BWW Interviews: Denver Center Veteran Sam Gregory and his Love of Theatre, Shadowlands, and his Wife!
Sam Gregory - Thank you so much for speaking with me and BroadwayWorld today.
Now you have quite a history with the Denver Center, how many seasons have you been with the company?
I started work here in 1992 under the previous administration of Donovan Marley. I was based out of San Francisco at the time and I would come in and do a show or two, as a lot of actors kind of do. When Kent took over here in 2005, he asked me to join the company, so I moved out here. It was his first season, I think, which was 2006, but I came out here in 2005 to do Donovan's last season and then stayed. So I've been out here, as far as seasons go, this is my........ninth season in a row! And it's been great!
In your history at the Denver Center......
What has been your favorite role?
I really enjoyed playing Richard Hannay in The 39 Steps. That was really fun. Also the rest of the cast was really great. There was Victoria, Rob, and Larry and the show was a huge hit and it was really fun to do every night. Now, rehearsing it was really really hard but playing it was really fun.
What has been the most challenging role?
That's a good question.... In many ways one of the most challenging roles was playing Mr. Herari in Ruined, because he was so totally different than me. He's a Lebanese diamond merchant in the Congo. It was such a stretch that it was very challenging that way. It was also challenging doing American Night where we were all playing like ten characters. That was challenging just because constantly changing characters and changing costumes back stage was a challenge. I think in terms of like the overall most difficult role to tackle in terms of the complexity of it was Voisey in The Voise Inheritance. You can take any of those guys, I mean, I know these are long answers to short questions, but that one was a difficult role. It's a Mamet adaptation of an earlier play and trying to mesh the two styles was really difficult.
What has been your funniest role?
One of the first roles I had here under Kent was A Flea In Her Ear and I got to play Carlos, who's a gun-toting Spaniard, and he comes in and he thinks his wife is having an affair when she isn't. So he goes around trying to kill everybody (laughter). It's out of context, but it's pretty funny in the play.
Now you are currently in Shadowlands, What is your role in this and how has the process been for you?
I play Christopher Riley. The play takes place in Oxford and it's all about C.S. Lewis, who wrote the Narnia Tales and he was also known at the time for being a Christian Apologist and it sounds like he's apologizing for Christianity, but really what that is, is he was a philosopher in a sense who argued for Christianity and issues in it. So this play kind of tackles his faith and a crisis that he has in his faith at Oxford in the 50's. I play one of the Dons; one of his friends, one of his fellow professors there. I think in the play I serve as comic relief. There's a few of us, four of us, characters who only show up once or twice every act when some much needed humor is injected into the scene. That's my role. And it's one of the easiest roles. It's really an easy one. Because it's a great play, people really seem to respond to it. There's 30 scenes and they flow right along, and the two main characters are very compelling. Everybody in the play seems basically kind and intelligent, and the way the arguments are made, the way the debates are had, and the journeys that people are taking is very compelling. So it's been very easy.
Has this play touched you personally?
Yes. When I first read it I thought it was very moving. You know my wife recently went through a breast cancer thing about a year or two ago. And in this play a character does go through cancer, unfortunately, and I don't think I'm giving too much away about the play, but this character succumbs ultimately to it. The issues that C.S. Lewis deals with when she's ill and making a recovery and then she's not. It was sort of similar and very personal to me during the process. The first week or so I was a mess, and then I got over it. You know my story was and still is a happy ending. She did quite well and her breast cancer is in remission and probably will be forever. She got very good percentages that way. But I completely understand his fear and his sadness and the feelings he has going through the process of being a bystander when a loved one is going through a major health crisis.
How interesting that you bring up your lovely wife, Sylvia, because that's my next question.Talk to me about your love, Sylvia...How long have you two been together and how did you two meet?
Sylvia and I met when she was a grad student at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and I was a visiting professional actor. We were both single and we were both out of state. So here we are in Montgomery Alabama and we don't know anybody and we were just sort of thrown together and we really hit it off quite quickly. It was 1997 when we dated off and on and then she moved to New York and we got married in 2002.
