Editor’s Note: Kicks presents 20Q, a feature that introduces readers to people involved in the area’s arts and entertainment community. Compiled by kicks Editor Greg Little, each piece will include a short bio, photo and answers to questions that provide insight into not only that person’s artistic interests but also his or her unique personality.
When Brett Frazier isn’t busy serving as executive director of the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin in Janesville, he heads to the theater to work as a professional actor and producer.
From 2006 to 2011, the Milton man was a regular cast member in performances at The Armory in downtown Janesville. Since 2012, he has performed professionally on stages throughout the country. At the same time, he was building a successful career in business development in Madison. From there, he transitioned to nonprofit leadership.
Frazier fulfilled his governmental aspirations by serving as a member of the Milton City Council and, eventually, mayor. He stepped down from that post in 2015 and has since been donating time to help revive professional theater at The Armory.
1. What initially inspired you to become an actor? When I was 9, my mom more or less made me audition for “Cinderella,” which the Optimist Club was putting on in Milton. I was half of a small part of the royal page. I was involved in theater from then on, but it really wasn’t until after high school that I decided to really dive into theater.
2. What is your favorite local restaurant? The Wander-In Cafe on Center Avenue in Janesville. It shares a building with a gas station, and it’s just an awesome place. I go there pretty regularly to grab a quick breakfast. I don’t need a menu; it’s always pancakes with hash browns and bacon. I’m sure the rest of the menu is excellent, but I can vouch for the pancakes, hash browns and bacon. Get the bacon extra crispy. Trust me.
3. Do you have any pre-performance rituals? I don’t. A lot of people are crazy about a routine, but I love hanging out in the dressing room before a show. I do leave my script at my dressing room station throughout the run of a show, and I refer to it often. Oh, and I will walk if the M&M’s aren’t separated into different bowls by color, obviously.
4. What has been the most difficult role you have performed? Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol.” In the musical version, Scrooge leaves stage once for a few minutes after his first entrance, but then he’s on stage until the bitter end. It’s physically draining to be standing and acting for an hour and a half without ever leaving the stage to take a break or sit down.
5. Where is your favorite place to unwind? I don’t unwind often. I think that probably drives people nuts, but I’m going a million miles an hour all day. I do love to watch movies. It’s probably my favorite thing to do to just take a quick break and think about something else for a little while.
6. Share something people would be surprised to find out about you. I am Rock County’s pickiest eater. I’m talking PICKY. Everyone told my parents I would grow out of it someday, but that day still hasn’t come. Pizza, hamburgers, chicken (preferably in strip, nugget or KFC form) and spaghetti with no sauce. I’m basically a 6-year-old.
7. If you could have theater tickets to any play at any venue, what and where would they be? Actually, I don’t really enjoy watching theater. I’ve seen some amazing theater, and everyone should experience it live, but for me, I’d so much rather be on stage than watching.
8. So, when you were mayor of Milton, did that make you the “acting” mayor? When I decided to run, I decided that, if elected, I would put aside acting and focus on the job. I think it’s important to commit yourself to the things you do and to give it everything you’ve got.
9. What accomplishments are you most proud of during your time as mayor? The actions I was able to take that led to a (Wisconsin Law Enforcement Accreditation Group)-accredited police department operating out of a modern PD/City Hall facility. That effort allowed us to give the Shaw Building completely to the library, and the renovation and expansion of that facility is going to blow your mind. My kids and someday their kids—not to mention generations of citizens of and visitors to the city of Milton—are going to finally have a library that this community deserves. I was a part of that.
10. You are the executive director for the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin. Do you have any pets? I do. People always ask if I’m a dog person or a cat person, but there are some of each at our house. Too many, probably.
11. Do you know CPR? I don’t, but I should learn it.
12. Have you performed with anyone who has gone on to achieve great fame as an actor/actress? I’ve got friends in so many Broadway shows, huge tours and performing all over the world. It’s fun to hear people talk about “Hamilton,” “Jersey Boys” or “Book of Mormon” and know that my friends, former castmates and some really awesome people are in those shows. Perseverance pays, my friends.
13. What was your favorite childhood toy? I didn’t play with toys that much, but I did love playing pretend. We had a box full of old clothes and things at home, and we would dress up and reenact scenes from movies or shows. We also played a lot of capture the flag and “army guys” in full camo. My favorite thing to do then, and something I still love today, is playing pickup baseball.
14. Have you written any plays? Nope. I’m an actor, not a writer. I’m starting to get into directing a little now, but I love acting and it’s what I prefer to do.
15. Is there a theater genre you prefer? I act in musicals primarily. I’ve always been a strong singer and a good enough dancer. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to connect more to the dramatic aspects of characters, and I’ve become a more insightful actor. Dramatic roles are great, but give me a children’s theater comedy part and you will see my goofy side come out. It’s a blast.
16. If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would do? Probably the same things I do now. As the kids are getting older, I think more and more about the things we all worry about—paying for college, retirement, etc. I probably wouldn’t spend my time differently, but I know I would love the feeling that the future was financially secure for my family.
17. Has there ever been a time you’ve had to take the stage when you just weren’t feeling it? Sometimes when you’re doing a performance for the 50th or 100th time in a run, you just don’t feel it anymore. The trick for me is that I don’t get my satisfaction from the performance of the show or the part itself. I get it from the back and forth with the other people on stage and from knowing that we’re creating something together that is really magical for the person in the audience who is seeing it for the one and only time.
18. What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage? When I was doing that first play back when I was 9, I had maybe 10 lines. Maybe. I forgot one; completely forgot it. It’s on video; my mom can show you. There’s nothing more terrifying, even to this day, than the fear of going blank on stage.
19. What is the strangest thing currently on your work desk? I have a Damian Miller (former Brewers catcher) bobblehead. I have no idea how it came into my possession, but here he is—bobbling away.
20. Acting theorist Sanford Meisner once said, “Acting is behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances.” What does that mean? That’s all acting is. On stage we’re dropped into a segment of an imaginary life, and it’s our job to act and react honestly as that character would if he and his whole world was real. What’s cool is that it means you get to leave yourself behind and just be this totally different person. The key to good acting is to not act at all.