Struts & Frets: Interviews with the Cast & Crew of Merchant of Venice - Joshua Mahaffey

Jimi Hendrix. Jimmy Page. Joshua Mahaffey. All amazing guitarists,  all starting with the same letter. Coincidence? We don't even care if it is, we just adore this guy. He's been strumming onstage for us for some time now, and even when we cast him without the guitar, he made sweet music with his ferocious acting. But this time, lucky you, you get to read all about Josh, then catch him in all his musical and theatrical glory. Don't miss out!

Here seen practicing for his mugshot, like all great musicians.

HID: First thing’s first: What’s your favorite color, and the favorite color of your character? Any why?

JM: My favorite color remains blue. For evidence supporting such an opinion, I refer readers to the sky, the ocean, the style of music serving as the cornerstone of all rock/pop/country, the ocean, the hue in my piercing gaze, and last but not least, the sky. And the ocean.

Solario’s favorite color is bright orange – like the sun (or a sunburst finish on a siiiiiick Stratocaster) He’s always been drawn to the sun and the solar system, not sure why…..

HID: You play the guitar very masterfully in this show, and you also play the piano, correct? Tell us a little about your musical background, and how you become so amazing.

JM: Well aw-shucks to the max! I guess it started when I was little, my Dad would play the piano a lot in the house (he’s the real deal.) I never took formal lessons, but loved to pick up on little tricks and things he was doing. That’s where the seed was planted.

Then when I was 10 we were allowed to join band at school. I wanted to play the saxophone (then the coolest instrument) but alas my hands were too small, so they made me play the clarinet. That did not last long, but I did pick up some fundamentals of reading music that would help later on.

It wasn’t until I was 12 that I picked up the guitar. I started with lessons, and instantly became obsessed. The Beatles were a large part of my guitar education. I thought I had a spiritual experience the first time I heard the opening riff of Day Tripper, but it was nothing compared to the one I had when I played it for the first time. After about three years of lessons, I stopped so I could have more time for high school drama (and for theatre) but I kept learning things on my own.

Perhaps the most significant musical intervention in my life was that of the high school choir. My future wife and I both sang in the choir between plays/classes/make out sessions. Our teacher was a woman so full of life, and so demanding of excellence. She taught us to value musicality and feeling as equals to accuracy in pitch and rhythm. In our senior year, after a large amount of effort on our part, and an enormous amount on hers, our choir got the opportunity to travel to Austria and sing for the festivities tied to Mozart’s 250th birthday. Needless to say, the experience was life-altering and humbling.

3 years after we graduated, that wonderful woman, Ms. Cathy Wallace, lost a battle to cancer. Every time I play or sing, even if I’m not the most up-to-snuff technically (often the case) I strive to capture and convey the feeling of the music. That’s the mark she left on me. And I’m not crying, you’re crying.

Nowadays, I am the epitome of happiness when I get to combine my love of theatre with my love of music - Whether it’s playing in the pit for a musical, playing in a band of former BFAs who want to combine theatre training with songwriting, or playing in these wonderful HID shows. Music and storytelling have always held hands tightly, and I’m happiest in that grip.

HID: Solario & Salanio are like two peas in a pod, but what are their biggest similarities and differences?

JM: They’re biggest similarities are music and booze. If they’re not playing their banjos and guitars, then their probably drinking and playing their banjos and guitars. But I think they’re biggest difference is that Solario love to say “yes” to the little oddities that life presents. For instance, if a poor boy with a great infection wants work for our buddy, Solario is all about it, while the ever-cautious Salanio remains a skeptic. It’s a dynamic that allows them to thrive and survive at the same time.

HID: Also, we don’t know how to ask this, but…what’s wrong with the Prince of Arragon?

JM: Well……. There are a few things at play with our buddy Arragon. First of all, he suffers from chronic Affluenza. He has never known a world in which he doesn’t get the material possessions he wants. That can be a serious detriment to mental and social development.

But at the same time, he hasn’t always gotten the emotional care that he needs. His passions have never been fostered. For instance, deep down, he’s always wanted to be a dancer, but his responsibilities to the family and the court have made that an impossibility. It’s hard being different in a world that values uniformity and the projection of strength. Also, the beauty that he sees in Portia has less to do with Portia herself, and more to do with those fierce garments she’s wearing. Jealous!!!!!!

If you made it this far, you passed the first test. The next is getting down to Westbeth to see Josh (and the rest of the HIDiots) in Merchant of Venice! Opening December 14th!
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Tickets are available at http://hidmov.bpt.me -- ON SALE NOW! Shows run Dec. 14th - 17th.

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