5 Questions with Tyler Cardona
There have been more than a couple of interviews with Brian Sheldon, the playwright and subject of the autobiographical “Custom Cuts,” which is getting its World Premiere production presented by Harbinger at Albany Barn 9/21–9/30, and I wanted to make sure the young actor who is playing him, Tyler Cardona, gets his due. Tyler is a native of the Bronx who moved up here when he was 15 and graduated from Lansingburgh High School and Russell Sage College. I first saw Tyler in productions at the Theatre Institute at Sage like “Flat Stanley,” as Scrooge in a streamed “A Christmas Carol” in 2021, and in an especially heartfelt performance in “The Laramie Project.”
“Custom Cuts” is a family drama set in the Goose Hill neighborhood of Schenectady. Danny, played by Peter Delocis, has lost his beauty salon and left his marriage. He sets up his haircutting business in the dining room of the apartment he shares with his twentysomething son, Anthony (Tyler Cardona). Danny struggles with finances and his anger, which can often be misdirected at his son or daughter, Jo (Aaliyah Al-Fuhaid), who is about to get married. She wants both her stepfather Al (Jason Stewart) and Danny to walk her down the aisle. The great divide between Danny and Al tests Anthony’s love and loyalty, cracking open the door to his own personal and professional freedom.
“Custom Cuts is about learning who you are and having the courage to trust yourself,” said Sheldon.
I came across an interview that Tyler did with Bob Goepfert promoting “A Christmas Carol.” “I came to realize that Scrooge doesn’t want to be mean. He wants to be understood. I think that is the same for everyone, no matter their age.” It made me think about the crossroads that the character Anthony comes to in “Custom Cuts” and how his life could turn out depending on his acceptance of the present conditions and what he does in response.
PW: When was the first time you felt that theater or acting was a great interest of yours?
TC: If I had to pinpoint a moment in time, it would be the summer of my junior year of high school. We found out that our next show, and the first of my senior year, would be “Fiddler on the Roof.” I fell in love with the show upon researching it, and much of my summer became dedicated to it. I had never put so much work into something for school before. But really, it was more than that for me. I had a love for the material and felt a connection to the theme of change. I was just starting to get used to our new home, and to add to that, I had college looming over me. I had great change behind and ahead of me. All of that to say that I knew this was special to me when I put my all into my audition for Tevye.
PW: What was your first impression of “Custom Cuts,” and how has it changed over the course of rehearsals?
TC: I was always taken in by how raw the script is. Over the course of rehearsals, I’ve found a deeper understanding of the characters and their circumstances. That really came from a discussion with my fellow actors and our directors.
PW: What do you hope an audience will get out of “Custom Cuts”?
TC: If there’s one thing I want the audience to get out of this show, it’s a story about maturity, how our circumstances shape us, and how we can be more than that.
PW: Do you have a favorite barbershop or haircut memory?
TC: I had a flat top for a few years, and in that time, I heard more about Kid ‘n’ Play than I ever had before. The comparison grew on me, and eventually, I’d ask for “the Kid ‘n’ Play cut” whenever I needed it done. I might need to bring it back soon.
PW: What is a play that changed your life, and how?
TC: If I had to pick one production that changed my life, it would be my first. It was my high school’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors.” I was unsure of what to expect from the experience, especially considering how reserved I was. But something just clicked for me. I loved every second of it, and acting quickly became something I was deeply passionate about. Before I moved up here, acting was not something I had put much thought into, and now I can’t imagine myself not pursuing acting in some capacity.
“Custom Cuts” by Brian Sheldon, directed by Angela Ledtke, presented by Harbinger at Albany Barn 9/21–9/30, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. FREE Preview: 9/20 at 7:30 p.m.