Backstage: Everyman Theatre’s gain is Washington directors’ loss

Correction: Correction:A previous version of this article misidentified the location of actor Danny Gavigan's first play as Everyman Theatre. Gavigan performed "Snow Falling on Cedars" at Center Stage in Baltimore.


Danny Gavigan has joined the acting company of Baltimore’s Everyman Theatre. (Courtesy of Everyman Theatre)
April 15

For the past eight years, whenever Washington directors have needed a tall young actor who can play an athlete, a soldier or a strapping student vigilante, they’ve often called Danny Gavigan, a Columbia, Md., native who has appeared on more than a dozen stages. Soon, they are going to have to find someone else to call.

Gavigan, 30, is making plans to stop dividing his time between Washington and Baltimore, and instead commute via the red eye. As of this summer, he’ll be splitting his time between Baltimore and Los Angeles. It’s a career move made possible by Everyman Theatre, the Charm City troupe that announced last week that Gavigan will become its 12th company member.

“I looked at D.C. as a sandbox,” Gavigan said. “But when it came time, I didn’t want to turn my back on the East Coast. I want to come back here, and I want to remain connected to theater. This company membership has afforded me that very thing.”

Everyman is one of few top-tier theaters in the Washington and Baltimore areas that form their seasons around a core group of actors. (Woolly Mammoth is another.) Talented Everyman company members who still occasionally appear in Washington include Dawn Ursula and Deborah Hazlett. Everyman has not yet announced its 2014-2015 season, but Gavigan says he has committed to at least two and possibly three shows.

If moving to Los Angeles works out, the last play Washington audiences will have a chance to see Gavigan in is “The Admission.” As The Washington Post’s Peter Marks reported this week, Motti Lerner’s controversial play about a massacre of Palestinians is transferring from Theater J to the Studio Theatre, where restaurateur Andy Shallal will rent space and produce the show as a commercial venture starting April 30.

“With his portrayal of Giora, the virile, magnetic Gavigan exceeds the high standards he has set in the past: It’s a heart-crushing performance,” Marks wrote in his March review of “The Admission.”

Gavigan’s past high standards have been set in plays such as “Really, Really,” at Signature Theatre, where he played an entitled rugby player at a private college, and “Bengal Tiger at the Bagdad Zoo,” at Round House Theatre, where he played a traumatized soldier on guard after the invasion. He first appeared at Center Stage in Baltimore five years ago in “Snow Falling on Cedars” and most recently swashbuckled in its 2013 production of “The Beaux’ Stratagem.”

His trajectory is especially impressive for an actor who came to Washington without connections or a conservatory degree. It’s his Wilde Lake High School drama teacher, Sally Livingston, whom he credits with convincing him to try acting. She coached him in monologues and cast him in plays.

Gavigan received a Linehan Artist Scholarship to attend the University of Maryland, Baltimore County but didn’t earn high enough grades to keep it. He dropped out, took a few community college classes and acted in a few community theater productions. He nearly enlisted in the Navy and once applied to be a firefighter, but what he was actually doing, careerwise, was working at Blockbuster. Then, in 2006, he landed a part in the Maryland Shakespeare Festival’s production of “Two Gentlemen of Verona” and decided it was time to quit renting out DVDs.

“Well, honey, remember me when you win an Oscar” were the sincere parting words from his Blockbuster manager.

‘The Tempest’ in Vegas

Los Angeles has worked out well for Silver Spring-based writer and director Aaron Posner. Or more specifically, the Los Angeles Times has. Don’t worry — Posner isn’t moving, but he is reveling in the positive reviews his new adaptation of “The Tempest” is receiving in of all places: Las Vegas.

Posner has reunited with Teller, one half of the magic act Penn and Teller, with whom he created the Folger Shakespeare’s mesmerizing smash-hit “Macbeth” in 2008. This time around, they’ve recruited Tom Waits to write songs and the contortionist dance company Pilobolus to create choreography. The results have people flying to Vegas to do something other than play slots or see Celine Dion sing at Caesars Palace.

“I did indeed head to Vegas last weekend to see ‘The Tempest,’ and I can guarantee that I was the only person on my morning flight reading Harold C. Goddard’s classic ‘The Meaning of Shakespeare,’ ” wrote Charles McNulty, the Times’ drama critic. He was impressed with “the fanciful magic tricks and soulful singing” but expressed some reservations about how smoothly the magic and movement were integrated into Shakespeare’s story.

The local Las Vegas critics were much more effusive and reported that a California run and Broadway bid were possibilities. “The Tempest” is a co-production of the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Nevada and Boston’s American Repertory Theater. So the question at hand becomes: Will what happened in Vegas stay at Harvard? Or eventually end up in Washington?

‘Camp David’ alarm

If a fire alarm ever sounds at Camp David, the siren could signal a national crisis. If a fire alarm sounds at “Camp David,” the play, it’s an inconvenience, but one that 479 theatergoers weathered well at Arena Stage on Thursday.

“This is not a part of the play,” actor Richard Thomas announced, according to The Post’s Manuel Roig-Franzia, who was in the theater at the time. Thomas, who plays President Jimmy Carter, was about to begin Scene 17 and hand a new draft of the peace accord to Ron Rifkin, who plays Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Although cast as world leaders in the show, they deferred to Arena’s stage managers, who evacuated the cast and crew with the efficiency of the Secret Service. The house managers and ushers took charge of herding the patrons out of the theater and onto Maine Avenue SW.

“We have procedures in place for an event like this,” said the theater’s general manager, Ian Pool. “They went, and nobody got hurt.” Other than a small workshop that was nearly over, there were no other events at Arena on Thursday. Pool and his staff spoke with fire officials and decided it was safe to send patrons back inside to see the final scenes of “Camp David.”

Khady Kamara, Arena’s chief marketing officer, says officials have determined that a patron seated in the Kreeger Theater balcony pulled the alarm. They do not know who it was, nor have they initiated any sort of investigation. “We know that alarm was pulled,” Kamara said. “At that point in time, it was not important to determine who pulled it. We just needed to assess that there was no fire.”

Patrons were later sent an apology via e-mail and offered tickets to an (uninterrupted) show. But few have taken them up on the offer.

“A couple of patrons e-mailed us back, to say ‘Thank you, but we still feel we got to experience the show,’ ” Kamara said. “It’s live theater, anything can happen.”

Ritzel is a freelance writer.

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