I toyed with the idea of calling this blog Behind the Menu, but then I panicked that only I would find that funny. But take the chance to grab a snack, hunker down and enjoy this sweet and savory Behind the Title interview with MEMPHIS cast member, Christopher Gurr.
If restaurant owners were smart, they would find out if the MEMPHIS National Tour was headed for their towns/cities/states and print an engraved invitation hand-delivered by a messenger to the stage door addressed to: Christopher Gurr. The way he orders, talks about and photographs food is, well, delicious. If you aren’t already following this foodie/actor/director/musician/teacher/hiker/self-proclaimed roadrat on Twitter (@ChristopherGurr), you should be. In fact, if you aren’t on Twitter yet, Christopher Gurr’s twitter/Instagram activity may be reason enough to join. Even if you only follow him. [If the last few sentences made no sense to you, I understand the fear that comes with these newfangled technology things. I don't even own an ipod but I get Twitter, so if there is hope for me...]
Beware if you look at one of his food photos. The viewing experience is a visual feast of delight, served with a side of jealousy, garnished with a sprig of temptation that is sure to induce hunger pains. Proceed with caution. And if you aren’t hungry when you look at them, you soon will be. And you will be reaching for your phone using your Yelp or UrbanSpoon app to find the nearest foodie hangout. At least that’s what happens to me.
Here’s quick sampling of his photos from one album on Flickr
I had the awesome opportunity to sit down with Christopher Gurr at Founding Farmer’s Restaurant in Washington, D.C., for an unforgettable in-between show chat ‘n’ chew.
Eating with Christopher is exciting. You know from his #foodie tweets that he is going to make a bold choice and you know that is most likely going to be waaaay more delicious than your safe choice; although he would never judge (openly). Happily, he was game for sharing everything and so we began our food adventure in the same culinary canoe versus separate ones.
First up- me, lemonade (safe…drat!)/ him: cranberry cucumber cooler. [Restaurant Menu descriptions above/Christopher Gurr descriptions below]. As you can see by his caption, I was really regretting my safe choice the minute he let me taste his drink.
Farmers Cranberry Cucumber Cooler
Farmers Cranberry Cucumber Cooler #food #memphistour “it’s like a spa in my mouth” @Carolyndmiller
Christopher Gurr, who plays Mr. Collins/Gordon Grant/understudy to Mr. Simmons on the MEMPHIS tour, is a self-proclaimed #roadrat. Having starred in the SPAMALOT tour for 4 years (yes, four) he has figured out how to survive and thrive on the road. When he can, meaning the furniture is not nailed down, he will rearrange the different hotel rooms to suit him. This usually means putting all that hotel commercial collateral junk in the bottom drawer of the dresser and at least trying to move the desk to get a view out of the window. Making the space his own is a concept I like very much and will give me food for thought next time I find myself in a hotel room. I forgot to ask him if he moves the furniture back when he checks out. It’s a safe bet that he does.
Before hitting the road in National Tours, Gurr had been making his presence felt in almost every facet of theatre- acting, directing, teaching in venues around the country. I sense that there is a leadership quality about him that probably makes him a great asset to fellow cast members on tour; there is a calmness to his demeanor, even though he may get super charged up about delicious food! I’m aware that the restaurant patrons at the table next to us are taking note of our choices; the fact that he is taking pictures and that I am clearly taking notes is not a subtle way to dine; at this point in the meal, I start feeling like a food celebrity. They take note, or rather, are assaulted by our obvious verbal enthusiasm for the flight of deviled eggs and they order it as well. We direct nodding heads of approval towards them with months full.
People say I remind them of:
“Barney Fife” [Don Knotts] or Michael Stipe of R.E.M.
Favorite city on the tour (so far):
Tulsa, OK turned out to be the sleeper hit
We decide on one of the daily specials for an entree- When the waiter said there was a steak prepared with an espresso rub the glimmer in our collective eye was immediate. Served with a side of mac ‘n’ cheese? Deal sealed.
Mac ‘n Cheese, Beef Fillet, Green Tomato Slaw #food #memphistour #roadrat
What else is inspiring him besides food while he is on the road with MEMPHIS? Books: He is recommending John Irving’s novel “Last Night in Twisted River” Music: He’s telling friends to listen to the new John Mayer album which wikipedia tells me is called “Born and Raised,” and in a moment that is completely devoid of any agenda, he sincerely tells me how much he truly enjoys castmate Bryan Fenkart’s new album,” Simple and Grey.” In Dallas, I overheard Christopher and Bryan mock-discussing Bryan’s needs for a roadie and whether or not Christopher could qualify for the job. Their mutual admiration for each other is delightful.
Music. It’s a big part of Christopher’s life which feels like an understatement even as I type this sentence. He travels with three ukuleles- soprano, tenor and baritone ukes which he is masterfully able to pack or carry throughout all the tour travel; further proof that he is indeed a master of being on the road. In his re-arranged hotel rooms, he often records covers or original songs-sometimes jamming with other Memphians; we got a taste of his hotel room studio time with the “What are you Doing New Year’s Eve?” track he recorded with cast member Jill Morrison on this New Years Video:
I wish I had more time for:
I wish I had room to pack [blank] in my suitcase:
A backyard. A garden.
An avid hiker, Christopher takes advantage of traveling the country by hitting up as many glorious outdoor adventures as he can or that time/weather allow for. With his penchant for food, one can assume this is how, plus what must be a great metabolism, he keeps in fighting shape with all his foodie indulgences.
“No hotel treadmill this morning…”
As we finish up dessert, I am emboldened to ask, “what profession would you want to do if you weren’t in theatre?” I ask him feeling very James Lipton a la Inside the Actor’s Studio, assuming I could predict his response and that it would have something to do with a restaurant.
Without hesitation he put down his fork and said “I would be a basil farmer that also had space so I could run a puppy boarding facility.”
I delight in that surprise. The meal is over and the half hour call is approaching for the evening show. Somewhere between a food high and a food coma, I am aware that we’ve only scratched the surface and there’s so much more to learn.
“Good.” I think. And I make a mental note to try and book anther interview in another city over another delicious meal.