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Posts Tagged drama

Jane Froiland Knows No Bounds!

For many actors, simply living by your stage chops alone isn’t enough to keep the bills paid. Not in the Twin Cities and definitely not in the other single cities out there. Even in New York, the actors fortunate enough to do it “full time” do most of their work outside of the city, in the regional centers of the country. Despite this, however, actors constantly prove that they are a flexible and hardened group of people; where there’s a will, you can bet they’ll find a way!

Jane Froiland studies hard for the part. (Photo by Connie Shaver)

One mark of a smart artist, like anyone in charge of their own business, is to diversify one’s talent. “Oh, you don’t need an actor this time? That’s fine. How about director? I can offer my services as an experienced stage director! Or manager! Or playwright. Or costumer. Lighting designer? Ok, ok… seriously, can I just sell concessions or help the actors learn their lines?”

This sort of resourcefulness is almost the only viable way *most* actors truly make a “living” in the theatre. Jane Froiland is one such multi-talented artist who is often balancing her performance schedule with her gigs as a stage director. She can currently be seen in Park Square Theatre’s The Diary of Anne Frank while gearing up for a run of You Can’t Take it With You at Woodbury High School. Performing in the mornings and directing in the afternoons? Sounds like a full time job to me! Of her days this spring, Froiland states: “… what a dream to be able to be a part of telling such an important story and be able to foster the next generation of artists all in the same day.”

More than that, it “legitimizes” her standing as a director in the eyes of her students. When they are able to work with a creator who “walks the walk” and is able to express her knowledge from a very real and first-hand professional experience. Not only does this create a high bar from those student-performers to meet, but helps Froiland in her own lifelong education as an actor/director. After all, who knows if some of those Woodbury students are in the audience at Park Square watching their esteemed director perform?

You can watch Jane Froiland yourself in The Diary of Anne Frank, playing select dates in April at Park Square Theatre. More information and tickets can be found here at parksquaretheatre.org!

Pirates of Penzance: Zach Garcia

Recently, I was able to connect with actor Zach Garcia, who is singing and dancing in The Pirates of Penzance at Park Square through March 25. A lover of serenity, cooking and Jack Sparrow, there’s more to this pirate than meets the eye!

What brought you to the Twin Cities and how did you get involved with Park Square? What other work have you done in your time here? 

It’s hard to answer the question of where I’m from. Most of the time I just say ‘The Midwest, et al’. My family hails from just north of Chicago, but I spent a good majority of my life in the Green Bay, Wisconsin area. I attended high school in a small farm town where my graduating class was 98 students total. It was there that I had a high school music teacher encourage me and foster my interest in music by having me sing in choir, recommend me for music camps, and allow me to perform in our school musicals and plays. I graduated from Lawrence University (also in Wisconsin) with a double major in Theatre and Music. I originally attended Lawrence to study opera, but I found my true home in the theatre department. Fortunately for me, I had mentors and a group of colleagues in the theatre department who guided me and challenged me to do my best work.  I was motivated by the material and learned the value of having a strong work ethic. I was constantly juggling rehearsals, class assignments, lessons, and projects. This is, by far, the most important thing I learned in university… put in the work, you’ll see results.  Being able to maintain the stamina of an actor’s life is not for the faint of heart. Lawrence taught me to be a warrior, and I will be forever grateful for that.

I moved to the Twin Cities after spending a year in Chicago after graduation. I originally moved up here for a theatre education opportunity five years ago, but once I got here, I started booking gigs and haven’t stopped since (thank God!).  The Twin Cities theatre community has been so warm and welcoming to me.  I’ve had some veteran actors take me under their wing and guide me through the ‘business’ side of the industry, which has been incredibly helpful. I also met my beautiful wife through the theatre when I was an essential at the Guthrie five years ago. It’s crazy, because not only do my wife and I own a home here, but my parents, my sister, a few of my cousins, and my in laws all live in the Metro area. I love it here… I think I’ll stay.

