Get to Know: Guest Artist Justin McCombs

Get to Know: Guest Artist Justin McCombs

Those of you who have seen Moby Dick already know that it is chock full of serious talent.

Justin McCombs is Starbuck
Justin McCombs is Starbuck

Today, we’re excited to feature our Guest Artist, Justin McCombs, who joins us from the Ensemble at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, where he just completed a dramatic turn as Nick in The Great Gatsby.

In his first outing on the Know Theatre MainStage, Justin plays the Pequod’s embattled chief mate, Starbuck, with grace and power.

Justin sat down with us to chat about what it’s like to bring such an iconic character to life here at Know. Here’s what he had to say:

1. This is your first time treading the boards at Know! But, of course, you’re a veteran just down the road at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. What excited you about the chance to work at Know?

I love the way Know Theatre tells stories. That’s why I’m in this business. I just love telling stories. Know Theatre has a reputation for telling stories in unconventional ways and this production is no different. Some audience members may think that a play should hide all the theatrical devices in order to create a magical sort of escape into the story, but this production exposes the theatricality to heighten the dramatic tension of the evening.

2. You’re playing the iconic role of Starbuck, chief mate to Ahab on the Pequod. What part of Starbuck’s journey hits closest to home for you?

I think it has to be Starbuck’s connection to his family. I’m pretty close with my family back home in Illinois and I don’t get to see them as much as I’d like, but they are an inspiration for the work I do, and I see that in Starbuck as well. In his weakest moments, his love for his family and his desire to be a decent man in the eyes of his loved ones is what keeps him from going over the edge.

3. Captain Ahab has his White Whale–but what about Starbuck? What would Starbuck pursue, at any cost?

Justin McCombs as Starbuck and Rico Reid as Ahab
Justin McCombs as Starbuck and Rico Reid as Ahab

I feel that Starbuck is in pursuit of being honorable and morally upright. He’s a careful, quiet man who is ready to act when the time calls for it. I keep coming back to the word “measured”. I think he tries to measure all of his choices, but he’s met with circumstances that are beyond that to which he’s accustomed.

4. What surprised you the most about Andrew & Michael’s approach to Moby Dick?

I was surprised by the immediate amount of trust that the cast was given with their characters. I probably had them scratching their heads when I went up to them literally every day asking if I was on the right track. They didn’t give a lot of notes. They just nudged us in a direction and then let us play.

Tiny Starbuck
Starbuck and the crew of the Pequod.

5. For all those out there skeptical about how exciting an adaptation of a 19th Century novel could be on stage: In 50 words or less, why should everyone come see Moby Dick?

This might sound like I’m cheating but hear me out: check out the trailer for Ron Howard’s new film “In the Heart of the Sea.” It’s based on a the wreck of the Essex, which inspired Melville to write Moby Dick. Great effects, great story; but at Know you can see it LIVE onstage with real actors theatrically creating it in the same room you are in! Theatre at it’s finest!

We love what Justin has to say about working with us! Honesty, theatricality, unconventional storytelling; that’s what we’re all about here at Know.

Moby Dick is no exception: Find out what we mean when you come see our latest MainStage adventure.

Join the pursuit of the White Whale when you purchase your tickets here:–2