Every day is opening night.

George Abud

Honoring Arab-American Heritage Month and joining us On The Couch this week is George Abud, currently starring as the vivacious Marinetti in Lempicka, at the Longacre theatre. Marinetti was an Italian poet, editor, art theorist, and founder of the Futurist movement, which aimed to capture the ideas of modernity, the sensations and aesthetics of speed, movement and industrial development.

He had strong views about a lot of things, but do you know what he hated most? Bowls of f*cking fruit.

This is Abud’s third stint in an original cast on Broadway, having previously performed in The Band’s Visit, and The Visit. His inspiration and artistry stems from his family’s strong connection to their Lebanese culture and his determination to connect with others.

You can read our full interview below, where George reflects on his proudest moment, as well as explaining why he’s never had an embarrassing one.


What do you consider to be your best asset?
I think the quality of doing what I want to do and not being swayed by other people’s opinions. It helps me to very much enjoy my time and my life, and it seems to help or inspire others to do the same for theirs.


What was your proudest moment?
I made Stephen Sondheim cry, that was pretty cool. This is an impossible question but I’ll tell you the kind of moment that makes me very deeply happy. I was doing Lempicka in La Jolla. And I went to buy an Oud while I was there. (This is the Arabic instrument I play, and I always have with me wherever I go in the world.) I was getting an Uber back to our housing, and the thought passed my mind, what if my driver is Arab, it’s pretty good odds. (I’m Arab too, by the way, in case that sounded like an outrageous thing to say hahaha) So the car comes, and I open the door to the back, and before I get in I first put the Oud into the back seat. And before I see the driver, I just hear a thick, familiar accent say, “Oh you got an Oud!” I tell my new friend that this random warehouse in San Marcos sells Ouds and he was very intrigued. He tells me he’s from Algeria, I tell him I’m Lebanese, and I am visiting in California. He says he’s just moved here from Boston and doesn’t know many people. I ask him if there is a large Arab community here and he says there’s not and he feels very out of place. We talk a bit more, and I say, let me play for you. I pull out the Oud, which luckily I had tuned up in the warehouse, it takes a minute. As we drift quietly down the highway, I start to play and sing some old Classical Arabic songs, as I watch the man in the rear view mirror. His eyes begin to well up and he tells me he feels like he’s back in his childhood. Anyway. He also kept trying to take a video of me playing to show his friend and I said, please wait till we get back to my house, I do musical theatre and I can’t be killed right now. But it was a very sweet little bit of time, just me and this man, two strangers in this city, drifting through space a bit, reflecting on our lives through the shared music of our people which I am blessed to know and get to share. Those are the moments my art is for. To remind that man, and to relieve him for a little. Not for anyone but him at that moment.


What is your favorite drink?
Oh goodness. I don’t really drink alcohol much, though if I do I’ll have a sazerac. But I love lemonade. Something that tastes good and doesn’t give me a headache.


What is your favorite food?
Grapeleaves. A Lebanese delicacy.


What is your favorite condiment?
Ketchup. No. Soy Sauce. Is Soy Sauce a condiment? Have I just destroyed all credibility?


What is your current obsession?
I am obsessed with “Love on the Spectrum,” the reality TV show. Literally. Ob-sessed. I have never understood ASMR. But the guy James on that show. I could listen to him read the phone book.


If you could give up one of your vices, what would it be?
Junk food probably. Or staying up late. Yes, I would like to give up my insomnia. Please.


What is the one professional accomplishment you long for most?
I want the 2-person play I wrote, The Ruins, to be produced professionally.


What is the one thing you waste too much money on?
Probably fricken french fries. Or Uniqlo. But I especially love the french fries at Uniqlo.


What is the one activity you waste too much time doing?
Anything. I take a long time with anything I’m doing. But I rarely consider it a waste. Because usually it makes me think or feel or wonder, and none of that is ever a waste.


What do you consider to be the single greatest threat to your health?
What a question. Everyone in business is dying to know the greatest threat to my health. It’s probably musical theatre. That or the stairs at the Longacre Theatre. They’re trying to kill me daily.


What’s  the  single best trait you inherited or learned from your parents?
Oh goodness, there’s many. I have wonderful parents. My parents are both very good at not taking life too seriously while being very serious individuals. The balance of that I prize very much. That and the way they speak. It reminds me of the beautiful line, “Fine speech manifests itself in poetry as if it were prose, and in prose as if it were poetry.” They speak very plainly and to the purpose but it has so much color and expansiveness.


What’s  the  single worst trait you inherited or learned from your parents?
If I have an opinion about something it’s hard for me to hide it.


What in  the  world most thrills you?
Music. Music is the greatest gift from God. That and trees. I love a tree.


What current trend in popular culture most irritates you?
I wouldn’t know popular culture if it handed me a program at the stage door and told me I “ate”.


What was the most embarrassing moment you’ve ever experienced on the job?
This is a question I don’t have an answer for. Being an actor is inherently embarrassing so that’s why I guess I don’t deem any of my experiences as embarrassing because it is the natural color of the job. An actor is asked to stand naked in front of a group of strangers who point at them with crooked faces and say, “I don’t like THAT.” And somehow you still come back the next day. It is very brave to be an actor. Because the actor strips themself to the core that they may reveal someone else.


What is your favorite place in the world?
Wherever a beautiful conversation is waiting.


What is the most important trait you seek in a romantic partner?
I am very lucky to have a wife who truly possesses everything I could ever want in another person. And I’m not just typing this with a gun to my head. My wife would never hold a gun to my head while I answered questions about her for public consumption. S-e-n-d H-e-l-p. Anyway. There are so many qualities I cherish in a person. Among the most important would have to be happiness. This doesn’t mean someone who is always happy or fakes happiness. This is someone who at their core is happy, who wishes to be happy, who wishes others to be happy, and who looks at the world with love and compassion.


Do you prefer the company of dogs or cats?
CATS. I love my cat. His name is Sebastian. And he’s very similar to me. He smokes a pipe, he likes being alone, and he writes aphorisms between scenes.


What would have to happen to make today the best day of your life?
My answer is too political for being in type, so I will more generally say, no more wars. No more hunger for war, no more propaganda or cover for war, no more money for war. Every day is the best because I am so blessed to be safe and to be able to speak freely and to be able to eat and be sheltered and see my loved ones and know that they are safe. I have the freedom to be happy and to think and to wonder and to make my dreams come true. I want that for every person on this earth. There is no best day for me unless it has the potential to be the best day for everyone.


What is your personal motto?
I have a thousand. But here’s one:

“Hate is a dead thing. Who of you would be a tomb?”