As the temporary shutdown of Broadway and theatres around the world continues, Playbill is reaching out to artists to see how they are physically and creatively responding to a changed world.
The series continues with John Lloyd Young, who won Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Theatre World Awards for creating the role of Frankie Valli in the Tony-winning musical Jersey Boys. The actor, who subsequently reprised that part in the Clint Eastwood-directed musical film, has also performed concerts at The White House, Carnegie Hall, Times Square, The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, The Hollywood Bowl, the Cafe Carlyle, and Feinstein’s/54 Below, among others. John Lloyd Young By Request: Live From Las Vegas, a concert of songs chosen by fans and ticket holders, will stream May 1 beginning at 9 PM ET and will then be available for purchase for one week following the live event. Click here for ticket information.
What is your typical day like now?
At home here in L.A., it’s not much different than before COVID when I would be home between concerts or travel for business: I get up early, walk the dog, read the news. I write, read, study, work on my visual art. Exercise. It’s a contemplative and zen day-to-day, only now there’s less to draw me away from it in terms of social gatherings or places to go, like shopping or museums. I try to make tweaks and improvements to diet and life and my own mentality, pursue my own private interests until things open up again for all of us…
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
There’s a compilation of contemporary translations of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus titled The Art of Living. They are short passages of deep wisdom for day-to-day life, and this whole period has been a good time to revisit them. I’ve gifted copies of this book to entire casts and crew at the end of projects. Wisdom for the ages.
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation and/or the current unrest?
I am a Buddhist, and this is not pat: When you are isolated, that doesn’t mean you’re alone. There is some comfort to be derived from the fact that we are all experiencing this at once. Perhaps, when this challenge has lifted and things return to normal (i.e., we experience our individual difficulties at varying times from one another), we will have a better awareness of ourselves and of life, and perhaps we’ll be a little less arrogant and apt to label people who are in a down period as “losers.” That’s one shameful stain we have on our theatre culture we should really clean up. Just because you have a hit show today doesn’t mean you won’t be on the street tomorrow. I think we all just saw that reinforced in a huge way. Show humility. Real humility. Not performative humility. I see a lot of performative humility, or rather, I see through it. After these damaging few years politically, how can you continue to look the other way when you see hypocrisy? How can you in good conscience allow yourself to be taken in by its dishonesty? It’s an insult to your intelligence. Respect yourself. Take a stand.
How, if at all, are you keeping your creative juices flowing? Has that been helpful to you?
Oops, I think I already answered this! My creative juices are always flowing, just not always in the directions expected of a Tony winner from Broadway. I taught myself to write Chinese. That’s a cool thing to be able to do, but you won’t be seeing me do it onstage. There is so much in life to enjoy and pursue that doesn’t have to be in service of other people’s expectations for you!
Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
There’s an abundance of theatricality in my artwork!
What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
I’m going to say the unorthodox here: Take care of yourself first. I’ve done a lot for charity over many years, sometimes so much so that I almost need charity myself! This is a crisis unlike anything we’ve seen. I know the default for the theatre community is to have benefits and all get together in service of big ideas and causes. If you are worried about your bills, take care of that. It’s okay to not follow the crowd, especially when you can’t! Some people in the community are better off, in which case, good on them for spreading their wealth. Take care of you and yours. Right now, that’s also okay. Believe it.