In early March, thousands of Youtube-surfing Broadway aficionados discovered Craig Stevens, a recent college graduate from Tennessee who, shortly after the new year, had followed his theatrical aspirations to New York.
“I decided to make a video blog about my experiences here in the Big Apple, like they say,” the aspiring Broadway star said, gazing with eager eyes into a shaky camera lens. “If you guys have any questions, I’m looking for a job right now and I’m going to start going to auditions, so I can start talking about auditioning in New York, finding an apartment, and finding a job,” he went on with cartoonish earnesty.
As the viewer numbers grew, anonymous responses began coming in. Many declared Craig as a closeted homosexual whose mention about a girlfriend was a cover-up, while others wished him good luck with multiple exclamation points. “Please tell me this is a joke,” one said.
The blog’s intended point seemed to escape at least those who vocalized their opinions. Craig was, in fact, the creation of New York-based actor and singer Kevin Murphy, who had envisioned the character after beginning an improv theater course at the Upright Citizens Brigade. That anyone suspected Craig to be a real person came as a shock to Murphy.
“I do weird voices and joke around with my friends, and this was one character that I played around with. For me it was an exercise in taking a weird character and trying to make him true in his own existence,” he told me. “I didn¹t think that people were going to think of this as a real person. It didn’t occur to me. I just thought that people would see this as something that was funny and then when they [thought of it as real], I sort of felt bad and guilty.”
That his character spurred such an avid fake-versus-real debate, however, brought the video series more widespread attention, and Murphy continued to post new videos. Later in March, Gawker ran an article inviting viewers to decide if Craig and his girlfriend Janine were genuine or made up, and just a few weeks later the two were invited to flolic backstage at Broadway’s ‘Spamalot.’ Murphy was also invited to have a meeting with VH1 producers, who had caught wind of his character and wanted to find out about his future projects.
For Murphy, who graduated from NYU’s MFA program in musical theater last year, Craig has provided a much-needed alternative to the more conventional actor’s routine of daily auditions. In addition to filming new posts, he plans to launch a joint blog with Title of Show’s star Hunter Bell, and was recently encouraged by his agent to write a sketch comedy show around Craig’s character.
“From an agent’s perspective it’s great, because their clients are getting themselves out there in a free way,” he says. “It’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned, that especially for those of us who don’t fit in a mold, doing things the traditional way isn’t really going to work,” he says.
“[Without Craig,] I definitely think I would have been stuck a little more in the audition world, feeling like I needed to make myself a chorus boy or a dancer. It’s something I could do, but it ultimately wouldn’t be as satisfying,” he continues.
Murphy is currently in an Off-Broadway production entitled Fragments, playing at Midtown Manhattan’s Matthew Corozine Studio until Saturday. See more details here.