BWW Interview: John Keabler in THE WINTERS TALE at The Shakespeare Theatre of NJ

BWW Interview: John Keabler in THE WINTERS TALE at The Shakespeare Theatre of NJ

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey's concludes its 56th season with its sixth and final Main Stage production, The Winter's Tale. Last seen at The Shakespeare Theatre in 2008, Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte directs this new production. Veteran company members Jacqueline Antaramian, Jon Barker, Erin Partin, John Keabler, Raphael Nash Thompson, Seamus Mulcahy, Patrick Toon, and Ames Adamson are among a cast of 20 actors. Performances begin December 5.

Nothing could be more perfect for the holiday season than this wintry and passionate romance. High drama launches the tale and propels it into a world of bohemian pastoral gaiety. A stunning denouement of magical rebirth and a moving reunion bring the play to its conclusion - one that embodies the spirit of the holidays and what they represent at their core. The Winter's Tale is a show for the entire family, and the Theatre is proud to present special family matinee performances during the final week of the production. had the pleasure of interviewing John Keabler who plays Polixenes in The Winter's Tale.

BWW Interview: John Keabler in THE WINTERS TALE at The Shakespeare Theatre of NJ

(Pictured: Patrick Toon as Camillo and John Keabler as Polixenes. Photo credit: Samantha Gordon, 2018)

John Keabler is in his third season with The Shakespeare Theatre. Company credits include George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, Bassanio in The Merchant of Venice and Clarence inRichard III. Theatre credits include: Perseverance Theatre: Cyrano de Bergerac; Contemporary American Theatre Festival: A Late Morning in America (a one person show about Ronald Reagan); Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park:Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley; Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival: Ken Ludwig's The Three Musketeersand As You Like It; Syracuse Stage: To Kill a Mockingbird; The Shakespeare Theatre Company: Henry IV, Parts One and Two; The Old Globe: Romeo and Juliet, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Hamlet, Measure for Measure, In This Corner (world premiere); Portland Stage Company: Arsenic and Old Lace; Virginia Stage Company: K2; Florida Studio Theatre: The Columnist (regional premiere). Film: Faith, Love and Whiskey, Sugar (starring Alice Ripley); Television: Madam Secretary, 30 Rock, NASCAR: The Rise of American Speed, The Men Who Built America, All My Children; Training: MFA from The Old Globe.

What was your very first performance opportunity?

I transferred to my third college and having no idea what I wanted to major in, I thought it best to drop out before I wasted more time and money. One night I was driving the lonely back roads of western Kentucky when on the local NPR station I heard that a community theatre was audition for A Woman Called Truth. Because truth seemed to be eluding me, I thought what the hell..I got the part and my life finally clicked into place.

Did you always know you wanted to be an actor or was there a turning point?

I was a college athlete and had no desire to be an actor or to pursue a life in the arts. When I did my first play, it was the first time I felt a direct correlation to my sports training. Being on stage felt natural in my body. It is the closest I have felt to a calling.

How has your education influenced your career?

I started acting later in life, and my stage education came from working for a true repertory company called Horse Cave Theatre. I graduated with a degree in Outdoor Recreation and Creative Writing and worked as a Ranger for the National Park Service. One day I realized that all the good paying Park jobs dealt with pushing papers and sitting behind desks. I abhorred that life. Since it seemed I was on the poverty path, I thought I might as well do something that filled me with purpose and joy. So for a few years I worked for any theatre that would hire me. When I felt I was ready for graduate school, I auditioned and got into The Old Globe training program.

We'd love to know a little more about the cast and creative of The Winter's Tale.

Bonnie Monte and the staff at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey cultivate one of the last theatres to maintain a company atmosphere. On the STNJ stage I have either seen or have worked with almost everyone in the company (cast and creative). I think this brings an intimacy to a company that would normally take months to establish. And you need that intimacy for a play like The Winter's Tale. STNJ is a rare artistic home and it's extremely close to New York City. There is no excuse to not support this theatre.

Tell us a little about your character, Polixenes, and the some of the challenges of the role.

Polixenes is probably the most difficult Shakespearean character I have played due to the combination of his strange psychological state and his complex language. On the surface he appears to be the moral superior to Leontes. But looking at the words and the syntax he employs, Polixenes is a deeply troubled man who could have easily taken the Leontic path.

What would you like area audiences to know about this season's big finale?

Men need to see this show. Men need to do more artistic things in general. But men NEED to see stories where other men don't deal with their egos and their psychological baggage. When men don't deal with their feelings honestly, they end up blaming other people or other groups of people for their own lack of self-awareness.

What's next for you?

Speaking of men who do not deal with their baggage...I will be heading down to The Shakespeare Theatre Company in D.C. for Richard III directed by David Muse.

Anything else, absolutely anything, you want BWW readers to know?

BroadwayWorld is the best!

You can follow John Keabler on Instagram @johnkeabler.

The Winter's Tale will be performed at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey from December 5 to December 30. Patrons can purchase tickets at The F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre located at 36 Madison Avenue in Madison, by calling the Box Office at 973-408-5600 or by going online at

Photo Credits: Headshot, courtesy of John Keabler

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From This Author Marina Kennedy

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