In Conversation with ‘The Price’ Star Charles Leggett

Arthur Miller, scribe of such watershed works of theatre as The Crucible, Death of a Salesman and All My Sons, is one of America’s most beloved playwrights. One of his lesser-known plays, The Price, centers on two estranged brothers—one a beat cop, the other a doctor—who are reunited in the attic of their deceased father’s brownstone to dispose of his furniture. Despite New York Times critic Clive Barnes’s assertion that The Price “is one of the most engrossing and entertaining plays that Miller has ever written” in his review of the original 1968 Broadway production, the play is rarely produced. Local stage favorite Charles Leggett is currently starring as cop Victor Franz in ACT Theatre’s production of the Miller classic, opposite Anne Allgood, Peter Silbert and Peter Lohnes. We talked to Leggett about the show, his depressing dream roles and his fondness for Annapurna momos and Cal Anderson Park.

What’s your favorite thing about your character?  

Victor’s arc through the play. The action of the play is continuous from beginning to end—there are no scene breaks, no lumps of time between scenes to account for. While the two-plus hours of the play’s action are obviously difficult ones for Victor—and of course the distant past looms very large—it’s simply a matter of stepping onto the stage and being swept up into it. It’s very clean that way.

What’s your favorite thing about the show?  

The economy and effectiveness with which Arthur Miller presents what is a very complex set of relationships and family dynamics.

What’s the best role you’ve ever played?  

Hard to say. Among the best would have to be Shylock and Sir Toby Belch, but I also had a grand time playing Ray in Steven Dietz’s Yankee Tavern here at ACT, while some of the most pure FUN I’ve had onstage was taking on an assortment of roles in J.P. Donleavy’s Fairy Tales of New York—a mortician, the CEO of a spark plug manufacturing company, a hard-drinking denizen of an athletic club boxing ring (simply called “The Admiral”), and an unctuous Eastern European waiter, among others.

What’s your dream role, realistic or not?  

I’ve always sort of had my eye on Reverend Shannon in The Night of the Iguana; there’s also a fellow named Charlie in a beautiful play by Samuel Hunter called The Whale, a 650-pound English teacher who hasn’t left his apartment in months and is dying of congestive heart failure. Nothing especially cheerful, it appears.

What actor would you love to work with, realistic or not?  

There are very, very few actors here in Seattle I wouldn’t like to work with. In the larger world, well, I have always been inordinately fond of Peter O’Toole. That’s now about as unrealistic as it gets.

Where do you like to eat in Seattle?  

Toulouse Petit is certainly a favorite. Lots of good pho around, too. Annapurna, on Capitol Hill, for the momos.

What’s your favorite park in Seattle?  

Cal Anderson. I’ve lived on Capitol Hill several different times over the years, and that park has always been a fond presence.

What’s your favorite place to see theater in Seattle?  

That’s a trade secret; I ain’t sayin’.

Five Friday Questions with ‘Once’ star Stuart Ward

On the streets of Dublin, an Irish musician and Czech immigrant are drawn together by their shared love of music. Once, now showing at the Paramount Theatre, is a theatrical version of the movie that causes peoples’ hearts to swell in 2007 starring real-life musicians Glen Hansard (The Frames) and Marketa Irglova. One of the songs in that film, “Falling Slowly,” won them both an Oscar.  

Now, on stage at the Paramount Theatre, Stuart Ward is playing the role Hansard made famous. Ward, who has been in London’s West End in The Recruiting Officer and Dreamboats and Petticoats and was seen on “Downtown Abbey,” trained at Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. A singer-songwriter, we recently talked to him about his role, his past achievements and Aaron Sorkin.

What’s your favorite thing about your character?

How complex he is. He’s yearning to burst out of his shell and unleash his talent on the world but just doesn’t know how to. He has major confidence problems.

What’s your favorite role you’ve ever played?

This one, by far. As soon as I heard the film was becoming a musical I knew I had to do it. 

What’s your dream role—realistic or not?

I don’t really have one. I prefer to create new roles when at all possible. There are a lot of Jeff Buckley biopics going on at the moment though. I’m a massive fan, so would love to have a go at playing him in a film or a play. 

What’s your favorite stage moment thus far in your career?

I was lucky enough to work at the Donmar in London, which was a massive honor. Probably one of the proudest moments on stage for me.

Who’s your favorite actor you are dying to work with?

My favourite actor is Martin Sheen. I’m a big West Wing fan. They’re all amazing actors on the West Wing though, and I’d  love to work with any of them. I’d also love do anything that Aaron Sorkin has written. 

Your favorite place to run your lines?