Since moving here, I’ve worked with companies like Theatre Latte Da, Children’s Theatre Company, Frank Theatre, The Guthrie, Walking Shadow Theatre, as well as worked on some new work with Keith Hovis, a brilliant young writer and composer. I was fortunate to work at Park Square Theatre in the Andy Boss space for The Palabras Project which was the brain child of Jessica Huang and Ricardo Vazquez exploring and expanding the story of Blood Wedding by Federico Garcia Lorca through a variety of artistic mediums. I’ve never done a show as exploratory and integrated as that!

Cast of The Pirates of Penzance: (photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

What are you most excited about and what could be a “fun” challenge? 

It has been really fun digging into the material and learning all the ins and outs that Gilbert and Sullivan wrote. They were so clever and so masterful at blending beautiful, fun vocal music with the twisting and turning of the plot.  I’m really excited to tackle the monstrosity that is Pirates with a small cast of nine actors. It’s a daunting task, but Doug and Denise have assembled a brilliant group of versatile artists that are ready to attack this piece with vigor.  We will be busy!

Working as tirelessly as you do, what could you possibly do with your free time

I love being outside! One of the great things about living in the Twin Cities is the ability to have a vibrant city life, but you simply drive 30 minutes north and you’re in the wilderness. My wife and I love the North Shore and have found a lot of solace and serenity up there. After I’m done with a long run of a show, we try to set aside time to take a trip somewhere to disconnect and recharge. This ‘reset’ time is so vital for an artist. I also really love cooking… Mexican food especially! I’m really bad at just ‘relaxing and doing nothing’. Cooking is active enough and has routine, but also allows room for spontaneity. It’s very relaxing when I can go to a farmer’s market or grocery store, plan an entire meal, and spend the entire day cooking.

OK, last question: Do you have a favorite pirate? 

Oooh… that’s a tough one! I’m going to have to say Captain Jack Sparrow. My wife has a mild obsession with Johnny Depp and, by default, have watched the Pirates of the Caribbean series multiple times.  I mean… who doesn’t love a drunk pirate, right?

Tickets and information for Pirates of Penzance can be found here!

Dot the Halls!

Stoke the fire, tinsel the tree, “enhance” your eggnog – do whatever you do to make yourself comfortable this holiday season, for you know just how stressful this time of the year can be!

That angst comes in many shapes and forms, from last-minute gift shopping to navigating those inevitably disparate political views. Sometimes, however, the biggest cause of anxiety isn’t something that can be whisked away with the tree and wrapping, but something that fundamentally tests the love and hope of the season.

Currently running at Park Square is a play called Dot, by Colman Domingo, that explores those trials and tribulations.

In the days leading up to Christmas, one West Philadelphia family is rocked by the fact that their mother’s health is rapidly decling due to Alzheimer’s. All around age forty, the children are often too wrapped up in their own mid-life crises to face the severity of the situation, all too willing to snipe at each other’s own shortcomings. Can the family push past these petty insecurities to confront the the reality of losing their mother?

Like I was saying before, the type of stress that this must cause on the family isn’t going to go away with the coming of a new year and by the end of the play, the siblings realize this. That they themselves are the only support system they have to rely on. No matter the differences, the bond of family is too powerful to ignore.

That then, is where those pillars of the season – love, joy and hope – come into play.

For all of it’s drama, Dot is extremely heartwarming and often down-right hilarious. Any one with siblings or numerous relatives can attest to the absurdity that ensues when so many loud personalities share the same living room. Either your join the madness or sneak away to the kitchen and gorge yourself on leftovers. However you cope, you still appreciate those that you call family, however different they may be from yourself.

This is why Dot is such a great play for Christmas-time and why I would love to see it done often in as many theaters as possible. Not only do the holiday themes run deep, but it’s a new play, so you’re able to relate to the work in a way that more closely resembles your own world than that of say, another telling of Victorian-era A Christmas Carol.

Therefore, treat yourself this season and witness the tornado of tinsel and tears that is Dot and get in touch with those traditions that make you warm and fuzzy inside. Or is that the eggnog your sipping?

Tickets and more information HERE 

 

Of Mice and Men in Review

Looking back on my time performing in Of Mice and Men at Park Square, I can’t help but marvel at all the studens who came and witnessed our rendition of the classic story. Nearly every morning between November 4 and December 16, groups both large and small came to the Andy Boss Thrust Stage and were down right captivated. Rarely did we have any disturbances and certainly never anything that warranted more than a quick visit from the house manager.

