Onstage / TEN QUESTIONS FOR Tom Loughlin
King Lear in KING LEAR, Shakespeare in Delaware Park
Photo courtesy of Tom Loughlin
What’s your relationship to this show?
Lear is a “bucket list” role, and something I’ve been thinking and dreaming about for maybe the past five years. Lear brings together so many different elements that I enjoy about theater: passion, poetry, a sense of mythos, an epic quality, the largest questions that humans have about life. And, of course, it’s Shakespeare. I’ve been doing Shakespeare since my undergraduate days, and this is a role I’ve finally aged into. I’ve done Edgar, Gloucester, and Albany twice before this production.
What’s the best acting advice you were ever given?
Long before Nike took up the phrase, the best advice I was ever given was “just do it.” I enjoy the research and the preparation that goes into preparing a role, [and] experience and training help you do it much better and manage your instincts for maximum effect, but, in the end, you just do it.
What’s your best “the show went on” moment?
In 1995, I played Boyet in Shakespeare in Delaware Park’s production of Love’s Labour’s Lost. One of my brothers was getting married that summer, and I told him I couldn’t attend because I was in a show. He prevailed on me to get permission to fly from Buffalo to Long Island and back in one day to be there for the ceremony. It was going well until just before takeoff to get back, the plane had to wait on the tarmac for forty-five minutes while a thunderstorm went through. I managed to get word that I was going to be late, and it just so happened that Saul Elkin, who directed it, was in the park that night, and he went on for me in the first scene, on book. I managed to get into costume just as my second scene was about to begin, so Saul and I planned a bit. Saul went out again, but then I came out, tapped him on the shoulder, bowed to him, took his place, and he left. My arrival was greeted with great applause, as the audience had been informed beforehand about my predicament. It was a fun moment and typical of the fantastic atmosphere that SDP engenders.
What’s the role that got away?
Hamlet. “They all want to play Hamlet.” The other is Malvolio. I have played every other male part in Twelfth Night with the exception of Malvolio.
What line from a former play have you never forgotten and why?
“I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys.” I played Shylock in Wisconsin, and Shylock says this line when informed that his daughter Jessica has traded a ring given to him by his wife, Leah, in exchange for a monkey. It’s the most human, most touching, and most vulnerable moment Shylock has in the entire play. The image Shakespeare conjures up is one of the most haunting I’m aware of.
What “against type” role are you dying to play?
At this stage in my career, “against type” always means “young leading man.” In the classic canon, it’s Cyrano de Bergerac. It’s the best romantic swashbuckling role out there, and, even though I’m a character actor, I’m now too old and dumpy for the part. In the modern canon, it’s probably James Tyrone from A Moon for the Misbegotten.
What’s your classic actor nightmare dream?
I’ve had them all! Can’t find my costume, out on the stage with no pants—or any clothes on—don’t know my lines, don’t know the play, have no recollection of ever rehearsing the show I am about to do. You name it, I’ve had it.
What audition do you want a do-over on and why?
Every one of them. I am terrible at auditions. I seem unable to overcome the artificiality of it all. I’ve been lucky in that most of the work I’ve had has come because someone saw me in a show, not because of an audition. Recently, I auditioned in Pittsburgh and really blew up my contemporary comic piece. It was awful. You’d think after forty-plus years doing this, I’d somehow have mastered this part of the business, but, sadly, no. I have always depended upon the kindness of colleagues.
What’s the best thing you’ve seen this season and why?
I’ve recently retired from my teaching career, and have not seen much local theater this season, because I’ve been doing a bit of traveling. I will say that part of that traveling was to go to the Stratford Festival in Ontario late last summer, and there I saw two great musical productions: HMS Pinafore and Guys and Dolls. People associate Stratford with Shakespeare, but they really put on some kick-ass musicals!
Plugs for the rest of the season or next?
I’ll be in the Jewish Repertory Theatre’s spring 2019 production of Looking Through Glass, which is a reimagining of the classic Jewish play The Dybbuk. Saul Elkin is working with the playwright [to adapt the piece to] a more modern setting and from the rough draft I’ve seen, it looks terrific. I encourage anyone to pick a show, get out, and see some live theater. Buffalo has a wealth of theatrical riches for a city its size, more than most people realize.
Read more on this month's theater scene here.
Playwright Donna Hoke writes about theater for Spree and Forever Young.