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BWW Interview: James Michael Reilly in EQUIVOCATION at STNJ

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Equivocation will be the next play performed on the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (STNJ) stage from September 16th through October 4th. Written by Bill Cain and directed by Paul Mullins, the show is making its New Jersey Premiere. The play is a fictional imagining of the "birth" of one of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies. It promises to intrigue Shakespeare fans, history buffs, conspiracy theorists, political junkies and everyone who enjoys a great, wild tale.

In Equivocation, the Bard and his troupe receive a royal commission to dramatize the events surrounding the infamous Gunpowder Plot. The artist must confront the demons of his past, his present, his obligations to the truth, artistic integrity and his two families, his actual one and his theatrical one. Broadwayworld.com had the opportunity to interview James Michael Reilly, who plays the leading role of Shakespeare (called "Shag," after the playwright's favorite old spelling of the name). He spoke with us about the play and his career.

Reilly is renowned to audiences nationally and internationally. Credits at STNJ include The Taming of the Shrew, The Grapes of Wrath, As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, The Comedy of Errors, The Rivals, The Three Sisters, and That Scoundrel Scapin. He has performed Off-Broadway in The Comedy of Errors, and in Europe in the International Tour of West Side Story. Regionally, he has performed at the Denver Center, Geva Theatre, the Indiana Repertory Theatre, the Delaware Theatre Company, and many others. In 2013 he played Amos Hart in Chicago to much acclaim at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina. Television credits include "Unforgettable," "The Blacklist," "Boardwalk Empire," "Elementary," "Person of Interest," "Law & Order," and "Louie."

Reilly was born in Ohio and raised in Convent Station, New Jersey. His earliest interest in theater was explored at Morristown High School. While watching a play there, he remembers thinking that he would deliver the lines differently. In his senior year of high school, he was cast in the leading role, Mortimer, in Arsenic and Old Lace. In these early years of his theatrical career, Morristown High School faculty members Dorothy Leon and Jane Wintz guided his acting and encouraged him to pursue theater. Later, at Indiana University, Howard Jensen became an important mentor.

Now an accomplished thespian, Reilly commented about his work with Bonnie Monte, Artistic Director of STNJ. "Bonnie has been a constant inspiration to me. Her talent and vision has guided the theatre and all the people she works with."

Reilly also spoke about Joseph Discher who has directed many STNJ productions. "I continue to admire the work of Joe."

We asked Reilly about some of the actors and plays that he esteems. "I have always thought that Marlon Brando was a great actor and particularly like his performance in A Streetcar Named Desire." Reilly recently read Brando's autobiography, "Songs My Mother Taught Me" and said the book was "candid but not complimentary."

We spoke with Reilly about Equivocation and his upcoming role. He pointed out that the play is a fictional representation of the backstory to the creation of one of Shakespeare's great works. It is set at the height of the Bard's career in 1604. Reilly commented, "The play's characters are fascinating...historical figures seen through the lens of Bill Cain's imagination." He further stated, "These were very turbulent times in the British Empire. Bill Cain, the playwright, told our cast that the play is meant to depict a very rough-and-tumble world...and that 'We have to grab the play by the balls.'"

Reilly spoke to us about the actors and creative team for Equivocation. He had high praise for director Paul Mullins and said that Mullins works with his cast as an "artistic collaboration." Mullins last directed Reilly seventeen years ago in Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well. The only cast member that Reilly has worked with before is Kevin Isola so the rest of the troupe is completely new to him. Reilly is enthusiastic about the production and commented, "Equivocation has an incredibly talented cast."

To learn more about the career of James Michael Reilly, visit his web site at www.jamesmichaelreilly.com.

Equivocation runs from September 16th through October 4th. The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is located at 36 Madison Avenue, Madison, New Jersey, 07940. For ticketing and more information call the Box Office at (973) 408-5600 or visit http://shakespearenj.org/.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of James Michael Reilly


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