Credit here has to go to that house management team of Quinn Shadko and Adrian Larkin (who set clear expectations to the kids in a pre-show speech), but I think the schools themselves deserve a ton of credit as well. These were kids who had all mostly read the book already and were eager to delve further into the literature but watching it come to life. When people ask me who adapted the play, I love saying John Steinbeck. Since he also wrote this play, I believe it’s a highly constructive component to studying the novel.

This all became apparent to me over the course of the run, when we would hold post-show discussions after select performances. These twenty minute talk-backs were the chance for students to directly engage with the actors. Our conversations covered some fairly heavy topics such as gender roles, racism, the class economics of the Depression and the treatment of the mentally impaired.

But were these topics too much for teenagers to grapple with? In every instance, I was surprised by their eagerness to discuss. Such a forum seemed to give them the freedom to say just what they thought about those aforementioned topics and how our modern world is both alike and different from that of 1937. As an educational show, Of Mice and Men offers so much to sink one’s teeth into. It’s like a little microcosm of all the politics America has always struggled with. I would encourage any social studies or history teacher to check it out.

While the show is an intellectual goldmine, I also loved the fact that it offered the students so many opportunities for emotional release! I’m not even talking about all the tragedy – yes, they cried as much as the adults – but the willingness that they had to laugh, mock and cheer was admirably bold.

For an actor, it was rejuvenating. It felt like being in Elizabethan England, playing to the groundlings at the Globe. That kind of audience participation is so important as it recognizes the inherent fact that this is all make-believe and that we’re all experiencing the story. Of course you don’t want to be disrespectful to any performer, but why shouldn’t audiences “aaaaaawwwww” at the dog or jeer the bad guy? Hopefully those kids had as much fun as the actors and came away thinking about “The Theatre” as a place where they can not only reflect, but also relax.

I think this is something else our show succeeded in doing and for that, I’m so grateful I got to be involved. One of the biggest discussions in the theatre world right now is cultivating audiences from an early age. Of Mice and Men offers teenagers everything they could ask for – a riveting drama with plenty of action and comedic relief. And what do you know, they’re learning a thing or two to boot!

Just two performances left, Friday, Dec 15 and Saturday, Dec 16 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets and information here

Tinne Rosenmeier is Polonia

Recently I had the supreme pleasure of speaking with actor, Tinne Rosenmeier, who is playing Polonia in Park Square Theatre’s production of Hamlet. Ms. Rosenmeier had a lot to say not only about the production itself, but how re-imagining the character “Polonius” as a woman helps bring fresh life to an established classic.

Photo by Nancy Hauck

So what’s it been like playing a character such as Polonia? What can audiences come away with after seeing your portrayal?

Polonia, yes.  WOW!  First of all, there’s the thrill of the opportunity, right? That made me giddy and rather flighty during our first week of rehearsals.  Then, there’s the history of the role, our expectations of who and what Polonius is: stuffy, fusty, chatty, a bit impotent and comical. Polonius is deeply embedded in the masculine story, history, and culture of our cultural understanding of Hamlet, the play. What happens when we shift away from that?

What we’re discovering is that Polonia  (the concept), works just fine.  As a power broker, I have many contemporary politicians to study – their poise, strength, and steel. There’s the reality we face as working women and mothers: how many of us can still be involved in the day to day of raising our children?  Polonia is and has been a working mother, and that very contemporary reality never confronted, and is unlikely to ever confront, a man playing a Polonius.  We still live in a society that stretches women to do it all. At the moment (though there may be some nuances we haven’t reached yet in rehearsals) Polonia has made career choices to serve her king(s), and she isn’t much given to self-doubt or regret.

As a mother, there are insights into Ophelia’s plight that don’t surface for a “Polonius.” The advice that she quit her crush on Hamlet hinges on his freedoms as a man and a prince — ‘with a longer tether may he walk/Than may be given you.’  What a rich vein to plumb. I think it is a mark of her lack of self-knowledge that she doesn’t recognize her own complicity in Ophelia’s trap, and despair.

When did you first get involved with Park Square?

