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Robert Foxworth Talks ‘Superior Donuts’

Actor Robert Foxworth is probably most familiar to San Diego audiences through his work at The Old Globe, including his most recent role as King Lear in the 2010 summer Shakespeare Festival.

Foxworth is currently on stage at San Diego Rep, in the local premiere of Tracy Letts' "Superior Donuts." He plays Arthur Przybyszewski, a 60s throwback and owner of a run-down donut shop in uptown Chicago. Arthur's life gets a jolt when Franco, a young black man from the neighborhood, begins working for him. Franco and Arthur's friendship give this funny play its heart.

Foxworth, who has also worked in film and television ("Six Feet Under") agreed to answer a few questions via email.

When we meet Arthur Przybyszewski at the start of "Superior Donuts," it’s clear he’s lost any zeal for life. What did you do physically to convey this – it seemed like you really restrained your voice and physicality.

I felt like his voice and body were expressive of his state of mind and spirit so the voice is a hesitant, squeezed croak and the body a shambling, bent ache. As the involvement with Franco and others opens him to life, the voice begins to emerge and the body to take on energy. He changes as his life force grows and he finally accepts the challenges that come his way. This is the effect that Franco's presence in his life has upon him.

How did you work on the Chicago accent?

Ursula Meyer, our dialect coach, made it possible.

At the heart of this play is the friendship between Arthur and Franco, a young African American man who works at Arthur's donut shop. What is it about Franco that appeals to Arthur?

Franco's energy, intelligence and idealism awakens him.

You and Anthony Phillips, the actor who plays Franco, seem to have a natural chemistry on the stage. How do you account for that chemistry?

Good casting. And that is our job.

Throughout the play, Arthur gives a series of soliloquies. You've performed plenty of Shakespeare in your day. What are the challenges of performing soliloquies?

I have found that having in my mind very specific images and actions is essential. It is also very helpful to be immersed in the character.

You've also performed in Tracy Letts' Pulitzer Prize-winning drama "August: Osage County." What about Letts' writing appeals to you?

Tracy Letts, being both actor and writer, knows how language moves. How it reveals and how it conceals. He well understands, as Chekhov did, that stream of life beneath our words. The comedic and inappropriate and absurd ways we think we narrate our inner life with others and what we give away in the process.

Is that a real ponytail you sport throughout the play?

It has never actually seen the rear end of a horse.

What's your favorite kind of donut?

I'm not a donut person but I've had a few Krispy Kremes I thought were superior donuts.

What do you want people to take away from the experience of seeing "Superior Donuts"?

Ideally I'd like the audience to be changed by the experience. To be more open and more generous in their interactions with others. To talk to one another about what they've experienced that this play reminds them of. To chuckle for several days over things that happen in the play. To tell their friends to come see "Superior Donuts."

San Diego Repertory Theatre's "Superior Donuts" runs through March 6th at the Lyceum Theatre in Horton Plaza.

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