Actor Blake Price is no stranger to playing a leading man—he played Monty Navarro in the national tour of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Jimmy Ray Dobbs in FST’s hit 2020 production of Steve Martin & Edie Brickell’s Bright Star. This summer, he returns to FST to play Jack Key, a mild-mannered Southern man who moves in next door to a quick-witted, bold woman named Lizzy Nash. Audrey Cefaly‘s heartwarming comedy, Maytag Virgin, follows the transformation of Lizzy and Jack’s relationship from neighbors to acquaintances to friends.
We sat down with Blake Price to learn more about his character in Maytag Virgin, how he feels about being back at FST after two-and-a-half years, and how Audrey Cefaly’s play resonates with him differently today than it may have a few years ago.
How would you describe your character, Jack Key? What makes him tick?
Jack is a very moral, even-keeled person who teaches physics at the local high school. As you would expect, he lives his life simply and rationally, as if he’s following an intellectual formula. Much of how he operates filters through his Catholic upbringing and the examples set by the adults and loved ones in his life. He is not aware of how the grief he’s experienced in the past few years has altered the way he thinks and the things he does. His stillness is as much as a strength as it is a weakness that’s hardened him from his true desire to feel safe and vulnerable, as he did with his late wife, Amy.
What does Jack see in his neighbor, Lizzy Nash, who is, in many ways, his polar opposite? What does he need from her?
Lizzy is the exact catalyst Jack didn’t realize he needed. She is the one who challenges his worldview, presenting questions and conflicts that truly allow him to see the world in a new light. Even though Lizzy doesn’t realize it, she provides Jack with the vulnerability and safety he’s always craved, possibly even before Amy’s passing. Lizzy’s energy is unmatched and her ability to push him and dig in deeper is something that he has likely never experienced before in any kind of relationship. She has this ownership over her emotions that, however difficult, feels truthful and refreshing in a world that is bent on maintaining the status quo.
You played Jimmy Ray Dobbs in FST’s hit production of Bright Star, which closed in mid-January 2020. What is it like being back at FST after the pandemic?
I truly could not be more excited to be returning to Sarasota! Over the past couple of years, I’ve made unbelievable personal growth and experienced highs and lows that challenged every part of my identity. Granted that will persist, but I now have a handle on how to use each moment of adversity as a chance to become better. The minute I got to perform again in the fall of 2021, it all came back to me. I was reminded that I want to tell stories—and nothing can tell me otherwise, not even a worldwide virus. Also, what better place to return to than a true home away from home at FST?!
What did you most enjoy exploring in the rehearsal room?
After having the privilege to work with Kate Alexander, the director of Maytag Virgin, on Bright Star during the 2019-2020 season, I was ecstatic to be offered the chance to dig in even deeper with her on this gorgeous play. Her ability to bring so much heart to the rehearsal room made this a challenging, albeit cultivating, artistic experience. Also, I have the pleasure to finally work with Rachel Moulton, who plays Lizzy Nash, after we had the chance to connect briefly three years ago. It is the perfect way to spend my summer.
What is unique about Maytag Virgin and the role of Jack, in particular?
This is my first play— i.e. not a musical—in many moons and it’s also a two-hander. I’m astounded at the sheer volume of story that Lizzy and Jack get to share on stage together. As an actor, there’s a big challenge in holding an audience for two hours as these two complex characters share their insights. Maytag Virgin so specifically encapsulates the complicated emotions surrounding grief, budding romances, guilt, and all with sharp Southern wit and charm.
As for Jack more specifically, his steady desire for true joy and love comes in conflict with Lizzy’s verbal circus and hilarious self-deprecation. At times, Jack and Lizzy get to be immovable objects being met with an unstoppable force!
Which part of Jack’s story are you most eager to share with the audience?
Initially, Jack is a man of very few words, but there is so much he wishes he could say or do without really understanding how. I find that men who’ve experienced great grief are put in the position to be in control, push down emotions, or dismiss vulnerabilities to protect themselves. I’m hopeful that, by playing Jack, I can act as a conduit for like-minded men who may have experienced something similar. Maybe they’ll be inspired to share their story with a loved one or coworker. At the end of it all, all we have is each other.