My first audition for Park Square was in 1984, when I was embarrassed to learn that a Shakespearean sonnet wasn’t the same as an audition monologue.  I felt pretty lucky when I got a call to step into a part another actress vacated, in Arthur Miller’s The American Clock.   Later that season, or the next, I was again called in as a replacement, in The Master Builder, with Bill Kimes.  I was invited to join the resident acting company Park Square had for a few years, and spent a few seasons working here.

It was an amazing experience, but I learned the limits of untrained acting.  It was the kind and generous advice of Richard Cook, plus the encouragement of Betty Burdick (who played Mrs. Master Builder) that propelled me to seek training.  I needed a process.  It’s a deep satisfaction and honor to return to Park Square with technique and process, and to develop this role.

My family moved back to Saint Paul in 2000. I just couldn’t break in as an actress at that point, and I took myself over to Hamline to get my teaching license.  Over the last 13 years I’ve been teaching around the Twin Cities. I was so proud and excited to bring students to Park Square’s education programs and productions.  The Build a Moment experience is the cleanest introduction to the power of theater design and tech I’ve every run across. I also served on Park Square’s  Education Advisory Board for a few years, and raise my hat to Mary Finnerty and the whole group.  I believe in theater education, and Park Square’s contribution is unmatched and indispensable.

Tinne Rosenmeier is a Minnesota-native, born in St. Paul and a graduate of Carleton College and holds an MA in Educational Theatre from New York University. She also attended the National Shakespeare Conservatory in New York City. In addition to Park Square Theatre, she has been seen on stage at Pangea World Theatre (The House of Bernarda Alba) and Savage Umbrella (The Awakening), among many others. When she is not performing or teaching, her interests include playing with her dog, feeding the chickens, gardening and quilting when the weather turns cold.

See Ms. Rosenmeier in Hamlet, on the Proscenium Stage through November 11! The play is adapted and directed by Joel Sass.

 

Have a Laugh with Carolyn Pool

When Henry and Alice: Into the Wild opens the season at Park Square there will be a familiar face in the cast – Carolyn Pool! A veteran of not only Park Square, Pool has been seen on many stages in Minneapolis and Saint Paul working with such esteemed companies as Illusion Theatre, Penumbra, Theatre Mu, Pillsbury House and countless new works at the Playwrights’ Center. She says, however, that Park Square has been a defining feature of her artistic work with such credits as August, Osage County, Proof, The Sisters Rosenweig, and Born Yesterday. The first time she tread the Park Square boards it wasn’t even at the current location in the Hamm Building, but at the old Lowertown venue in School for Wives.

Now Pool brings her talents to Henry and Alice along with fellow stage cohort, John Middleton. The two are not strangers, having appeared on stage together before at Park Square. That was in Dead Man’s Cell Phone where the two’s chemistry was duly noted. When asked about what she hopes the audience is able to take away from the play, she says aptly:

“I hope they laugh! I also hope they see some of themselves in these characters and maybe realize that they are not alone in their experiences. Telling stories truthfully and beautifully even if those stories are sometimes difficult is my greatest passion as an actor. And, when I can make people laugh and feel good too, that is the most wonderful feeling.” 
Carolyn Pool and John Middleton in the rehearsal hall last week (photo by Connie Shaver)

Making people laugh is definitely something Carolyn Pool has made a career of. If you’re well-tuned into the Twin Cities theatre scene you have probably heard about her two-woman shows, (co-created with Shanan Custer) 2 Sugars, Room for Cream and Sometimes There’s Wine. The former earned the duo a 2013 Ivey Award when it played at the New Century Theatre. Pool and Custer are frequent collaborators who are always looking for projects to write, act and laugh in together.

Indeed having a good time is almost certain when she takes the stage with Middleton and Melanie Wermacher. Mark your calendars and plan to join in on the fun on the Boss Stage September 15 – October 22.

 

Carolyn Pool, John Middleton and Melanie Wermacher  in the rehearsal hall. (photo by Connie Shaver)

Role Reprisal: John Middleton

John Middleton

Starting the 2017-2018 season off with a bang is Henry and Alice: Into the Wild by Michele Riml and directed by Mary M. Finnerty. A few of those names may sound familiar to the Park Square faithful, as this delightful rom-com is a sequel to that other delightful rom-com, Sexy Laundry, which brought the house down in 2014. Finnerty also directed the precursor and wouldn’t you know it, John Middleton is also back in the role of Henry, while this time around Carolyn Pool plays his counterpart , Alice. Melanie Wehrmacher rounds out the cast as an interloping family member.

