Lawrence Redmond is currently portraying the roles of Uncle Eric Drosselmeyer and Rat in Round House Theatre’s production of The Nutcracker. Previous Round House Theatre credits include A Trip to Bountiful, Permanent Collection, A Lesson Before Dying, A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Misanthrope, and Rum and Coke. Lawrence’s many and varied recent DC area credits include Elmer Gantry at Signature Theatre; How To Succeed… and Triumph of Love at Olney Theatre Center; A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It, Romeo and Juliet at the Shakespeare Theatre Company; The Music Man and Ruined at Arena Stage; The Winter’s Tale and Henry VIII at Folger Theatre; Rock ‘n’ Roll at Studio Theatre; Jerry Springer: The Opera and Reefer Madness: The Musical at Studio Theatre 2nd Stage and New Jerusalem, A Bad Friend, and Life in Refusal at Theatre J. He is a two-time recipient and six-time nominee of the Helen Hayes Award, and recipient of the Mary Goldwater Award.
Lawrence is an example of a performer who is constantly working and no two roles are alike. His range of everything from musicals to Shakespeare makes him of the most versatile actors in the area. There is one more week left to catch Lawrence Redmond and a dynamite company of performers in Round House Theatre’s The Nutcracker. It’s another chance this holiday season to see a great talent doing what he does best. I have seen Lawrence in a number of productions and trust me it’s always a great time.
What was your first professional performing job in the DC area?
My first job as an actor came the summer I graduated from high school. I got $60 a week working for a small Children’s Theatre company that has long since departed. It was called Library Theatre. I would get up at 6:30 in the morning and carpool with the other actors out to Wolf Trap Farm Park and perform at the Theatre in the Woods every weekday morning during the summer of 1976. It paid for my college meal plan my freshman year. My first job as a member of Actors’ Equity was in January of 1988. I got cast as Uncle Sid Davis in Ah Wilderness! at The Studio Theatre. It was a typical situation for me, at the age of 29 playing someone in their 50’s. But it was a lot of fun.
There are many versions of The Nutcracker out there so what makes the version at Round House Theatre stand out from all of the others?
It’s not the ballet. It’s darker. It’s closer to the E.T.A. Hoffman story, which in some translations reads like an acid-trip at Christmas time! Our production at Round House Theatre is one of the few produced outside of its creative home at the House Theatre in Chicago. It resonates on many levels: Responsibility, Family, the nature of grief, coping with loss. I like to say ‘It’s an adult children’s story. Not everything in life is as it should be. But you need family to get through it.’ And family can mean different things to us all. It’s also a gorgeous company of artists to play with. The cast is a dream, some of whom I’ve known for over 20 years, and some, I’ve never had the pleasure to play with before. And Joe Calarco, our director, has marshalled a stunning production. Hurry! We close Dec. 28th.
You have played a wide variety of roles at some of the area’s finest theatres. What are some of your favorites?
My work as an actor is varied because of the way I approach the craft. I admit I like to disappear, maybe even transform, though it’s harder to do that at the age of 56. A favorite example was Jerry Springer: The Opera at Studio Theatre 2ndStage. On my final performance, I was introduced to Richard Wright, the composer and author, who had flown in from London. He looked at me and said, “And who were you?” “I was Jerry,” I answered. “Oh my!” Wright replied, “You are ‘Old School’ aren’t you?” Other roles might have different elements to them. Doing old Joe in Damn Yankees at Arena Stage, I was talking to Matt Bogart, who was playing young Joe. We had a little tussle about who was watching who. He said he was watching me in my two scenes to get my mannerisms. “Let me do you,” I told him, “the audience lives with you longer.” During one duet where we were both singing, I had to match his tone and his very breath. I don’t think I’ve ever listened so hard in my life! Ultimately, the best is to play with someone you respect and admire. Mostly because I don’t get roles that allow me to go toe-to-toe with other actors, those opportunities are rare. Sometimes, I get a line or two with someone. Sometimes it’s a scene. And sometimes it’s just you and the audience. My last effort at Round House Theatre was playing Alfred Morris in Permanent Collection. Timothy Douglas, the fabulous director, talked with me a lot, since I had five scenes with the audience; monologues that punctuated the plot. We came up with huge backstories for each of them, and I loved every minute of them. Sadly, it was a dynamite cast and I never got to share the stage with any of them. I still have to audition for most everything I get, but it keeps me humble. And it keeps the skill set up.
What is it about the DC theatre community that makes it so enjoyable for an actor to work here?
Michael Willis, a longtime actor in town, has an expression I quote often: The Community is the Company. I’m not the most impartial booster. I was born, bred, and mostly educated here. I went to New York in 1981, as a 23 year old Character Man, which is an oxymoron. After 11 months, I returned. I was fortunate to be present at the flowering of DC as a theatre town, and it has been a pleasure to watch it grow and mature as an artistic home for many. I’m a little more parochial about it than most. Nothing gives me more pride than hearing artists from other places marvel at what we have here. The size of the town is manageable. The audiences are probably the smartest in the country. And actors get to work. Not just study, and audition, and hope to work. We work! Look at the cast for the upcoming production of Uncle Vanya at Round House Theatre. Where else in the country do you get to see actors who have worked together over 30 years, as well as not one, not two, but four present and former Artistic Directors from the area onstage at the same time? I’d die to be in that production! But I’d mess up the formula, because the balance of the cast is so exquisite. I’m panting for opening night!
After The Nutcracker closes, what is next for you?
After The Nutcracker, I’m ‘between pictures’ as the old Hollywood saying goes. I’m doing the first show of next season at Signature Theatre. They haven’t announced their 2015-2016 season, so I must be a bit circumspect. It’s a fascinating complicated part, and I am looking forward to it. Until then, I have an excruciatingly long gap in my schedule that I am hungry to fill. Anybody need a character guy from now till June?