John is a first-timer with The WordPlayers. A founding member of Foothills Community Players in Maryville and a graduate of UT’s Theatre program, his favorite recent roles include Harold Hill (Music Man) and Tito (Lend Me a Tenor) with FCP. He is an Air Force retiree living with wife, Melanie, and daughter, Alex.
1. We want to talk about your upcoming role in Ragtime, but first, we’ll give you a chance to plug your current project. What is it?
I am currently working on “Greater Tuna” with the Foothills Community Players. We’re at the Clayton Center for the Arts in Maryville on May 4, 6, 11-13. It’s a fantastic comedy featuring two actors who portray 20 characters. We’re very excited about it, and thanks for asking.
2. You are a very versatile actor with a lot of experience. How and when did you first become interested in acting and what do you enjoy about it?
Thank you. When I was 13 I was driving my parents crazy one summer. They asked Tom Jones with Maryville College and Blount County Community Theatre if he had something for me to do. He said, “let’s put him in a show and see what happens.” I did three shows that summer. Soon after the first week of rehearsal, he told my parents “I think we have created a monster.” I did more than 40 shows in high school and college and ended up getting a degree in Theatre from the University of Tennessee. What I enjoy the most…creating the character and sharing that with the audience. The highest compliment I sometimes hear: “I did not see you up there, I saw the character.”
3. Tell us about one of the most outstanding memories of your acting career.
Snoopy in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” I got to play that role in high school and college. I love how Snoopy creates his own world in which he lives and shares that with the audience. He is in total control until he hears Charlie Brown say “it’s suppertime!”
4. You have one of the leads in Ragtime. Tell us about your character. How does Tateh’s faith impact his journey in the play?
Tateh is a Jewish immigrant from Latvia. He is set in his ways, and his inherent distrust of others causes him to be very protective of his daughter. With no mother, his daughter relies on Tateh for everything, and he feels unworthy yet compelled to do what it takes to provide for her. After finding his first success, he is quick to realize that his daughter shall never want for anything again. I look forward to learning more about Tateh from our director during rehearsals for Ragtime. I feel a bit of a connection to Tateh…my mother immigrated from Europe after World War II.
5. Formal rehearsals are just about to begin, but I know you have been working independently on the music. What do you think so far?
LOVE IT! So memorable, so touching. My role has a wonderful mixture of songs with lyrical harmony and quick, jazzy rhythms. I am very excited to work with the incredible singers cast in the other roles I get to sing with.
6. Why should people plan to see Ragtime?
Our country’s history is full of drama, pathos and comedy. Ragtime is full of emotion and history. Come to see the show and learn about the conflict in the early 20th century of our nation as immigrants flocked to our shores seeking a better life. I think the audience will learn, laugh, and cry, and they will find out what incredible talent we have in our neck of the woods.