In The Spotlight
Veteran actor and Tufts graduate Stephen Kunken returns to the New York stage this season, starring in the Off-Broadway premier of "The Journals of Mihail Sebastian." New York City.
Medford/Somerville, Mass. [01.09.04] Stephen Kunken was bitten by the acting bug at age 13. When his brother decided to try out for an amateur production of "Mame," the competitive Kunken decided to try out as well -- and won the part. Decades later, the 1993 Tufts graduate is still winning roles, his most recent in a provocative new Off-Broadway show by a Pulitzer-prize winning writer.
Kunken has the star role in "The Journals of Mihail Sebastian", the most recent work by Pulitzer Prize-winner David Auburn. Based upon the real journals of Rumanian novelist and dramatist Sebastian, the production is a shocking tale of anti-semitism in Romania during World War II -- a country thought to be a safe place for Jews during the conflict.
"The play is a one-man show, covering six years in Sebastian's life," reported New York's Playbill. "It is described as 'expressionistic,' the journal being 'created' over the course of the evening."
Kunken's latest role as Mihail Sebastian is one in successful career that has included many Jewish-related plays. He appeared in the off-Broadway production of Tony Kushner's "A Dybbuk" at the New York Public Theater, the world premiere of "Jerusalem" at the Cleveland Playhouse and in Arthur Laurents' "Home of the Brave" at the Jewish Repertory Theater.
"My parents had a kind of Jewish renaissance in their beliefs not too long ago," the Tufts graduate told the Jewish Bulletin. "So now it's become a huge part of their lives and, consequently, of mine. I have much more contact with Judaism now than I had growing up. We really went from less to more."
The Tufts graduate has also made his face known in films and on television, making appearances on Spike Lee's film "Bamboozled" and in the hit shows "Law and Order,""The Sopranos,""Spin City" and "Now and Again."
"Well, I guess it's every Jewish parent's nightmare," Kunken told the Jewish Bulletin, describing his acting career. "After all, I'm not a doctor."
But the actor jokes that his parents have only themselves to blame.
"On the Fourth of July, in my family, we didn't go to fireworks; we went to the theater because it was easy to get tickets that day," the Tufts graduate told the Bulletin.
Now Kunken - who has starred alongside Mary-Louise Parker, Phylicia Rashad and most recently opposite Anne Heche in the Broadway production of "Proof" - is drawing his own audiences.
"My parents actually have been very supportive," the Tufts graduate told the Bulletin, "and they're incredibly proud of me."
"The Journals of Mihail Sebastian" - written by David Auburn - will run at Off-Broadway's Keen Company from March 6 through April 4.