I was able to ask Middleton a few questions about what it’s like getting to act the same character in a new play. After all, that’s not something that happens very often in the theatre. Unlike a movie sequel, you do not have the opportunity to “go back” and catch the first one. For him, the biggest difference will be the fact that in Sexy Laundry he had the even more unique experience to act opposite his real-life wife, Charity Jones. While that may not be the case for Henry and Alice, he is excited to work with friend Carolyn Pool who he says is, “… a terrific actress who’s carried me through productions before – including Dead Man’s Cell Phone here at Park Square.” That production was in 2010, so that gives you an idea of how familiar audiences should be with Middleton. Most recently, he was seen on the Andy Boss Thrust Stage in Idiot’s Delight by Girl Friday Productions, playing the wily, straight-talking American.

 

Sexy Laundry with Charity Jones. Photo by Petronella Ytsma 

But how far can we go? Middleton’s very first production at Park Square in 1991’s The Marriage of Figaro, and while he may not have had many lines he distinctly remembers moving a lot of chairs around. That was only a year after he first came to the Twin Cities as an actor. Hailing from Wisconsin, he landed a role playing a pirate in a production of Peter Pan at the Children’s Theatre Company and liked Minnesota so much he decided to stay. I believe I can speak for the community here when I say we’re certainly glad he did! Other recent Park Square Theatre credits include: Calendar Girls, Romeo and Juliet, The School for Lies, and American Family.

As you can see, Henry and Alice: Into the Wild is but the latest in many wonderful turns on the Park Square boards for John Middleton. As we herald the start of the new season, let’s revisit the familiar world of Sexy Laundry and the actor who brought it to life then as he will now.

Derek Dirlam: Code Name – Archie Goodwin

Right now at Park Square, you can catch the mystery-thriller of the summer, Might as Well Be Dead: A Nero Wolfe Mystery, on stage through July 30th. While the hero, Nero Wolfe, may have his name in the title, what good would he be without his loyal right-hand man? Filling that role is Archie Goodwin, a witty ladies man who works as Wolfe’s live-in assistant and aides him in the solving of mysteries. A highly skilled private investigator, it’s Goodwin who scours New York City collecting the evidence that Wolfe needs in order to solve a case. Such is the character that has filled volumes of detective fiction, but who can possibly bring this persona to life on the stage? Stepping in to do just that is actor Derek Dirlam, who has embraced the role emphatically.

 

A fan of the genre, he appreciates the expectations some fans may have in regards to Archie. Fortunately, thanks to the numerous stories author Rex Stout produced, Dirlam had plenty of varied sources to draw from. As mentioned in a previous blog about the author, Rex Stout wrote Nero Wolfe mysteries from 1934 to 1975. A remarkable span of time that was part of the greater pop cultural fascination with all things noir, pulp and hard-boiled. Think of characters like Sam Spade and you’ll know just where Dirlam is coming from in shaping the world of Archie Goodwin. He’s long been a listener of vintage radio-dramas and classic films like The Big Sleep, Double Indemnity and A Touch of Evil have proven helpful in getting into character, as well as tuning in to the music of the 1940s and ‘50s. Dirlam has created his own “Archie Playlist” that features jazz artists Buck Clayton, Coleman Hawkins and Louis Prima among others. Such a fan is he, that before being cast in Nero Wolfe, Dirlam produced his own play in the mystery genre at last year’s Fringe Festival entitled “A Study in Emerald” by Neil Gaiman, and it was combing through potential source material that he first came across the titles of Nero Wolfe.

As previously mentioned, there are about 40 years worth of Archie Goodwin to draw upon and Dirlam hopes that he’s able to flesh out his version of the character in a way that appeals to both the hard-boiled and the casual fan. Working with E.J. Subkoviak has been a wonderful experience as well, to which Dirlam says:

As the show developed, E.J. and I were able to incorporate several nuances of Archie and Wolfe’s relationship from the books that weren’t necessarily highlighted in this particular script, which I think makes the duo more interesting, and is also an added nod to the fans of the books.”

