J. Fred Shiffman, whose droll theatrical wit informed a fantastically versatile talent for over three decades, will end his storied stage career and become a full-time agent for Capital Talent Agency on May 5, the agency has announced.
“Fred’s move to full-time agent will certainly be a loss to Washington theater-goers,” CTA co-founder Roger Yoerges observed, “but it will be an enormous gain for CTA’s clients.”
Shiffman is a twelve-time Helen Hayes Award Nominee. He received the award three times, most recently for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Resident Production for his portrayal of Cosme McMoon, accompanist to Florence Foster Jenkins’ (Nancy Robinette) looney attempt to become a concert soprano in Studio Theatre’s production of Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins. DCTS’ Gary McMillan wrote at the time that “Shiffman breathes life into this character with wit, wisdom, and self-deprecating charm,” and the Helen Hayes judges apparently agreed.
Shiffman also received Helen Hayes awards as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Resident Play for his work in Arena’s Lovers and Executioners in 1999 and in 1993 as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Resident Musical for his work in Studio’s Falsettoland.
Shiffman’s theatrical career began in 1977 when he and two West Virginia College friends, Tim Grundmann and Dana Vance, were hired by New Playwright’s Theatre to produce…something. As recounted in an interview with Stephen Gregory Smith, “[w]e were somehow brought to the attention of Harry Bagdasian and Ken Bloom, who were running New Playwright’s Theatre [now the Church Street Theatre]. We met with them and, comically enough, they hired us! I say comically because they thought we had a show to produce and we thought they had a show for us to star in.” The resultant revue, Sirocco, launched a run for Shiffman at the New Playwright’s which eventually caught the attention of Arena’s Zelda Fichandler and Doug Wager and the rest, as they say, is history.
Shiffman’s last leading role in DC was as Felix Unger in Theater J’s well-received The Odd Couple. (He was last seen in a minor role in Sunset Boulevard.) However, his grand finale was played not here but in West Palm Beach, where he joined another DC theatrical legend, Kate Eastwood Norris, in Michael Hollinger’s (Opus; Red Herring) latest play, Ghost-Writer at Florida Stage.
As a theatrical agent, Shiffman will concentrate on finding work in the DC area for CTA’s clients, freeing CTA co-founders Yoerges and Jeremy Skidmore to prospect in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta and other venues.
“As an actor who has been in this business for many years,” Shiffman said, “no one appreciates more than I how much our clients can benefit from CTA’s services, particularly as the DC theatrical community continues to expand. I look forward to parlaying my many years as a DC-based actor, and the innumerable relationships I’ve forged over time, to do anything and everything I can for CTA’s exceptional clients, who are like family to me. My philosophy as a theatrical agent is simple: the more opportunities that we can give to our clients to perform, the richer the Washington theater community will be.”
Capital Talent Agency