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Chimes at Midnight with Stacy Keach Week 1

The following article was published on DC Theatre Scene, March 12, 2014.

Longtime stage and screen star Stacy Keach is no stranger to the Shakespeare Theatre Company, having appeared at STC (and won three Helen Hayes awards) as Richard III, Macbeth, and King Lear. He has never before, however, had a blog.

Currently in town to play the massive role of Sir John Falstaff in Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2, Stacy is going to be in conversation with me, STC’s Literary Associate, reporting on his process from inside the rehearsal room. There may be some old theatre stories as well. Stay tuned every Wednesday for the next 8 weeks as we follow Stacy’s journey from page to stage. – Drew Lichtenberg

In this installment, Stacy reports back on his experience on the red carpet for the Oscars and invites us into the rehearsal hall at STC.

Stacy Keach and Malgosia Tomassi at the Oscars (Photo: Frazer Harrison, GETTY Images)

To be honest with you, they wanted me to write an entry to this last week, but I had too much going on. I had to fly to Los Angeles for the Oscars last weekend [Stacy is writing these entries the week before they post] to be with the cast and crew of Nebraska.

It was wonderful. It’s been a few years since I’ve been able to go, and the film being nominated for six Oscars sort of felt like a victory in and of itself. It was great to be at the ceremony with my wife, Malgosia. We got to walk down the red carpet together and her relatives in Poland got a chance to see her.

The red carpet is an unusual place. The security theatre there has to be seen to be believed. If the country were to run with the same efficiency that the Academy Awards do, I think we’d be in great shape.

The show was just ok. There were some off-color remarks that I didn’t appreciate. There was one remark made about Liza Minnelli. It was a bit – It wasn’t well received. It got a big “Oooo” from the audience.

It’s always bittersweet to be at an awards show and to come away empty-handed. I knew once Bob Nelson didn’t win for Best Screenplay for Nebraska that it would be an uphill climb for Alexander Payne to win for Best Director. I think the writing was on the wall for Bruce [Dern] as well. We were all very optimistic and hopeful that he would win Best Actor, but McCounaghey’s performance was just so extraordinary. It was sort of a slam dunk, I think, that he was going to win.

Sometimes it seems like momentum builds for someone’s performance and the narrative gets written and that’s that. Anyway, everything went smoothly, and I was grateful that I could go and not miss too much rehearsal.

Stacy Keach rehearsing the role of Falstaff (Photo: Elayna Speight)

Speaking of rehearsal, we have been putting the show together. We began in mid-January, spent a week or so around the table, and then got to work on both plays (Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2). It’s a marathon task, rehearsing two plays together – about six hours of Shakespeare – and I’ve had to pace myself. It took us about a month before our first runthrough in the room. Most shows go into tech and open after four weeks! It’s been almost two months now since that first rehearsal. We’ve moved into the theatre and started spacing the show for the stage in Sidney Harman Hall.

We had our open rehearsal this weekend, which was a great success. 1,000 people came over two days. I saw one 18-year-old girl walk up to Michael Kahn, our director, and start giving him notes! I don’t often see Michael look scared, but he was terrified.

I did this play with Joe Papp back in the 1960s, and I think this production is going to be just as big a success. I’ve always loved this part. I was thrilled when Michael approached me and asked me to play Falstaff again. I didn’t miss a beat or hesitate. I said yes! The next question I had for him was whether he wanted to do a traditional production or a modern one. I feel that these plays work best in the context of Shakespeare’s setting.

I think the historical aspects are fascinating, with the civil wars, and the rebellion. Michael really knows these plays. He’s done them before, and so have I.

Thanks for listening to me, bud. Talk to you next week!
Stacy Keach

Drew Lichtenberg is in his third season as the Literary Associate at the Shakespeare Theatre Company, and is the production dramaturg for Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2. He holds an MFA in Dramaturgy & Dramatic Criticism from Yale School of Drama.

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