close. Their contracts ends in July after a three-week run in Toronto and neither actor plans to renew. Instead, they will return to New York and pursue more acting opportunities. Both realize they may not be cast in the same show again for years, or maybe never. But for now, they’re enjoying sharing the same stage.

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Photos

PHOTOS: Baltimore Pride in the Park

Annual celebration featured vendors, performers

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(Washington Blade photo by Linus Berggren)

Baltimore Pride in the Park was held at Druid Hill Park on Sunday, June 16.

(Washington Blade photos by Linus Berggren)

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Photos

PHOTOS: “Portraits”

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington performs at the Kennedy Center

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A scene from "Portraits," as performed in a technical rehearsal at the Kennedy Center on Saturday, June 15. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington performed “Portraits” at the Kennedy Center on Sunday, June 16.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Theater

Sophie Zmorrod embracing life on the road in ‘Kite Runner’

First national tour comes to Eisenhower Theater on June 25

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Sophie Zmorrod (Photo courtesy of Zmorrod)

‘The Kite Runner’
June 25 – 30
The Kennedy Center
$39-$149
Kennedy-center.org

Newly single, Sophie Zmorrod is enjoying life on the road in the first national tour of “The Kite Runner,” Matthew Spangler’s play with music based on Khaled Hosseini’s gripping novel about damaged relationships and longed for redemption. 

“It’s a wonderful time for me,” says Zmorrod. “I’m past the breakup pain and feeling empowered to explore new cities. A lot of us in the cast are queer, so we figure out the scene wherever the show goes.” 

What’s more, the New York-based actor has fallen in love with the work. “I love how the play’s central character Amir is flawed. He is our antihero. He has faults. As a privileged boy in Kabul, he bears witness to his best friend’s assault and doesn’t intervene. He lives with that guilt for decades and gets that redemption in the end.” 

“He does what he can to right wrongs. For me who’s regretted things, and wished I could go back in time, it resonates. Watching someone forgive themselves and do the right thing is beautiful.” 

Via phone from Chicago (the tour’s stop before moving on to Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater on June 25), Zmorrod, whose background is Lebanese, happily chats about sexuality, ethnicity, and acting. 

WASHINGTON BLADE: Looking at your resume, I see you’ve been cast in roles traditionally played by men. And have you played queer characters? 

SOPHIE ZMORROD: Oh yes, both. Whether or not they’re written on the page as queer, they sometimes turn out that way. And that holds true for this show too.  

With “The Winter’s Tale” at Trinity Rep, I played Leontes — the king who banishes his wife — as a woman. So, in that production it was about two women and touched on the violence that women sometimes inflict on other women.

And there was Beadle Bamford in Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” also at Trinity Rep; I played him as a woman who was masculine and wore a suit. It was a great opportunity to explore myself and gender expression. That was a really good experience. 

BLADE: Are you an actor who’s often be called in for queer roles? 

ZMORRAD: Not really. I’m what you might call straight passing. Sometimes I’ve had to advocate for my queerness. To be a part of something. 

Similarly with my ethnicity. I’m called in to audition for the white and Arab roles. It gets tricky because I’m not the exactly the white girl next door and I’m not exactly Jasmine from Disney’s “Aladdin” either. 

This is one of the reasons, I really want people to come see “The Kite Runner,” Audiences need to experience the reality of the wide diversity of Middle Eastern people on the stage. We’re all very different.

And not incidentally, from this 14-person cast, I’ve met some great people to add to those I know from the Middle Eastern affinity spaces and groups I’m connected to in New York.

BLADE: In “The Kite Runner” what parts do you play?

 ZMORRAD: Three characters. All women, I think. In the first act, I’m an elderly eccentric pomegranate seller in the Afghan market, waddling around, speaking in Dari [the lingua franca of Afghanistan]; and the second act, I’m young hip and sell records in a San Francisco market; and at the end, I’m a buttoned-down American immigration bureaucrat advising Amir about adoption.

BLADE:  Your training is impressive: BA cum laude in music from Columbia University, an MFA in acting from Brown University/Trinity Repertory Company, and you’re also accomplished in opera and playwrighting, to name a few things. Does “The Kite Runner” allow you to flex your many muscles? 

ZMORROD: Very much. Playing multiple roles is always fun for an actor – we like malleability. Also, there are instruments on stage. I like working with the singing bowl; it’s usually used in yoga as a soothing sound, but here we save it for the dramatic, uncomfortable moments. I also sing from offstage. 

We are creating the world of the play on a very minimal set. Oh, and we do kite flying. So yeah, lots of challenges. It’s great. 

BLADE: It sounds like you’re in a good place both professionally and personally.

ZMORROD: It’s taken a long time to feel comfortable. But I’m on the journey and excited to be where I am, and who I am. 

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