Catch actor Nigel Reed in God of Carnage at Compass Rose Theater in Annapolis through March 26 and catch his “journey of discovery and expression” in this week’s Take Ten. Whether waxing poetic about partner – and fellow actor – Valerie Leonard, or reminiscing about his law-school theatrical beginnings, Reed has a way with words.
1) What was the first show you ever saw, and what impact did it have?
I can’t remember my first show, but I do remember my parents taking me to several summer theatres and amateur church group shows when I was quite young. Although it was not a theatre show, the first production that made a profound impact on me was Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet. I found the language and emotional journeys of all the characters completely accessible and relevant despite being told in my youth that Shakespeare was supposed to be hard to understand. I can point to that 1968 film and safely say that it had a great influence on my becoming an actor.
2) What was your first involvement in a theatrical production?
I was a pre-law student at the University of Maryland Baltimore County in 1973. On the first day of my sophomore year, I saw an ad in the campus newspaper about auditions for Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot. I decided college was the place to try new things so I went over to the campus theatre and auditioned. I got a good part in the show and we were even entered in that year’s American College Theatre Festival. That experience changed my life.
3) What’s your favorite play or musical, and why do you like it so much?
Out of the hundreds of years’ worth of great plays and musicals, it’s not possible for me to rank any one as my favorite, either as an actor or audience member. My energies tend to be more focused on being a creator of, rather than a consumer of, theatre. So, whichever play I’m working on at the moment, that’s my favorite.
4) What’s the worst day job you ever took?
Selling farm chemicals over the phone. Lasted less than three weeks.
5) What is your most embarrassing moment in the theatre?
Never really had a moment I would call embarrassing. But many years ago, playing Prince Dauntless in Once Upon a Mattress, another actor missed his entrance, forcing me to cover by re-fashioning several pages of his dialog on the fly since mine was the only character on stage who was in a position to advance the story. The moment I got to a part of the story that my character was ignorant of, the tardy actor finally came on stage. The audience was none the wiser. My cover job was rewarded with a prime rib dinner at his expense.
6) What are you enjoying most about working on God of Carnage at Compass Rose Theater?
Working with a fun group of actors and, especially, director Steven Carpenter. Steven is a very collaborative, intelligent, tasteful, and meticulous director who communicates extremely well with actors. He and I have had several successful collaborations over the years.
7) Other than your significant other, who’s your dream date (living or dead) and why?
I can’t really answer this question as presented, because the fact is I married my dream date. Actor Valerie Leonard (now in The How and The Why at Theater J) and I met playing opposite each other at Olney Theatre Center in a production of Anna Karenina and have done several shows together since. It’s a real advantage to be married to someone who understands the artistic journey and with whom you can find and provide mutual support. Of course, there’s many more reasons that have nothing to do with theatre, and you’ll forgive me for not sharing them here. Let’s just say that Valerie is proof that, sometimes, dreams do come true.
8) What is your dream role/job?
My usual reply to that question is, “The next one.” Each production brings with it unique challenges and I always look forward to what the next project will bring. I can’t help but think that if I designated a role as a “favorite” and never got to play it that my career might appear to be somewhat unfulfilled. But I’ve never felt that way. And one needs to be just as committed in playing the third supporting character as one should be if playing Hamlet or Lear. I’m in it for the journey, wherever it may lead.
9) If you could travel back in time, what famous production or performance would you choose to see?
David Garrick as Richard the Third at Goodman’s Fields in London, 1745. Garrick was the Marlon Brando of his day.
10) What advice would you give to an 8-year-old smitten by theatre / for a graduating MFA student?
Theatre is a journey of discovery and expression. Be curious, observe your world closely, ask questions…especially, “Why?”, seek the truth, try new things, develop personal discipline, don’t be afraid to fail, never stop working to improve at your craft, and above all, have respect for the art and craft of the theatre.
NIGEL REED has been seen often in various area theatres including Rep Stage (where he has appeared in over 20 productions), Everyman Theatre, Olney Theatre Center, Signature Theatre, Forum Theatre, Catalyst Theatre, Potomac Theatre Project, Theater Alliance, The Washington Stage Guild, and the Bay Theatre Co. where he served as an Associate Artist. Off Broadway saw Mr. Reed in Misalliance at the Roundabout Theatre starring Philip Bosco and Anthony Heald. He appeared in Deathtrap opposite George Grizzard and Robert Reed in separate stock productions and also traveled with the National Tour of Deathtrap starring Brian Bedford. Daytime drama fans may remember him as Wally McFadden on All My Children, and as Tim Werner on Guiding Light. A multiple Helen Hayes Award nominee, Mr. Reed received the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play in 2002 for his portrayal of Oscar Wilde in The Judas Kiss at Rep Stage, and was named Best Actor for 2001 by the Baltimore City Paper. Mr. Reed’s critical acclaim includes a Best Actor designation from DC Metro Theater Arts and Audience Choice Award nominations from DC Theatre Scene.