Handsome, expressive, congenial, versatile. Longtime Dallas stage and film actor John Venable earned that reputation honestly among his peers in the DFW theatre community. For five years he has had the good fortune to join the unique ranks of actors hired to nationally tour as the solo “apologist” for the entire male gender in Rob Becker’s celebrated, hilarious examination of male/female relationships, Defending the Caveman. After performing the work to sold-out houses in its Oklahoma City premiere a number of years ago, Venable returns to OKC for a limited engagement February 10-11. Talk about a fun early Valentine’s gift for a sweetheart. I spoke with him via telephone in LA about his tenure as “The Caveman”.
When did you get hired to do this and how did it come about? Jason Lindhorst, a high school buddy of mine, was Rob Becker’s right hand man and producer for many years. He decided to take over the management of it for Texas and contacted me five years ago to see if I’d like to do it. It was booking so well, they really needed me…and the rest is history.
In how many cities have you played The Caveman? More than a dozen cities across the nation! Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Lake Placid, Spokane, Las Vegas, Southern California venues and a 1400 seat theatre in Concord, New Hampshire, come to mind.
How comfortable are you with the role? Does it ever get stale? It’s second nature to me. Never! The audience is basically the “other character” in the show, so it’s totally different every night. It never feels boring. It’s a challenge and an adventure for the whole 90 minutes. Some audiences laugh more than others. Every audience is unique, and I respect where they are coming from.
I get so much joy from how they receive it. I go shake hands with my audiences after the show. I’m so touched by how much it affects them. Some joke that it “helped save their marriage”, but its sincerity really connects people. That’s why it has endured so long. It touches people’s hearts. And it feels good to help people laugh this much..
How has the show changed over the years? It’s a 25-year-old script, so there are definite updates. Advances in technology figure in. Some jokes definitely needed updating. The set has changed, still with a sort of Flintstone theme. Now we have big screen TV’s projected, and we use the smart phone, particularly in the section where I describe how women talk more than men. I get a really big laugh from a particular texting joke. There are multiple scripts out there. Every actor has parts he adds in or leaves out. We tailor what we feel comfortable with. Some things I love doing other actors refuse to do. Different jokes feel right to different actors. It’s still very popular with married couples of all ages. Some teens even come with their parents to learn something about relating to the opposite gender. The stand-up comedy format attracts a lot of younger audiences, too. Tons of universal, human appeal.
What else are you up to in Los Angeles, when you aren’t doing The Caveman? I did a Selena Gomez video with something like 200 million views, isn’t that fun? A range of voice work, indie feature films and a recent Expedia commercial that played at the Super Bowl. My big project is a Short Screenplay Competition called “Hollywood Connection”. The winning entry gets produced with respected, national talent in front of and behind the camera. The filmmaker can submit the resulting work to a range of festival competitions. Charles Baker from Breaking Bad was a talent in our first year winner’s film. Entries came from China, another from a Kurdish area of the Middle East, and Australia and England as well as the US. I want to see it grow and support independent film art and new artists. Learn more about it at www.shortscreenplay.com
Any message for your friends and fans in the North Texas/ Oklahoma region? Caravan on up, make the easy drive to OKC. I would love to see you. I know you’ll enjoy this fun show!
“A sold out smash when we presented the Oklahoma premiere, we are happy to once again share this sweetly side-splitting play with our audiences, once again starring well known stage, film, television actor and CityRep veteran John Venable.” Donald Jordan, Founding Artistic Director Oklahoma City Repertory Company (CityRep)
DEFENDING THE CAVEMAN appears February 10-11 for three performances at Oklahoma City Community College’s Visual and Performing Arts Center Theater
7777 South May Avenue Oklahoma City, OK 73159.
Rated PG-13 due to adult situations and language.
Tickets: $8 for Students, Teachers and Military Personnel (with ID), $25 (groups of eight or more), $35 (matinees) and $35 (evening performances).
To purchase tickets, call the Oklahoma City Community College’s Visual
And Performing Arts
Center Theater Box Office (405) 682-7579
Online at www.cityrep.com