“It’s challenging. It’s really strange,” says film and television actor Zachary Booth, over the phone on break from rehearsal at the Huntington. For him, being part of a stage play is both a welcome respite from filming, and a lot of work.
Booth will star in the New England premiere of after all the terrible things i do, a drama by A. Rey Pamatmat. His character, Daniel, is a young, gay, aspiring writer, and Booth says that he finds himself identifying with the character a lot—though not in ways that he initially expected.
“In the past I’ve always—even when I’ve played darker roles, or characters with dangerous pasts who are in the middle of horrible experiences—I’ve always tried to justify their history, or justify the choices they make, for them,” Booth says. “It’s that idea that the villain doesn’t, unless it’s a superhero movie, the villain doesn’t always know that they’re the villain. They wouldn’t even call themselves that.
But I get personally connected to these people. I found myself having discussions [outside of rehearsal] about sexuality, about bullying, about love—and taking points of view that I thought I’d never take. I’m doing it in defense of this character, but also finding that I very much believe what I’m saying.”
On the surface, the work centers on two people who meet in a bookstore and discover that they connect in a way that goes beyond their shared interest in literature. Below that surface plot, however, the heart of the play beats in a much more complicated fashion.
“I think that really, it’s about two people who think they know, or have an idea of what they need, to move on in their lives—and think they find it in each other … and what that does to a relationship, or what that creates in a relationship,” Booth says. “The expectation that you have for another person that’s not based on who they are, but on where you’ve been or what you’ve been through. Thematically, the play is about forgiveness, and imperfection, and acceptance. Which are sort of big broad ideas, but they’re told through a very specific and very intimate relationship between two people.”
The work also is unique in the core crux of its narrative—bullying—a subject with which almost everyone has had some kind of experience, but which remains an issue that is largely ignored or misunderstood throughout society.
“I think that by ‘bullying’ becoming a phrase that we use in our everyday language the way that we use it now, it’s empowered a lot of people to bring to light a lot of things that they thought that they had to hide before. On the other side of it, it allows people who have been on the bully side of the experience to really open up that door for themselves and look at who they were, and why they made the choices that they made,” Booth says.
“I don’t think that’s something that wasn’t happening in the past, but I grew up in a time where you left school and you couldn’t affect your classmates anymore. You had no avenue to reach them. It was a more clearly or easily defined thing,” he continues. “It opens up the discussion too: How much of it is kids being kids? Yes, we want to teach kids not to treat each other this way, but as much as we want to do the right thing, we harm children all the time—and they learn to harm each other.”
Above all, Booth believes that after all the terrible things i do will give audiences pause to consider other perspectives on some age old but nevertheless important adolescent issues.
“I hope that they all are inspired to have conversations that they weren’t having before,” he says. “Change happens one person at a time.”
HUNTINGTON THEATRE COMPANY PRESENTS: after all the terrible things i do. BCA Calderwood Pavilion, 527 Tremont St., Boston. Through June 21. $25-83. For showtimes and to purchase tickets, visit huntingtontheatre.org.