When you cut your teeth as an actor playing Shakespearean kings such as Coriolanus, portraying a wise but cutthroat medieval lord on television isn’t much of a stretch.
Charles Dance, best known recently for his role as Tywin Lannister on “Game of Thrones,” will be in town Sunday to accept the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s William Shakespeare Award for Classical Theatre at the annual Harman Center for the Arts Gala. The honor — and crystal swan of Avon — typically goes to an actor or director with serious theatrical chops, as well as pop culture gravitas.
Recent winners of the Will Award have included “Lion King” director Julie Taymor, “Alien” star John Hurt and “Downton Abbey” actress Elizabeth McGovern. Like those honorees, Dance will be feted with a performance at the theater, followed by dinner at the lavishly decorated National Building Museum.
“I’ll take anything that’s going,” Dance said, cheekily, by phone from his home in London. He’s been quite busy since the demise of the Lord of Casterly Rock at the end of Season 4 of “Game of Thrones.” In the already buzzyworthy drama “Euphoria,” Dance stars opposite Charlotte Rampling, Eva Green and Alicia Vikander. He also recently wrapped “That Good Night,” a drama starring his friend Hurt, and the Puritan period thriller “Fanny Lye Deliver’d.”
“All of those films — with any luck — will be screened at Cannes next year,” Dance said.
Other films from Dance’s recent résumé include the “Ghostbusters” reboot and “The Imitation Game.” There’s no question that Dance, 69, has range. But he was chosen for the Will Award because, in his younger years, he trained and toured with an unparalleled troupe of British actors at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Alongside actors including Patrick Stewart and Judi Dench, Dance took on roles in “Hamlet,” the “Henry” plays, “As You Like It” and “Coriolanus.” Four decades later, the period is looked back on as a sort of golden age of the Royal Shakespeare Company, but Dance says the actors were hardly aware of their potential star power. They were simply repertory actors who worked well together.
“I think all of us thought we were quite capable,” Dance said. “There was much more of a collective attitude. That is, collectively, we thought we were pretty good. It is dangerous as an actor to think that you can be good on your own.”
Dance often understudied the late actor Alan Howard (the voice of Sauron in “Lord of the Rings”), whom he regarded as a mentor.
“He was a phenomenal actor. His voice was an instrument. It was a voice that actually drove some people out of the theater,” Dance said.
“I used to listen to him every night and watch him try different things, like he was saying, ‘Tonight I’m going to change this.’ He spoke verse better than anyone that I know, and he had a phenomenal ability to cram all of his lines in very quickly.”
Dance recalled that once, shortly before departing for a U.S. tour, the Royal Shakespeare Company was performing “Henry VI” but needed to brush up on another tragedy. While onstage, instead of carrying a prayer book, as Shakespeare said the king was, Howard was holding a copy of “Coriolanus.”
Dance hasn’t worked with the RSC since 1989 but says he still relies on his classical training.
“The scripts for ‘Game of Thrones’ are superbly written,” he said. “And we’re usually wearing leather and suits of armor and that sort of thing. Those of us who aren’t taking our clothes off, that is. I felt at home. I felt I was doing Shakespeare.”
The Schwartzes are all in at Theatre J. Twenty-eight Schwartzes, to be exact. Plus the ones onstage.
In honor of its season-opening comedy “The Last Schwartz,” Theater J is offering a 15 percent ticket discount to anyone with the last name Schwartz. In the play, however, the name is not exactly a badge of honor, as adult siblings squabble their way through a reunion and worry that no one will carry the Jewish line to the next generation.
Thus far, 28 Schwartzes have taken the theater up on its offer, a Theatre J spokeswoman said. All subscribers with the last name of Schwartz also were invited to opening night of the play, which runs through Oct. 2.
Discounted tickets are available for all patrons — regardless of their last names — during Washington’s annual TheatreWeek, which runs through Oct. 2. In the past, theaters could set their own discounts; this year, organizers at the umbrella group TheatreWashington persuaded the 30 participating theaters to make allotments of $15 and $35 tickets available.
“It’s like restaurant week,” said Amy Austin, who took over TheatreWashington last year. “It’s meant as an encouragement to try out a new place if you’re a theater hobbyist, or to get a group of friends together for a fun evening out.”
Tickets are available directly through theaters or through the mobile phone app TodayTix.