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Caesar and Cleopatra

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Charles E. Gerber
January 15, 2013

What is your job on this show?
playing Caesar/Producer.

What is your show about?
Shaw's entertaining revision of history when two of the strongest of personalities of antiquity met when he was the Roman conquerer over 50, and she,a rival to the Egyptian throne, yet a girl of 16.

When did you know you wanted to work in the theater, and why?
By the time of my my Bar mitzvah at 13 and almost got applause from the congregation after I sang my Haftorah.Type of theater? Anything that is good and true, regardless of style, as long as it reflects somehow what is human.I'm thought of now as a "classical actor", and have been trained to be, but professionally I started with Musicals, and have never lost my love and respect for them. One of my favorite gigs in the last decade was playing Maurice in the National Tour of Disney's Beauty and The Beast. It was a privilege.Born and raised in Chicago. Went to school there for a bit, and then was invited into Group I at the Juilliard School's Drama Division.

Why do you do theater (as opposed to film, or TV, or something not in the entertainment field)?
There is nothing like sharing with an audience breathing the same air as you, whatever is happening in the story, and whatever discoveries your character makes. I ADORE playing on Film, Television, Radio, WEBISODES. forgoshaskes and pray to do much more of them.....but nothing can touch the IMMEDIACY of theater.

What are some of your previous theater credits? (Be specific! Name shows, etc.)
In Chicago, two shows of which I'm proud was doing A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, at Marriott in 1979 where I played Hysterium to the comic genius, Avery Schreiber"s Pseudolus, who became my dear friend and mentor to the day he died in 2002. Also THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ENTIRE WORLD AS SEEN THROUGH THE EYES OF COLE PORTER,at the Body Politic, and where I met my wife to be of 28 years, Carol Bennett Gerber, a brilliant director and very beautiful woman who eventually convinced me that I could play great classical roles and directed me in several here in NYC such as Richard II, Bottom, Brutus, Trinculo, Iago, Dogberry, Shylock, and my first Tartuffe via Paul Weidner's translation ten years before I undertook playing it again while staging it at Workshop Theater Co. Carol passed away nearly five years ago, and all of my Shakepeare productions and Annual WILL-A-THON Festivals have been dedicated to her memory since then. Going back however to 1984-85, I had the privilege of playing the lead role of Arnold, in the National Tour of TORCH SONG TRILOGY, cast personally by Harvey Fierstein just after he'd won his first two Tony's as playwright and actor( unprecedented and yet to be repeated!), which was an enormous honor from him to be so entrusted.Before that my Broadway debut was in "OH, CALCUTTA!" which allowed Carol and me to move here permanently from Chicago, and my next B'way production was in'92 as Osric in HAMLET for Roundabout. Carol and I were among te founding memberts of Workshop Theater(then the 42nd St. WorkShop)in '94, where we both directed new and classical plays ever since.

Who is more important in the theater: the actor, the playwright, or the director?
Who's more important? Gads! " In the beginning was the WORD." Truly, if it ain't on the page....no hope. HOWEVER, the value of a truly GOOD actor in enabling a production cannot be measured, and as a director, I find it that to be a good one, is perhaps the most elusive of the three.

What was the last show you saw that really excited you, and why?
"ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS'...because, a) it was among the most PRECISE pieces of theatrical comedy I've experienced, and b) one of my prize students, Natalie Smith, made her brilliant Broadway debut in it!/ About our show :my first speech as Caesar, is Shaw's perfect intoduction to this nearly idealized character of a military/political genius,and of Shaw's articulation of his Superman, which he was to develop soon after. And then all the dialogues with Cleopatra(Cherrye J. Davis) are delicious, as are just about all the scenes. I love this play very much, and am thrilled that Tom Herman is directing this reading, and SUPER THRILLED that the Great, Richard Easton, whom I've admired since I was a student, is gracing us with his presence as the "Voice of Shaw", Narrator! I know, there is an enormous amount of ideas for the audience to discuss for some time after, yet I consider this among his wittiest and most entertaining of plays. 3 Nights only, and FREE(YET NO DONATIONS TURNED AWAY)! COME!