In my house with as many distractions as possible. Running lines is boring and I tend not to do it. I prefer learning them in the rehearsal room. 

Your favorite place to see theatre?

The National Theatre and the Donmar in London. Everything they do is pure gold.

Five Friday Questions with ‘Diana of Dobson’s’ star Helen Harvester

Before there was Eliza Doolittle there was Diana of Dobson’s: a young woman, overworked and underpaid with little chance of success, until her chance comes by way of an unexpected inheritance. Written in 1908 by Cicely Hamilton, Diana of Dobson’s is as fresh and relevent today as it was then. We recently chatted with Helen Harvester, who plays the plucky young shopgirl, about living rooms, oysters, and Lisbeth Salander.

What’s your favorite thing about your character?

Diana is fearlessly eloquent. She has a polished, well-reasoned retort for every situation and is unafraid of the consequences of speaking her mind.

What’s the best role you’ve ever played?

Hands down, Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story. I’ve been lucky enough to play her twice. I love her carefully hidden vulnerability beneath her headstrong facade. 

What’s your dream role—realistic or not?

I love the classics. I would love to play Hedda Gabler. As a dream role that doesn’t exist yet in play form, I would totally go for Lisbeth Salander.

The place you run your lines?

My living room, though I usually have to cram it in on the bus.

Your favorite place to see theatre in Seattle?

If we are speaking Seattle proper, then On the Boards. But Harlequin Productions in Olympia is doing some of the best work in the area. They are absolutely worth the drive. Productions are gorgeous and their seasons are always varied and exciting.

Your favorite park in Seattle? 

Discovery Park, where it opens up into fields. It reminds me of running through tall grass as a kid.

The best thing about being a Seattleite? 

Summer. And the oysters.

In Conversation with Dan Kremer, Seattle Shakespeare Company’s ‘King Lear’

Arguably Shakespeare’s finest play, and certainly one of the world’s great tragedies, King Lear traces an aging monarch’s descent into madness. In a production at Seattle Shakespeare Company directed by Sheila Daniels, Dan Kremer has donned the crown of King Lear. It’s a taxing and formidable role, and one that Kremer doesn’t take lightly.

How did the part come about for you at Seattle Shakes?

It was a year ago, in May 2013, when I auditioned for the role. The part was offered to me about two months later. These are unusually long lead times for a repertory theatre, but most directors will say that casting is 90% of the job. With this play, it is wise to take some extra time in deliberation.

George Bernard Shaw wrote, “No man will ever write a better tragedy than Lear.” Why do you think this is so? What’s so particularly powerful about this play, over other tragedies?

Shaw, the masterful writer of comedies, would, of course, appreciate a perfectly written tragedy. There are many elements that coalesce to make King Lear a profound piece of theatre; one is the sheer scope of the play. The story moves like an explosion seen in extremely slow motion from a very personal error of judgement outward in all directions maiming or destroying everyone involved. The inevitability of the destruction magnifies its destructive power. Nothing has come of nothing. 

What are the thrills of taking on the role? What are some its biggest challenges?

The thrills and challenges of this role are closely aligned. Tracing the journey of a man through the vicissitudes of anger, anguish and the annihilation of reason is a thrill that actors adore. On the other hand, the role carries with it such a well chronicled history that it is a challenge to escape the “Lear” of an audience’s imagination. 

What observations do you have about the nature of human suffering having done the part? 

Every retelling of this story illuminates a new aspect of the play for me. At the moment, Lear’s prayer in act 3 scene 4, outside the hovel, “Poor naked wretches, wheresoever you are …” resonates deeply. Gloucester echoes a similar sentiment in act 4 scene 2 when he says, “Heavens, deal so still: Let the superfluous and lust dieted man, that will not see because he does not feel, feel your power quickly.” Both characters come too late to the realization that man has a responsibility to those of less fortunate circumstance. 

What’s it like doing a Shakespeare play within an organization dedicated to Shakespeare plays?

In my career I have had the good fortune to work with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Utah Shakespeare Festival, the Shakespeare Theatre in DC and a number of other companies that dedicate their energy to keeping these works in the contemporary theatrical repertory. It is not an easy task. These plays require large casts. They require players with great physical and verbal dexterity. They ask for an audience that values poetry, intellect and language. It is no accident that as our nation was taking shape in the nineteenth century, the great Shakespearean actors of that time, Booth, Forrest, Macready, and Duse, toured the West. The audience awaiting them had arrived there by strength, wits and dreams. Those remain the qualities that keep these companies alive today.

What’s next for you, acting-wise?

Oh dear. The same as every player’s lot. “Just closed… my calendar is open.”