Benjamin Monrad, Sound Designer

INTERVIEW BY KYLE LAWSON, ARIZONA REPUBLIC, FEB. 13, 2000

Benjamin Monrad, 23, actor, sound designer.

Recent project: Shopping and Fucking, Planet Earth Theatre.

What others say: “It’s not easy for guys to project vulnerability on stage. Benjamin does it as well as any Phoenix actor I’ve seen.” – April Smith, director and co-founder of Blackball Ensemble.

What he says: “My dad is president of Monrad Engineering Inc. Most people wonder why I didn’t do something in that line. Then they find out my mother hunts meteorites and they say, ‘An actor? Yeah, that makes sense.’

Does it make sense to you?

“Sometimes, I am still afraid to call myself an artist, but mostly I’m proud of what I do.”

In Shopping and Fucking, you simulated some of the most graphic sex acts ever seen on a Valley stage. How did you feel about that?

“When I’m acting, I don’t think, ‘This is wrong. This is something I wouldn’t do.’ I think about, ‘Is this what the character would do in this situation?’ If it is, I go for it. In the case of Shopping, the director, Ron May, was very sensitive about the sex. I never felt exploited.”

You list May as one of your mentors. 

“He was the first person who ever called me on my shit, both as an actor and a sound designer. It was not something I enjoyed hearing, but, ironically, it was the thing that encouraged me to say, ‘This is what I want to do.’ “

You came into the business late.

“At ASU, I took Acting 101. It made me want to sign my life away to the theater department. Look, I don’t know if you can say I chose this, but, if I had any say in the matter, it’s because (1) I’m a glutton for frustration, and (2) this is my only chance to truly evince passion for and commitment to something emotional in myself.”

Your prop looks like a tiny computer disc.

“It is. Minidiscs are the key to simple and effective sound design. Often, small things are the most important.”

That reminds us that you’ve done the sound for many of the shows in which you’ve performed. Isn’t that distracting?

“In Shopping, the amplifier I used for playback – which I picked up at a pawn shop because we had no money – shorted out two or three times. I had to run around to the booth to kick the thing. It was a nerve-racking circumstance for my actor-self.”