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Keegan Allen: The Repair Man

For his stage debut, a Pretty Little Liars star lands a role in dark comedy Small Engine Repair—and a more mature audience

An army of teenagers already know 24-year-old actor Keegan Allen as Toby Cavanaugh from the ABC Family thriller Pretty Little Liars, but beginning November 18 the California native will be facing an entirely new audience. That’s when MCC Thetater’s Small Engine Repair opens in New York, giving Allen a chance to impress a slightly older audience.

Here, DuJour chatted with Allen to talk about life on stage, the physical danger of live theater and how he almost became a furniture maker.

This is your first time on stage in New York. What made this the right show for you?

I came out to New York in the spring on a vacation, and my agents and my manager got me this play that John Pollono had written called Small Engine Repair. I started reading it on the plane and called them to ask I need to do to be in this play—it’s so amazing. It’s a psychological thriller as well as comedy, so that really drew me in. It’s something different that I’ve never done in my life.

Chad, your character, is like the odd man out when he comes across a group of high school friends. Why’d you want to play him?

He is the odd man out, but when I first read the play, the way I perceived it is that those three friends he comes in contact with are the odd men out, and he’s like this cool jock. He’s one of the more challenging roles that I’ve ever had to play because of these peaks and valleys the character has to go through.

What’s the difference for you working onstage versus the work you’ve done in TV or on films?

Theater is a whole different sport than film and television. I personally enjoy it way more than any other medium; it really is a privilege to be onstage. And also to have the extra rehearsal times to work with talented people like [director] Jo Bonney. The collaboration process is totally different than in film and television, where everything feels very rushed and there’s a cacophony of direction and writers and craziness and rewrites.

You’ve said that the show is physical and it’s important for you to warm up beforehand. I’m curious, what goes into warming up for you?

I’ve gotten injured many times in the run of this play just because I’m not warming up properly. I guess it’s just about getting your blood flowing. I do as much as I can to warm up—you know, stretching and resistance bands. It is a very physical show, and it’s dangerous if you don’t warm up.

What’s it like working on a project that’s not necessarily geared toward the younger fans who know you from Pretty Little Liars?

I’m glad some parents have allowed kids to come because it is theater, and they’re supporting an art. It’s not about anything else; it’s about the art, the creative process. But I made a public statement to all of my fans that this is really an NC-17 play, and a lot of parents afterwards have said they totally agree. The new audience demographic that I’m gaining from this is wonderful because it only helps me grow as an artist to hear what works and what can be worked on.

Do you plan to take on more theatrical roles?

Oh, yeah. I went to school for theater; that was my major. And I’d love to be back in New York doing theater. I feel like this is such a surreal dream come true: I walk to work at the Lucille Lortel in the West Village and there’s just no where in the world I’d rather be.

The play follows a group of guys working in their hometown body shop. What kind of job would you have if you weren’t an actor?

I used to make furniture. I wasn’t into carpentry, but I used to work at a furniture store. And I was a car salesman. I did every job that you could name; I was even a bull operator, like for a mechanical bull. Had I stayed in any of those jobs, it would be a different life.

But the life you’ve got seems pretty busy. What are you working on next?

There are a couple of things I’m romancing right now. I’m working on a photography book that’s coming out next year. That’s running alongside an album that I’m going to be releasing of my own music that’s being produced by Money Mark.

You’re also in James Franco’s forthcoming Bukowski movie.

Yeah, we already shot it, but I have yet to see it. We also did his Palo Alto, which looks beautiful. [Director] Gia Coppola is definitely a force to be reckoned with. I mean if [Bukowski] could see it, he would be very pleased.



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