With actors like Dirlam and Subkoviak infusing Archie and Nero with such positive chemistry, there’s certainly plenty for audiences to enjoy. Full of suspicious characters, twists and turns, Might as Well Be Dead: A Nero Wolfe Mystery promises to keep those same audiences on their toes as they play their part in the mystery and get to know the one and only Archie Goodwin.

Subkoviak (left) and Dirlam (right) in Might as Well Be Dead: A Nero Wolfe Mystery plays on the proscenium stage through July 30.

Addie’s Delight

Playing a part in Idiot’s Delight from Girl Friday Productions at Park Square is Adelin Phelps, who portrays the character Mrs. Cherry. I was able to catch up with her and ask her some of what she thought about the show and the relevance it can hold in our 21st century world.

From Madison, Wisconsin, she attended Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, receiving her B.A. in acting. Immediately after graduation, she moved on up to the Twin Cities to pursue a career in the theatre. In her time here she has firmly established herself as a performer and collaborator, working with such noted companies as Minnesota Jewish Theatre, History Theatre, Theatre Latte Da, Walking Shadow and Frank Theatre. If that’s not enough, she is a core and founding member of Transatlantic Love Affair, a group that has earned a bevy of recognition in recent years. She now finds herself within the ranks of Girl Friday Productions and the grand cast of Idiot’s Delight – Robert Sherwood’s prophetic satire on the state of the world just prior to the outbreak of World War II. This marks her debut with Girl Friday, and her second time on a Park Square stage (following 2012’s King Lear).

While definitely not from the world of medieval England, Mrs. Cherry does happen to be a Brit among the band of internationals holed up in the Alpine hotel in which Idiot’s Delight takes place. Young and newly married to the dashing Mr. Cherry (Gabriel Murphy), she must reconcile the joys of kissing, dancing and abundant love with the stark realities of encroaching war. Those themes certainly lend themsevles to the political strife currently swirling around the world, not just at home, and how we are able to overcome that discord is a central question of the piece. As Phelps says, The need for humor, the struggle for an open, brave heart, the importance to understand history, and connecting with other humans… that draws me as a person to the project.”

Especially the benefits of connecting with other humans is apparent in Sherwood’s play. An ensemble cast of characters all born in different countries are suddenly forced into company with each other, thanks to the actions of their own governments. In a sense of irony, the very people they should be at war with become their friends within the walls of the hotel.

All these international characters is most exciting to Phelps who relishes the chance to use her sense of play and imagination in creating a dialect or new physicality to bring her role to life. And the dancing! There’s much for any actor to sink their teeth into and Phelps is eager to share that infectious zeal with the audiences. Indeed, viewers are in for a treat when they take their seats this summer. Phelps has been delighted to work with Girl Friday Productions and director, Craig Johnson in getting to tell such a story!

 

 

Chatting with the Master Sleuth Himself!

Actor E.J. Subkoviak, who is playing Nero Wolfe this summer in Might as Well Be Dead: A Nero Wolfe Mystery, graciously offered his insight into not only the character but to just how vast and enthralling the world of this play is!

1. What is like to play such a renowned character? You’re second time around, do you find yourself discovering new layers behind the character?

I first played Rex Stout’s armchair detective Nero Wolfe at Park Square a few years ago in The Red Box, and it was a real honor, as this was the first time Mr. Wolfe had ever been commissioned to appear onstage anywhere.

He’s very much an American Sherlock Holmes in many ways. (In fact, there are those devoted fans who believe – yes, they did the math – that Wolfe may be the love child of Holmes and his Jersey girlfriend Irene Adler. They even took the Jim Garrison conspiracy approach and noted that ShERlock HOLmes and NERo WOLfe both have the ER/OL in the middle of their names. Mr. Stout neither confirmed nor denied this theory, but was obviously flattered that people had put so much time and research into something he created.)

