An item in the Style section's Backstage column on Aug. 24 spelled the name of a recently deceased Washington Shakespeare Company board member two different ways. The board member, who died Aug. 5, is Richard DeAcetis. (Published 8/27/04)
Michael Cerveris will rock at the Kennedy Center for an hour tonight. The New York-based actor-musician won plaudits playing Giorgio, the male lead in Stephen Sondheim's fierce "Passion," during the center's 2002 Sondheim Celebration. This time he'll perform songs from his new solo indie rock album, "Dog Eared," at the Millennium Stage at 6.
While theatergoers may think of 43-year-old Cerveris as a musical theater performer, that's not how he sees himself. "I had spent so much of my life, my adolescence and teens and twenties playing in rock bands and doing music," he says. And as for acting, he notes that his career "really was nonmusical."
In fact, Cerveris's leap into the world of New York musical theater came via rock-and-roll, first in "The Who's Tommy," then taking over the lead in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch." "The fact that I had a whole life as a rock musician and also was an actor . . . those were the particular skills that were needed for 'Tommy' . . . and 'Hedwig' was very much the same thing," he says.
It wasn't until "Passion" that the theater and voice training he received as an undergraduate at Yale figured in. "I studied voice and stuff in school a bit, really never thinking I was going to use it professionally . . . because it was kind of classical," recalls Cerveris.
It's only been in the last few years, when he started to do so much Sondheim, that he did call on those skills. "I still don't think I have a particularly 'music theater' voice," says the actor, who recently played John Wilkes Booth in the Broadway revival of Sondheim's "Assassins." He played Booth again on videotape in his brother Todd Cerveris's "Booth Variations," a multimedia play that just closed in New York; it deals with brothers Edwin and John and their father, Junius.
As for the "Dog Eared" album, it grew out of heartbreak:
Cerveris had been living in London with a girlfriend, singing with his then-group, Retriever, and working on a television drama. Then the relationship ended, and he came back to New York in 2002. "Lost the band, lost the girlfriend, lost the job and lost the city all at once," he says.
"I needed to kind of take stock, and musically I was writing different things . . . trying to deal with all the feelings that you have when something like that happens. And over time it becomes more . . . of a picking yourself up and moving on kind of record, too."
He adds, with a touch of rocker edge, "I'd come to the end of the Bushmills whiskey bottle that had gotten me through the first week, so it was either buy another one or start writing songs."
Jim Jorgensen and Charlotte Akin may be co-starring in Harold Pinter's "Betrayal" (with Dan Via as the third side of the love triangle), but their professional lives are based on loyalty and togetherness.
Since they arrived here from Dallas in 2001, the couple's tiny Fountainhead Theatre troupe has produced several plays in association with the Keegan Theatre, including "A Delicate Balance," "Come Back, Little Sheba" and the current "Betrayal," which continues at Theatre on the Run in Arlington through Sept. 11.
Under its arrangement with Keegan, Fountainhead paid its own production costs while Keegan's artistic director, Mark Rhea, provided his company's subscriber list and stage (usually the Clark Street Playhouse) on off-nights during Keegan productions.
"We will be eternally grateful to Mark Rhea. . . . He realized that Jim and I had a theater in Dallas and had aspirations to possibly produce in this area," says Akin. "But since we were new, we didn't have an idea of how or where to get started." (The two companies have also shared expenses and artistic visions to co-produce Brian Friel's "Give Me Your Answer, Do" and Sam Shepard's "Buried Child" and "A Lie of the Mind.")
But performing on off-nights (Sundays to Wednesdays, typically) has been tough for Fountainhead's box office. "Since we were using the same mailing list and the same subscribers, it was hard to get people to come there to see a Keegan show on a Saturday night and a Fountainhead show on a Monday night. We wish people would go to the theater every night of the week, but . . . they don't," Akin says with a sigh.
So after "Betrayal," she and Jorgensen, with the help of Arlington County's Cultural Affairs Division, which operates Theatre on the Run, will fly solo to produce Fountainhead's next two shows: Nicky Silver's "Fit to Be Tied" (Nov. 26-Dec. 19) and Oscar Wilde's "An Ideal Husband" (Feb. 17-March 29), all on a Thursday-Saturday schedule.
The couple met and wed in the early '90s in Dallas, where Akin was living and Jorgensen was getting his MFA in theater at Southern Methodist University. They tried Chicago for three years, then returned to Dallas after Akin's father became ill.
The couple launched the New Theatre Company in the basement of a long-established Dallas troupe, Theatre Three. After seven years doing Southwest premieres of plays like "Born Guilty," Jorgensen says, "we grew as much as we could grow.
"Those seven years of doing those shows, it was an enormous learning experience," he adds. His and Akin's goal for Fountainhead is "to continue producing, hopefully at [Theatre on the Run] two to three times a year."
'Glass' Was 96 Percent Full
The Kennedy Center's production of "The Glass Menagerie" starring Sally Field, which closed Aug. 8, averaged 96 percent of capacity during its run.
Previous productions in the center's spring-summer Tennessee Williams festival drew somewhat less (86 percent for "A Streetcar Named Desire," 84 percent for "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"). The three full-length Williams plays averaged 88 percent of capacity overall. Two years ago, the Sondheim Celebration also averaged 88 percent, according to Kennedy Center stats. Those six musicals had much shorter runs (14 to 17 performances each), compared with the 26 to 27 performances for the full-length Williams plays.
* Theatergoers hungry for a glimpse of works in progress can have a feast Sept. 4-6 during the Kennedy Center's free Page-to-Stage New Play Festival, in which some 25 area theater companies will present readings and workshops. Among the offerings: Theater J doing Joyce Carol Oates's "The Tattooed Girl"; Source Theatre Company's 10-Minute Play Competition; Round House exploring the nature of violence in "Columbinus"; Signature Theatre's long-gestated van Gogh-inspired musical, "The Highest Yellow," by composer-lyricist Michael John LaChiusa and playwright John Strand; and Woolly Mammoth's showcase of "Belly of the Whale" by Scott Organ. Though free, some events will require that tickets be picked up on a first-come basis 30 minutes before curtain. Visit www.kennedy-center.org.
* Washington Shakespeare Company recently lost a key board member and a loyal booster of area theater. Fifty-five-year-old Richard DeAcetis, who taught at Oakton High School, died suddenly Aug. 5. He was, according to Artistic Director Christopher Henley, a "particularly avid and enthusiastic theatergoer" who always sat in the front row. Washington Shakespeare will have a celebration of D'Acetis's life after the closing performance of "The Tempest" Sept. 5.
* Open Circle Theater, a troupe devoted to opening all roles to actors with disabilities, will present "Jesus Christ Superstar" Sept. 24-Oct. 17 at Arlington's Clark Street Playhouse. Artistic Director Suzanne Richard will direct and Helen Hayes nominee Rob McQuay, who uses a wheelchair, will play the title role. The theater's seating will be modified to better integrate patrons in wheelchairs into the audience. Visit www.opencircletheatre.org.