Baby makes three for out actor and meditation teacher Mark Price and his longtime partner, Broadway production manager Jeff Rodriguez. Coincidentally, Price is playing a closeted gay man who’s surprised to learn he might have fathered a child in the Feb. 19–March 3 production of Mamma Mia! at Theatre Under the Stars.
“I will be bringing him with me,” the actor said by phone last month. “It’s too cold here in New York. He needs to run around the backyard in the sun. The little dude will be spending a lot of time with his grandparents in Katy.”
Price is cast as Harry Bright, “a lonely homosexual who finds himself on an island in Greece,” in the jukebox musical of hits by the Swedish pop group ABBA. Harry arrives in Greece at the invitation of 20-year-old Sophie, who believes the well-dressed British banker might be her father. Back home in England, Harry’s only companions are his two dogs, so he’s delighted at the prospect of having a long-lost child from his days as a heavy-metal rocker.
“His buttoned-up job is so vastly different from how he was 20 years ago, so Harry is a really, really fun, fun character to play,” says Price. “His journey to the wedding gives him a new lease on life as he rediscovers his past sense of fun and abandonment.”
Price appeared in the original Broadway production of Mamma Mia! as Pepper. It opened just a month after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. “We saw tons of shows closing around us, while we were incredibly popular,” he recalls. “There was such fear and uncertainty. People were afraid to spend money. I think our show offered a needed mental vacation from the horrible news in the world.”
Price has also performed in Broadway productions of The Rocky Horror Show; Mary Poppins; All Shook Up; Wonderful Town; Dance of the Vampires; You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown; The Capeman; and Chicago.
Growing up in Houston, where he graduated from Stratford High School in 1992, Price says, “I was a late bloomer.” However, he never questioned his sexual orientation.
“I feel like I came out at, like, eight,” he says. “Same-sex attraction never felt wrong to me. I had a crush on Rick Springfield on General Hospital. The only struggle I had was people’s acceptance” of it.
“Junior high was pretty much torture,” he adds, tipping his hat to his theater-arts teacher, Beverly Bubenik, for steering Price to his life’s work. “She gave me something to care about and believe in. She instilled in me the drive to be an artist.”
In high school, director Tim Driscoll cast Price as The Baker in Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. “Tim really changed my life. If anyone ever needs someone to plead the case for arts education, I am living proof of its importance. I was comfortable with my sexuality before that, but in theater I found a community of oddballs and friends and artists. Finding that place for diversity was my saving grace.”
Price credits both Driscoll and a favorite professor at Ithaca College in New York with pushing him out of his comfort zone and giving him a work ethic. “[Professor] Corsaro told me, ‘If you have fun out there, the audience will have fun.’”
Price is as surprised as anyone regarding how his three favorite teachers somehow inspired him to become a teacher of meditation in the past 10 years.
“I think there is a connection there,” he says. “Even though the content is completely different, I think they laid the path for me by demonstrating ‘how’ to teach. Essentially, teaching is about human psychology and human development, which I think really good acting is, too.”
Price plans to teach a few classes in Vedic meditation while in Houston for Mamma Mia! this month. “Meditation is gaining a lot of momentum in Houston,” he says. “Classes happen through word of mouth. Sometimes, a former student will offer their home or know of a yoga studio that can be rented. Information will be posted on my website at alchemycollective.org.”
For further information about Mamma Mia! at TUTS, visit tuts.com.
This article appears in the February 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine.