– Will Gartshore has been nominated seven times for a Helen Hayes Award and received two awards, each for musical theatre performances. –
If someone has just told you that they don’t go to the theatre, take them. Take them to a brilliant piece of theatre. It never fails.
What appeals to me most about theatre is its liveness. It’s the only art form that happens for both the artist and the observer in the same instant. And that moment is ephemeral — you can’t catch it on video, and it’s always disappointing when you try. After it’s happened, good theatre only really lives on in the memory of those who showed up to witness it, which makes it both tragic and magical.
When they’re good, musicals burn into people’s brains in a really special way. On some basic level they’re preposterous, which is what makes them such magical and perfect pieces of theater. An actor who is able take advantage of that amazing alchemy of words and music and meaning is a special beast.
And I know from personal experience how much people in the audience will cherish those electric moments on stage when it all works. It makes performing both a privilege and something of a duty, being a lead actor in a musical and carrying that story forward.
I just think of Euan Morton’s work in Parade as an example, or Stephen Gregory Smith in The Boy Detective Fails at Signature. Those shows are both beautiful monsters that ask a lot of their lead actors. And having someone solid and inspiring at the center is essential to making the whole thing work. Kudos to all who have found themselves in that situation and made it across the finish line this past year.
It’s exciting to look at the nominees this year. I’m loving watching what David Muse is doing at Studio. Over at Ford’s, it was great to see my friend Kevin McAllister take on a really challenging, powerhouse role in Parade, and then get the nomination he deserved for his work. I also loved getting to see an old friend, Nancy Anderson, on the Signature stage in Side by Side by Sondheim. We worked opposite each other back in 1999 at Goodspeed Opera House — we did Ed Dixon’s musical Fanny Hill back when we were both a little more young and naive. It’s always great to see an artist you know and like grow over time. She’s always been sassy and sexy and hilarious, but now she has some added Broadway polish. Watching her and Sherri Edelen one-up each other with those amazing Sondheim songs was a ton of fun. A little friendly competition always helps bring out the best. Speaking of Sherri — she’s an artist who takes risks and leaves everything she’s got on the stage. A great combination of emotional openness and artistic wonder, plus sheer skill and more than a little chutzpah. Love her. Actually, now that I think of it, both those ladies were onstage romantic interests of mine in the same year — Nancy in Fanny Hill in August 1999 and Sherri in Side Showin spring 2000. Does that make me overly biased?
I think we’ve got a pretty rich palate of theatrical choices in Washington DC at this point. It’s been amazing to watch the scene grow and diversify over the past decade. I will tell you though — while it’s great to watch a theatre like Signature grow and expand, I do miss the good ol’ days back in the garage. I’m a fan of scrappy. So it’s good to see new and emerging companies filling that more rough-and-tumble niche.
Some rewarding experiences I had in theatre this past year… One would be Venus in Fur at Studio. There were so many incredible transformations and reversals in that show that can only really happen in a tight, funny, claustrophobic play like that with top-notch actors and spare, smart direction. And I loved doing The Religion Thing at Theater J. What a dream of a cast and a creative team. I made some new friends and got to work on a funny, challenging, heartfelt new play. It was a rejuvenating experience, and I was proud of all the work that went into it.
Find more tributes to the Nominees on Curtain Call