Brian Miracle (Clown) and me (Shepherd)
Since I started acting in 1994, my interest in Shakespeare has been tepid at best. While I appreciate The Bard's writing and themes, more often I was intimated by the language so I had no interest in performing his plays. When the opportunity presented itself as the role of the "Shepherd" in Optimist Theatre's Shakespeare in the Park production of THE WINTER'S TALE in Milwaukee, my interest was piqued for a couple reasons: 1) the "Shepherd" is an outdoorsy dude like me, 2) he's from Bohemia, as are my ancestors on dad's side, and 3) it's one of Shakespeare's least known and produced plays so few people would have anything to compare my take on the character. "Kismet", I thought - and I accepted the role and dove head first into this new adventure.
Lis Faraglia and myself (as LORD #2)
We opened THE WINTER'S TALE on June 12 and ran three weekends - 12 shows - at the Kadish Park amphitheater just north of downtown Milwaukee. The rehearsal process wasn't unlike rehearsals for other shows I performed in - getting the lines down was challenging. In this process, I added a few tricks to my actor's toolbox - comedy, character acting - and a greater appreciation for the poetry and language that makes The Bard...The Bard.
Me, Ron Scot Fry, Josh Scheibe and Tom Reed
The support from our director - Mary Lynn Cogar (who was brilliant), the cast - which included seasoned actors and seasoned Shakespearean actors - Tom Reed, Mark Corkins, Beth Mulkeron, Ron Scot Fry, Emmit Morgans, Allie Babich, Ethan Hall, Mary Kababik, among others, was invaluable to me. I loved working with "my son" - the "Clown", Brian Miracle - his Jerry Lewis to my Dean Martin. The crew was phenomenal - this was an equity production so everything was shipshape, by the books - nothing got through the cracks.
To be honest, the support I DID NOT get was in the form of a lack of people I know who didn't come to the show. Now I was up front about not using my usual hard-sell tactics to get people to attend because I held out on Shakespeare for so many years myself. Still - it was a great show and FREE and - you know, it's one thing when you're not sure if you're going to make it out but when you say I'M GOING and you don't show up? I remember that shit. Now I don't go to every show that's going on either but it's sort of my unwritten rule (and others, I'm sure) that if I support you - you do likewise. And when someone says, "you gotta come to our show; you're missing out - everyone's raving about", I think, "like how they raved about the show I was in that you didn't attend?"
There was a threat of rain for almost every show and yet our audiences averaged probably 200 each evening. All the reviews were great and - like every other show I've been involved with - it was difficult to say "goodbye" once we closed. I can't say THE WINTER'S TALE was the best show I've been involved with (there are so many), but I will say it ranked up there with the best shows I've done. And that is no small feat. Thank you, Optimist Theatre, for busting my Shakespeare cherry. Merde.
Reviews: Footlights, Examiner, OnMilwaukee, Tom Strini Writes (got a mention in this one), Milwaukee Magazine, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Express Milwaukee.
Additionally, the Optimist Theatre staff, consisting of Tom Reed, Ron Scot Fry and Susan Scot Fry were top-notch. There's nothing more I can say about them. Top. Fucking. Notch. As were the crew, including Bo Johnson (production mgr.), Adam Baus (sound), Eric Appleton (lighting), Ellen Kozak (costumes), Tania Taylor (props) and many others. Well-done!
Click READ MORE! for all sorts of pics from the show...
Liz Faraglia (Mopsa) and Genesee Spridco (Dorcas)
Shepherd selfie at home
Mark Corkins (King Polixenes), Genesee Spridco (Mopsa) and Allie Babich (Perdita)
Liz Faraglia and me
A Monty Python take on me as Lord #2
Liz Faraglia and Beth Mulkerron (Hermione, Autolycus)
Liz Faraglia, Beth Mulkerron and Mary Lynn Cogar (director)
Allie Babich, Liz Faraglia and Cassondra Gresl (Lady)
Ron Scot Fry (Antigonus) and me.
Tom Reed (King Leontes), me and Mary Lynn Cogar
Me and Brian Miracle (Clown, Jailer, Officer)
Ethan Hall (Florizel, Mariner)
Me as the Shepherd - aged 16 years