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  • Brendan Lowry as Floyd Collins

    Brendan Lowry as Floyd Collins.

  • Creating a cave setting through set design

    Creating a cave setting through set design.

  • Brendan Lowry as Floyd Collins

    Brendan Lowry as Floyd Collins.

  • Brendan Lowry as Floyd Collins

    Brendan Lowry as Floyd Collins.

A Q & A with actor Brendan Lowry

CMU’s Department of Theatre Arts will be presenting the musical Floyd Collins, based on the true story of a Kentucky caver, March 8-18. The play’s lead actor, Brendan Lowry, is in his senior year at Colorado Mesa University and will be attending the Case Western/Cleveland Playhouse M.F.A program this fall. He shared his thoughts on preparing for this show and playing the role of Floyd Collins.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your character. What is he like?

A: Floyd is a dreamer. He's very good at what he does, even to a fault. He could maybe come across as uneducated to those who don’t know him personally, but he is far from it. What he lacks in formal schooling he makes up for in his own experience and curiosity. He also has this devotion to his family that's almost always driving what he does. At the same time he's also a bit of a loner and often goes off on his own for days at a time. He's driven, curious, kind and has a vitality for life that is seldom seen. 

Q: What is the best thing about playing Floyd Collins and working on this show?

A: I have loved to learn about the real man and his story and the stories of those around him. It can be hard to separate fact from fiction at times, but the overwhelming impression of all who were close to him or were involved in the rescue efforts is pretty clear. Floyd Collins was a good man in a horrible situation. One aspect about Floyd that I find very moving is that, according to Homer's account of his brother's life, he was an avid reader and intensely curious. Farm work often had him in and out of school when he was younger but he still went back when he was 23 and again at 36 just because he wanted to learn. Homer said he'd often find Floyd reading by the family's fireplace. He'd seek out experts on geology and caverns and talk to them for hours on end to satiate his curiosity. I find a lot of relatability in this aspect of the real man. It was one of those facts that really humanized him to me.

In broader terms I've loved the collaborative process creating this show has been. It really feels like everyone has contributed in significant ways. I feel very close to everyone in this show, both onstage and off, and feel how we all believe in this story and how touching and important it is. I'm very excited to share it with everyone, but especially those unfamiliar with the show and the real story. 

Q: What is the hardest part about getting ready for this role?

A: The music, the music, and also probably the music. Adam Guettel is the grandson of musical theatre giant Richard Rodgers and was mentored by Stephen Sondheim, and that is very, very much reflected in this score. It oftentimes feels like I snuck into a calculus class without ever taking algebra. However, once we finally got to hear these songs all the way through with us all singing it was worth it. In my humble (and still very young) opinion I have not heard a musical score as moving, gorgeous and awe-inspiring as this one. Every time I think I've nailed down my top three favorite songs from this show I listen to a run and hear new things that make me switch my ranking all over again. I also think it's very important to make sure we're representing these people earnestly and as genuinely as we can. Trying to honor them is the least we can do.

Q: What are some of other roles you’ve played in the past that you especially liked?

A: Judas in Godspell is a role I've played twice (what that says about me exactly I'm not sure) and I always find his arc in the show very powerful and satisfying to play out. Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls is another one that just felt gratifying to do and had a fun combo of comedy with some higher stakes drama and songs sprinkled in. In terms of pure "fun" though I'd definitely have to say Chad in Disaster!. It's a jukebox musical that's a spoof on disaster movies, and my god, I've never ever heard an audience laugh that loud since. Very funny show.

Q: What is a role you still want to play sometime in the future?

A: If I'm being honest this is the only real dream role I've truly had. I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity this early in my life to do it. If I absolutely had to choose another one, I'd maybe say Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar (surprise surprise!) but I'd probably need a good 10 years to prepare my voice for that. I'd say more realistically I'd love to work on new things, new roles and have a hand in shaping that kind of work.

See Brendan Lowry as Floyd Collins in the Moss Performing Arts Center Mesa Experimental Theatre March 8-18. Tickets are available at


Written by Laura Bradley