Seven questions with Robert Gabriel

Robert Gabriel - Via Robert Gabriel
Via Robert Gabriel
Robert Gabriel

In Jobsite's production of HIR, opening Friday night at the Straz, the small cast each has a diverse role (pardon the pun) in making the show go.  We're featuring all of them in our soon-to-be-world-famous Seven questions with... and today we talk to Robert Spence Gabriel, who plays Isaac, about... things. 

Why did you want this role?

I read the play a bit before the audition and it touches on a lot of subjects I find compelling. I think that there's something in HIR (see what I did there?) for everyone. It's also a really hard show to do, but it's a good kind of challenge.

Before seeing the production, your character — Isaac — seems one of the two most well-adjusted characters in the play. This may sound odd, but do you feel like your character gets the short shrift because he doesn’t get to wear a clown wig/dress someone in garish makeup/transition from one gender to the next?

I know it seems that way, really, I do, but you have to understand that that's what Isaac would want you to think. Believe me, there's a lot going on under the surface with that guy. I can't say much and I hate to be vague, but the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Even if I don't have to don makeup and a dress, I get my fair share of ridiculous action!

What has been the biggest challenge in preparing for this role?

HIR runs a very fine line of realism and absurdity. It has to. We're dealing with a lot of things here that people don't really talk about in certain circles. It's hard to let someone know it's OK to laugh at something without ruining the joke. Especially when your dealing with things that could come off as offensive.
This is your second show this season with Jobsite. What makes Jobsite different than other production companies?

Yes! I was in the ThreePenny Opera just a few months ago. Working for Jobsite has been a great experience. Everyone I've worked with here has been so professional, kind, and supportive of all the work we do. It's just a really great environment for doing good, honest, theater. 

You attended the Theatre Conservatory at the Chicago College of Performing Arts, but Tampa Bay is your hometown. What brought you back here?

Mostly necessity. I loved living in the city. Chicago is almost like New York now in terms of professional theater. There are a lot of opportunities in Chicago and I met some really great actors and directors out there. Home is home, though. I missed my family. I think I'll have to leave Tampa again one day, but I'm not counting. I like where I'm at right now.

Just for fun: You have one day to be anyone. Who would you be and what would you do as that person?

I'd like to be, like, Jim Carrey, Nick Cage or, like ... Mel Gibson, and I'd follow the real one around. That would be Hollywood gold.

What’s your dream role?

Unsavi de la Vega, In the Heights. My mom's side of the family is from Puerto Rico. The first time I listened to the album was in high school and I cried like a baby. I don't think I'll ever feel like my career is done until I land any role in that show.

Cathy Salustri is the arts + entertainment editor for Creative Loafing Tampa. Contact her here

About The Author

Cathy Salustri

Cathy's portfolio includes pieces for Visit Florida, USA Today and regional and local press. In 2016, UPF published Backroads of Paradise, her travel narrative about retracing the WPA-era Florida driving tours that was featured in The New York Times. Cathy speaks about Florida history for the Osher Lifelong Learning...
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