Listen: Why Theater Sometimes Is Just Like Football

It’s pretty rare to meet a theater person who knows much about sports. Even rarer? A Broadway actor who spent a decade as a pro football player.

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Actor-producer Nnamdi Asomugha did just that, earning a rep as a star cornerback for teams including the Oakland Raiders, the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers. Then a few years ago, he started to explore the entertainment industry, acting in films like “Crown Heights” and the upcoming “Sylvie’s Love,” both of which he also produced. He’s also making his mark in theater in Off Broadway’s “Good Grief” and in the current Broadway revival of “A Soldier’s Play” — and as Asomugha explained on the latest episode of Variety‘s theater podcast, Stagecraft, theater is the one thing that makes him feel like he did back when he was playing football.

“I was talking to one of my former teammates … and I said, ‘I’m trying to find the next thing, and nothing’s giving me the same feeling that you have in football,'” he recalled. “You know, coming out and going through the tunnel and onto the field, and a hundred thousand people screaming or booing … It’s just the energy that you just really feed off of.”

His friend suggested he’d never find anything that would give him quite the same feeling, but maybe something would come close. “And then, no joke, I think it was six weeks later, I was doing a reading of the play at the Circle in the Square theater [in New York],” Asomugha continued. “There was a holding room where we were getting ready to come out, and it had an interesting sense of, oh, it’s almost time, so there was a build, then we all left that and we were walking through this thing that was sort of like a tunnel … And then right before we got onto the stage … they announced us, and then the audience started cheering. And we all ran onto the stage and did the work. And I’m telling you, it was such an eerie feeling, how close it was to what my life had been for the last couple decades. I was like, ‘Oh, I think there’s something in theater for me. I think there’s something in this world that I could really be attracted to.'”

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Also on the new episode of Stagecraft, Asomugha revealed how excited he is to learn the ins, the outs and the idiosyncrasies of the theater world — including when you never, ever want to say the word “Macbeth.”

New episodes of Stagecraft are available every Tuesday. Download and subscribe to Stagecraft on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcher, and anywhere that finer podcasts are dispensed. Find past episodes here and on Apple Podcasts.

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