Like Holmes, he’s an eccentric genius who hides his emotions, and has his own addictions. (Holmes has his cocaine; Wolfe has his lavish gourmet meals.) And being a man of mystery, there is so much mystery about the man himself. Why is yellow his favorite color? (His dwellings look like Colonel Mustard’s house.) What’s with the orchid fascination? (We never see it onstage, but he has a rooftop full of them.) Why is he so hard on women? Why won’t he leave the house? Did something happen to him in his past life as an Albanian spy to create this corpulent grump? These are questions that can’t help but come to mind, and even after so many books, Stout leaves them as questions. What we know about Wolfe we know only through the eyes of his young protege, Archie Goodwin, who narrates the books and the plays.

In playing Wolfe a second time, I find he’s very much in my blood now. Based on the original reaction of the “Wolfe Pack” (the Rex Stout fan club – their name, not mine, I swear) and Rebecca Stout-Bradbury, Stout’s daughter and one of the heads of his estate, I didn’t see how I could change a thing I was doing. The only thing I looked for this time around were opportunities to show hints – and in such a plot-heavy venue as mysteries are, all we have room for are hints – of things Wolfe may be too afraid to reveal explicitly, so that he becomes slightly more than just a robust super-computer expunging deductions and menus. In this case, I found some brief moments in his interactions with Archie Goodwin (his Dr. Watson) that suggest he’s quietly aware that while he’s always barking orders and often scolding his protege’s antics, Archie’s the closest thing to family as he’ll ever have, which ties in somewhat with Archie’s final speech that invokes the title of the show. Again, it doesn’t play into the mystery as a whole, or the puzzle the audience is obviously attentive to, but it’s an attempted step up with the character in this second episode.

E.J. Subkoviak

2. Are you a fan of this genre and had you always known about Nero Wolfe? When did you first discover the series?

Indeed, mystery and thrillers have always been my favorite genre, even as a boy. While everyone else in my 3rd grade class was reading Judy Blume, I was reading the adventures of Encyclopedia Brown, boy detective, and trying to use my eight year-old wits to help him solve such mind-boggling capers as “The Case of the Broken Globe”.

Nero Wolfe was a name I was somewhat familiar with, perhaps remembering the William Conrad TV series that aired during my youth. When our director Peter Moore first told me he was considering me for the role, I said, “Oh yeah, isn’t he like a judge or a lawyer or something?” And he said, “No, he’s a detective. Look him up.” So I did – I googled “Nero Wolfe” and got my answer: “Morbidly obese private detective…” I had to stop for a minute and look at myself in the mirror at that point and do a little crying, but it wasn’t long before I became very intrigued by everything else I read about the guy.

3. What are some influences you draw upon as an actor taking on a great detective role such as this?

The Nero Wolfe books are, to me, a nice combination of the hard-boiled detective stories with the Jessica Rabbits holding a gun on the cover, and the more elegant Agatha Christie-like drawing room mysteries that always had the detective gathering all the suspects at the end and slowly, methodically, revealing who the killer is and how they did it. Being a mystery lover, I loved watching such TV sleuths as Stacy Keach’s Mike Hammer and David Suchet’s Hercule Poirot.

Other than that, I try not to do too much, and I just try to remain confident that our playwright Joseph Goodrich is right when he tells me, “You ARE Nero Wolfe.” That takes a little pressure off me acting-wise, but puts a lot of pressure on me to start some kind of exercise regiment.

4. What’s your favorite part of the show and what do you think audiences will enjoy the most?

My favorite parts to play are the moments that highlight the differences between Wolfe and Archie. Archie is Wolfe’s Dr. Watson, but what sets this team apart from the Holmes/Watson relationship, and indeed adds some fun and interest, is not only the age difference and the mentor/protege picture, but that these two are really cut from two very different cloths. They’re an odd couple solving mysteries together, and when their tactics, behaviors and vocabulary clash, it makes for some often laugh-inducing fun. Archie is also a much more outgoing, dare I say likable guy, so to see him throw grouchy Mr. Wolfe a little sunshine now and again is rewarding, especially in the middle of so much murder and mayhem. I really think this relationship is at the heart of what makes the Nero Wolfe stories fun enough to give it a real fan base.

Peter Moore [director], always finds a group of terrific and talented people, and this is no exception. I am delighted to be working again with so many old friends and many new ones, cast and crew alike. Wolfe would call them “satisfactory”, which, to the rest of us, means “exceeds all expectations”.

 

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