Hope you're having a great week, TheatrePeople!
Today I'm excited to introduce you to a phenomenal Broadway and television actor, Gene Gillette. Recently, Gene is best known on stage for his role in Aaron Sorkin's To Kill a Mockingbird, yet his experiences run far and wide: from War Horse to MacBeth to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time with The National Theatre. Aside from his long list of characters on stage, Gene is incredibly generous and talented. He loves the craft and the diverse elements which come together to tell a great story in the theatre. I hope you enjoy his interview as much as I did!
What’s a show that inspires you? (explain away!)
There are three that really standout: The Red Shoes by Kneehigh Theatre. I just found their work to be exceptional. The way they marry all the disciplines (dancing, acting and musicality) into their plays I am just in awe of what they do. The second would have to be Hamlet. I just think it’s the perfect play. And the third would be The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Again, this a play that I felt found a way to, not only tell a compelling story, but to also heighten it with projections, choreography, set design and soundscapes. I love the theatre that really immerses you and those two shows definitely did that.
What’s one of your happiest moments in theatre?
Oh, I have so many. That’s why I strive everyday to find a way to continue to be an actor. I love everything about it. Breaking the script down before rehearsals start, the camaraderie that come when forming a company, rehearsing which is where you find your collective version of the play and then performing. Doing a show 400 times and the struggle it takes to keep it fresh and up to snuff. I guess if I had to pick one moment it would be opening night of Hamlet when I was able to play the Dane. Halfway through the show the entire power grid went out for two city blocks. Including ours. We held the show but we were fortunate enough to have some actor friends who lived nearby in the audience. They offered to go home and bring some battery powered spotlights. So we did the show by candlelight, flashlight and spotlight for five hundred people. It was beautiful and haunting and lent a nice, raw spookiness to the evening. We were just going to mark the big duel at the end but just as the scene started BOOM all the lights went on and we were able to do the full fight. It was an awesome night!
What’s the biggest ‘fail’ or goof you’ve seen on stage? (do tell the story)
One of the horses legs fell off in the horse fight between Joey and Topthorn during the War Horse tour one night but it’s a credit to those amazing puppeteers that she held that thing right to her body, performed the entire scene and got offstage...and I doubt the audience had any idea.
Why do you love theatre?
Theatre is a truly living and breathing piece of art that will never be exactly the same. Everyone who sees it will see something different. To steal a phrase I heard once “theatre is art written in water.” As soon as it’s happened it’s over. Theatre productions aren't meant to go on forever. They burst of storytelling and, when all the elements come together and theatre gods smile on you, they can be unimaginably beautiful. Both to see and be a part of.
Theatre is for...
As I was trying to kind of say earlier Theatre is a form of art completely different than TV or Film. There are no second takes. No editors. There is only here and now and this moment and what happens in that moment between the actors and the audience is very unique. I hope we don’t lose it.
More Amazing Theatre People!
More about Gene
Gene Gillette is an American Stage and Television actor.
Most recently he appeared in the Broadway production of Aaron Sorkin's adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird which has been called "The Most Successful American Play in Broadway history" by 60 Minutes. While a part of To Kill A Mockingbird he was also a member of the first ever production of a Broadway play to appear at Madison Square Garden.
He is also known for portraying 'Ed Boone' in the Broadway First National Tour of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time for The National Theatre.
Other theatrical credits include: War Horse (Second Broadway National Tour), MacBeth (w/ Frances McDormand), The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Shakespeare Theatre Company), Romeo & Juliet, As You Like It (Folger Theatre), A Streetcar Named Desire (TheatreWorks) and others.
He has appeared on multiple television shows, including "The Punisher, "The Blacklist", "Quantico," "The Good Wife," "Elementary," "Person of Interest," "Ringer," "Madam Secretary," "Instinct" and "Law & Order: SVU."
Gene received his MFA in Classical Acting from George Washington University and his BFA in Acting from University of Colorado, Boulder.
He currently resides in New York City.
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