Sunday, April 30, 2006

Scotty Turns the 'Double-Play' at Actor's Guild of Lexington!!

Plan for Professional Actors Scores a Run

Wichmann's performance in 'Rounding Third' showed talent & versatility


By Rich Copley
HERALD-LEADER CULTURE COLUMNIST

Rick St. Peter's effort to import fully professional actors and directors to Actors Guild of Lexington has been spotty thus far.

Frequently, the efforts have left the door wide open for local naysayers to complain that they could think of a Central Kentucky actor or director who could have done just as well or better.

Scott Wichmann's turn in Rounding Third might be where St. Peter makes his point.

In the show about an odd couple of Little League baseball coaches, St. Peter has his actors trading off the roles in the two-person play each night. Richmond, Va.-based Wichmann is paired with Adam Luckey, whom St. Peter calls "Lexington's leading man," and he gets no argument here.

But Luckey struggles with the transfer, while Wichmann seizes all the possibilities of both characters. Now, we have to qualify this assessment with a few things. Luckey was coming off a demanding and well-received performance as Jack in AGL's The Importance of Being Earnest.

Also, the subject matter of Rounding Third, baseball, is right in Wichmann's strike zone, while it's a bit more foreign to Luckey. Yes, an actor has to morph into a lot of characters, many of whom have nothing to do with him in real life. But actors are human, and it's not surprising that they might cotton to some characters more than others. In Rounding Third, Luckey excels as the character less interested in baseball but isn't as convincing as the baseball-obsessed man-child.

Wichmann, meanwhile, brings energy and conviction to each interpretation.

Now, does this mean that Wichmann is a better actor than Luckey? Not necessarily. Put these two in another show to role-flip, and you may well get an entirely different result.

But in Wichmann's performances, we get a look at how complete and well rounded a professional actor can be, and it's hard to think of an argument for a local thespian equalling or bettering Wichmann's imaginative performances. It leaves you anticipating his Tartuffe at Actors Guild next spring.

But it probably won't change some of the angst over importing professionals as opposed to casting locals.

Building Actors Guild into a professional company using actors who are members of Actors Equity, the stage actors union, was one of St. Peter's mandates when he came to the theater.
It might not have been the fairest thing to do to a young, first-time artistic director. In a town where only a few Equity actors live, bringing in the pros might mean some local favorites don't get roles they might otherwise have gotten, and that requires diplomacy and a delicate balancing act.

Shaking things up is not necessarily a bad thing.

Many a theater troupe has stagnated under cliques that dominate the cast lists. But if you're going to displace the locals, the pros have got to bring it, which hasn't always happened. In the St. Peter era, Actors Guild has yet to pull away from the local-theater pack in terms of consistent quality.

Because of a financial crisis, AGL had to scale back its pro ambitions this season, and St. Peter has done well with the challenge, imaginatively using the local talent he now knows better.

Lexington's indigenous talent base is too good to just toss aside in the name of progress.

But if you love theater, you have to be excited by the prospect of Lexington one day being home to a theater that consistently presents fully professional shows. And if that comes to fruition, the theater can be a launching pad for local actors to get their professional credentials, and give some of our resident Equity actors a place to play.

Of course, a key to ascending to the next level is a theater-going public willing to support the work with money at the box office and in contributions. In Lexington, the jury is still out on that.

For folks who are interested, Wichmann's turn in Rounding Third gives Lexington a taste of what a professional performer looks like on a local stage, what that future could look like.

It looks good.

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