In the Wings: A Conversation With Red Speedo Star Keith Conallen

The actor talks hanging upside-down, falling asleep on stage, and the answer to one important question: Speedo or trunks?

Keith Conallen plays Peter, the brother of an Olympic swimmer, in Theatre Exile’s production of Lucas Hnath’s Red Speedo.My name is … Keith Conallen. Sometimes I insist on my middle initial J., but not today.

I am … Philly born and bred, a lover of baking and the messiest OCD neat freak in the world.

I grew up … just south of Oregon Avenue, on Sydenham between 15th and 16th. It was a 5-10 minute walk to get to any stadium for a game.

On opening night I … try to hide. I love being an actor and having all that attention but I also kind of hate all that attention.

My favorite part of Red Speedo is … the intensity. It’s simmering at the start and its boil raises higher and higher.

Speedo or trunks? Trunks.

There must a a ton of Speedo jokes backstage … Ya know, sadly we don’t have any jokes re: Speedos. We just keep laughing at ourselves when we say something dumb or make up words. It’s effortless to laugh with this crew and cast.

The show features the edge of an Olympic swimming pool and real chlorine smell. What’s it like to have a real, water-filled pool on stage? To have a pool is sort of the game-changer. We can do so many more things than if we didn’t have it. The images are cool, the reflections on the walls, and the immersion of the environment helps us tell this tale.

If I were to compete in the Olympics I would … aside from fail, have no idea what I was doing there. I am not athletically inclined.

Brian Ratcliffe (left) and Conallen in "Red Speedo." | Photo by Paola Nogueras

Brian Ratcliffe (left) and Conallen in “Red Speedo.” | Photo by Paola Nogueras

To get into character as Peter, I … focus very much on his intensity and legal skill set; as a lawyer, Peter has a few angles he plays.

The first play I was in was … ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas and I played Father. I was 6, in kindergarten. Funny story: I was sick and very tired and when I laid down for “a long winters nap,” my teacher had to shake me awake so I could “spring from my bed.”

My dream role is … I don’t really have a dream role per say but I do like thinking about Albee’s The Zoo Story.

My surprising celebrity crush is … Sandra Bullock. I just love her. A friend just moved to Austin and I found out Sandy (yes, I call her Sandy) has a bakery/café in Austin. I plan on visiting my friend and stalking Sandy Ms. Bullock.

The most famous person I’ve ever met … I’ve met a few celebrities, they were all just people like you and me. Sitting, relaxing, a couple beers, some jokes. But the most famous would have to be Haley Joel Osment, who was a total douche. Just kidding, he was fine.

The last time I dined out in Philadelphia, I ate … goat meat and guac at Cantina Los Caballitos. Yum. If you mean fancy-pants, it’s been a while, but I had dinner with friends at Russet. So yum.

The best show I saw in Philly recently … was a cabaret/concert at the Fringe Arts during our Philly fringe. It was drag, it was punk, it was gross and it was electrifying. Christeene is the name of the performer and I thank them for a fantastic journey.

The craziest thing I’ve ever had to do for a Philly theater performance was … for Theatre Exile. A few years back we did a production of The Lieutenant of Inishmore where I hung upside-down for 11 [minutes] out of a 13-minute scene.

The best thing about Philadelphia’s theatre scene is … its continuous growth and evolution with new companies springing up, new concepts in what theatre is, new voices, our voices, our minds creating our work. I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else. Why ever would I leave this magic?

Red Speedo plays at Studio X now through November 23rd. More information and tickets can be found here.

Cast, crew and staff of "Red Speedo." | Photo via Theatre Horizon Facebook

Cast, crew and staff of “Red Speedo” pose in front of their stage pool. | Photo via Theatre Exile Facebook