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Gotham pros build strong stage roots

Innovative Artists at 25

Good luck finding the legit department at Innovative Artists — there isn’t one.

That’s because the tenpercentary’s agents tend to work across theater, TV and film. “We don’t have individual departments because our clients’ appetites are to work in all three,” says Gary Gersh, Innovative VP and the head of the agency’s Gotham outpost.

Legit often reps an important piece of the puzzle. Innovative’s talent roster includes a slew of names with deep roots in theater such as Patti LuPone, Denis O’Hare, Laura Benanti, Katie Finneran, John Glover, Donna Murphy, Jessica Hecht, Roger Rees, Joel Grey and Swoosie Kurtz. There are even a couple of thesps best known to screen audiences but recently back on the boards, including David Alan Grier.

For a lot of those names, it’s the depth and breadth of the stage work that helps secure gigs in TV and film.

“Establishing a very strong connection to New York has been a critical piece in laying the building blocks,” Gersh says. “There has been something to establishing those roots and not abandoning them at the first invitation.”

He cites client Martha Plimpton, one of the stars of the Fox comedy “Raising Hope.” Prior to the series gig, Plimpton was nominated for a Tony in 2007 for her role in Tom Stoppard’s historical epic “The Coast of Utopia” — and the impulse might have been to run off to Hollywood then and there.

Instead Plimpton stuck around in Gotham and built a list of stage credits notable for its variety: classical theater in “Cymbeline,” surrealist modern drama in “Top Girls” and, perhaps most surprisingly, musical comedy in “Pal Joey.” She scored Tony noms for both “Top Girls” and “Joey.” Then came “Raising Hope.”

“Conceptually, the choices made about onstage work are about incorporating it into a more integrated career,” Gersh says of the agency’s philosophy.

Take Tracy Letts. In New York and beyond, he may be best known as a playwright (“August: Osage County”), but Innovative reps him as an actor. He’s done most of his thesping work in Chicago, but the coming season will see him take on his heftiest Gotham acting gig: He’ll topline a Broadway revival of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” with Amy Morton, another Innovative client.

Another client, O’Hare, will be familiar to viewers of “American Horror Story” and “True Blood,” the show to which he’ll return this season as spine-ripping villain Russell Edgington. But as Gotham theatergoers know, he’s a legit stalwart with a long career on the boards, including a 2003 Tony win for “Take Me Out.”

He hasn’t given up those roots. This spring he returned to Off Broadway in a stage adaptation of Homer, “An Iliad,” which he co-wrote with director Lisa Petersen. The show plays New York Theater Workshop in a run that ends Sunday.

Tapping the diverse aspects of a multihyphenate’s talents is part of what drives Gersh, especially when that diversity can help Innovative and its clients roll with the twists and turns of a career.

“Usually the job that you think will change your whole life isn’t the one that changes your whole life,” he says. “It’s the part that comes at you sideways.”

Innovative Artists at 25
Lean, keen and scrappy | Gotham pros build strong stage roots for versatile thesps | Agency turns below-the-liners into high-profilers | Web’s cusp runneth over | Biz’s sweet two-way street

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