So, complex question. I know that you have quite a talented theatrical history here in Colorado. What are your observations on the evolution of Theatre in Denver?
In the last ten years I can speak to that. I've seen a lot of good theatre happening. A lot of small companies have come and gone but a number of them have really taken hold. The people who are running these small theatre companies are passionate and talented and doing really exciting work. There is a surprising amount of theatre in this town for the size of it. I've of course watched the Arvada Center get better and better with their musicals and the fare that they deliver and it's really impressive. I think the nice transition that's happened in the last several years here at the Denver Center is that a lot more local actors, and directors, and theatre practitioners have been included in the company and included in the productions. It's a nice mix to have somebody like Jon Arp come in and you work with him and then he goes off to Creede. You start to feel, even working here, that you are more a part of the community and the community is feeling more a part of the Denver Center. It's a very nice evolution.
If theatre were not an option in your life, what do you think your occupation would be?
I always wanted to be an architect, but I have no math skills, so that never would have happened.(laughter) When I think more and more on it, I really think I would have ended up doing some sort of psychotherapy probably. Probably be some form of psychologist.
Is there a show that you absolutely adore and would do over and over again?
Noises Off if I could. If I could physically take it I would do it. I think it's almost a perfect comedy. I know people have seen it and they just say "Oh, I've seen it." But did you see Colorado Shakes version of it? God, that was fantastic. That was hilarious. It was so nice to sit back and watch it. I've done it three times but to sit back and know what's coming and to still see a fresh take on it. I mean every joke in it, I keep laughing at. It's a genius comedy.
What is your dream role/show that you've always wanted to do and you've never done before?
You know, I've never gotten to do any Checkov. I would love to do a Checkov play. That said, they are doing Vonya Sonia Marsha and Spike, I'd love to do that! It's like a funnier version of Checkov. But in all reality, someday, I would like a shot at Checkov because it's such a challenge. Uncle Vanya would be great. That's my favorite of the bunch. I get it the most. The others are a little more removed for me. I understand everybody's en wei but I don't think it plays as well as Uncle Vanya which you really get. It's about family and all that interpersonal stuff. I guess that's my answer. It's something I've never done and that's why I'd like to do it.
What's next for you after this?
I'm going out to Colorado Shakes and I'm doing Barrymore in I Hate Hamlet, which is going to be a major challenge. He's got like this five minute sword fight. Jeff Kent was like "We have to start working on that right now." So we have to start working on that right now. But it's really funny. I'm Barrymore's Ghost, which is fun. He gets to be seen by some people and not by others and there's a whole fun schtick that he gets to do. I'm also playing King Henry in Henry IV, Part I. And that's a challenge right there. You have to take all this history and politics, which 450 years ago would have been immediate. It'd be like seeing a play about the Clintons. But I'm looking forward to it. Michael Winters, who did ten seasons on The Gilmore Girls is going to be at Colorado Shakes this summer playing Fallstaff. It's kind of impressive. You know the Colorado Shakespeare Festival is really coming along but for my money they really don't have enough rehearsal time. We have two weeks from first rehearsal to first audience. It's just not enough time. So what happens is, if you're lucky, everybody guesses right, you know.... "I think the scene is about this." And you're like "Okay." And if all those pieces add up, it's a great show. But if somebody guesses wrong or somebody is off on the wrong track then there is no time to fix it. There's only time to kind of time to get your first shot and it and then it's up. So if there is a mistake it kind of ends up on stage. That's the one frustration, I wish we had more time.
Again thank you so much for speaking with me and BroadwayWorld today and I look forward to your performance in Shadowlands at the Denver Center!
The Denver Center Theatre Company presents William Nicholson's SHADOWLANDS playing the Space Theatre now until April 27th. For tickets or more information, contact the Denver Center at 303-893-4100 or online at www.denvercenter.org.
PHOTO CREDIT: Jennifer M Koskinen