Stephen Kunken has been riding an emotional roller coaster. The day after he wrapped his run as the Stage Manager in the Barrow Street Theatre’s Our Town this winter, he and his wife flew to Ethiopia to bring home their adopted eight-month daughter. Three days later, the ebullient family was back in New York and Kunken began rehearsals for Enron. Two months later, Kunken received his first Tony nomination and was informed that the play was closing all within the same day.
Despite the head-spinning timing, Kunken is well versed in the nature of theater. He has appeared in numerous acclaimed Broadway productions like Proof, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and Frost/Nixon, in addition to roles in Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock, Gossip Girl, and Law & Order. His portrayal of Enron’s Andy Fastow, the wormy brainiac who concocts the illegal plan that draws the company into historical scandal, has earned him a Tony nomination for Best Featured Actor.
Kunken sat down with Stage Rush to talk about the unpredictability of theater, Tony night fake outs, and watching raptors cackle off stage.
What was your reaction when you found out you were nominated?
My immediate reaction was I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. It’s the pinnacle of an industry you’ve gotten into. It’s just amazing to even step onto a Broadway stage. When I took my first step on a Broadway stage, I realized it was a threshold that I’d crossed. The first time anybody mentions your name in a review, it’s “Wow.” At that moment when you’re nominated and you’re embraced by the community, it’s hard to put a word to it. I truly believe the nomination is the win.
What nominee are you most excited for?
Stephen McKinley Henderson from Fences. Stephen has been in this for so long and is such a fantastic actor. It’s going to be hard, because if he wins, the presenter is going to announce, “Stephen…” and I’ll be like, (gasp). And my middle name is Michael, so they’ll say, “Stephen M…” I’ll have to wait till they get to the “Henderson” to know. Then I’ll have to put my ass back in the chair.