It begins, again.

Well, folks, it's that time of year again: the swallows have returned to Capistrano, Cubs fans are beginning their one hopeful month, and I'm just getting started at "theatre camp."

I have been privileged - enormously privileged - to have made my living as an actor for most of the last 30 years. I have worked on hundreds of plays and musicals with thousands of theatre artists. Some productions have run over a year, some for only a few short weeks. Some have been, while certainly enjoyable, easily surrendered to the mists of time. A few have either begged to stay or to take me with them when they return to Brigadoon. But nothing has been like the Michigan Shakespeare Festival.

When I was in the final year of pursuing my MFA, it just so happened that the MSF held their Detroit auditions in my grad school theatre rehearsal space. That day, I had rehearsal for one show in the morning, for another in the afternoon, and performance of a third in the evening, with a late-night brush-up for my graduate showcase the following day. Such is grad school life. But on a meal break, I managed to sneak over to the rehearsal room to see if I couldn't line up some post-graduation work.

I don't know what happened. I didn't suddenly start channeling Laurence Olivier. I didn't redefine the art of acting. Hell, I didn't even offer a bribe. But for some reason, the two directors in the room, Jan Blixt and Rob Kauzlaric, decided to take a chance on an unknown quantity, and a few days later, I had an offer: Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing, the Old Shepherd in The Winter's Tale, and the eponymous hypocrite himself in Tartuffe.

I know the phrase is overused, but it was a magical summer. I had walked out the door at grad school (OK, I'd run) and found myself in theatrical Nirvana; everyone - directors, designers, actors - were prepared, creative, and loaded for bear. We had a wonderful time, and produced three plays of which I was truly proud to be a part. All I could think was, "I like this place, and willingly could waste my time in it."

Then, in 2012, I found myself playing Doolittle in Pygmalion, Don Adriano de Armado in Loves Labours Lost, and Clarence/the Mayor of London/the Earl of Oxford (kicking ass in the greatest stage battle of which it has been my privilege to be a part) in Richard III. In 2013, I was honored to be made an Artistic Associate, as well as being handed Feste in Twelfth Night, Hardcastle in She Stoops to Conquer, and Philip Faulkenbridge, aka The Bastard, in King John. Last year, I was gifted with Belarius in Cymbeline, the Reverend Canon Chasuble, DD, in The Importance of Being Earnest, and Polonius/the Gravedigger in Hamlet.

I have never found quite the words to express how happy I am to continue to work with this phenomenal group of people, except to say that MSF feels like my artistic home. It consists of people who thoroughly know their business, who love what they do, and who are genuinely beautiful human beings. I can't ask for more, except to remain in their company for as long as they'll have me.

And this year? Nothing too challenging, just A Midsummernight's Dream, The Rivals, and Henry IV (parts 1 and 2) - as Bottom, Sir Anthony Absolute, and Falstaff, respectively. So: finest plays in the English language? Check. Roles of a lifetime - again? Check. Greatest playmates a man could ask for? Check.

2015, let's do this.

Kiwi popsicle


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