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BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Edward Gero

Anyone who's been attending theatre here in DC over the past 35 years knows why Edward Gero is considered one of our most valuable assets. Classic dramas, Shakespeare, musicals, light comedy, you name it - Edward Gero can do it all, and he is excellent at it all too. It's no wonder he's a four-time Helen Hayes winner with fifteen nominations to date.

Edward Gero in The Corn is Green at the Barter Theatre in Residence at George Mason University. His performance landed him a job as part of the resident company at Folger Theatre on his opening night. Not too shabby for your first professional DC theatre production credit.

He is currently performing in Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes at Arena Stage where he has been seen in The Chosen, Red, and The Originalist. In a staggering 32 seasons with Shakespeare Theatre Company he has performed 70 roles include Helen Hayes-winning turns in Henry IV, Richard II and Macbeth. Other area and regional credits include Red and King Lear at the Goodman; The Nether at Woolly Mammoth; The Night Alive at Round House Theatre; Sweeney Todd at Signature Theatre; and American Buffalo, Shining City and Skylight at Studio Theatre.

You might have also seen Edward in film and on TV. Credits include House of Cards, TURN: Washington's Spies, Die Hard 2, Striking Distance, and narrations for Discovery Channel and PBS.

For many of us though, the past seven holiday seasons have been about going to Ford's Theatre to see Edward play the lovable tightwad Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. As you will read, that is about to change this year, but I think you'll be pleased to know why.

When not performing - which isn't very often - Edward can be found teaching at George Mason University, or enjoying himself out on the golf course.

Edward Gero is a versatile actor and - one of DC's finest at that - who is enjoying his theatre life to the fullest. We are extremely grateful for the many performances he has given us over the years, and are looking forward to plenty more.

For those that are not familiar with The Little Foxes, can you please give us a brief overview of the show?

Well, the play takes place at the beginning of the 20th century in the post-reconstruction south in Alabama. The Hubbard family - Ben (my character), and his brother Oscar, and sister Regina - are the beneficiaries of their father and grandfather's business skills of supplying merchandise to the war effort and reconstruction. They are now poised to use their money to create cotton mills in the south with the help of a Chicago based company, and become millionaires. Each of the siblings has a stake in the business, with the final third coming from Regina's husband, who has been sick in a hospital in Baltimore. The play follows the machinations to get the seed money together in time to close the deal, and reveals all the greed and exploitation of the family hidden underneath their genteel facades.

(L to R) Gregory Linington as Oscar Hubbard, Edward Gero as Benjamin Hubbard and Stanton Nash as Leo Hubbard in Arena Stage's production of The Little Foxes. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

The Little Foxes is one of those plays that receives a fair amount of productions around the country each year. Why do you think after 77 years people still come to see it when it is produced?

Lillian Hellman has created one of the strongest female roles with the character of Regina. She is a literary descendant of Ibsen's characters Hedda Gabler or Nora Torvald. Regina is struggling to gain equal footing with her brothers in business, and is a ruthless as they are to get what she wants. She is a force-of-nature, and one of the earliest examples of feminism in American theatre history. I think that makes the play very relevant. Also, the play is sharply written. It's witty, clever and surprising - everything that a good dysfunctional family melodrama wants to be.

Is this your first time performing the work of Lillian Hellman?

Yes, it is. I have known of the play since college when it was done there, but never had the opportunity to play in it until now.

Edward Gero and Kerry Warren in The Originalist. Photo by. C. Stanley Photography.

You gave a tour-de-force performance as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in The Originalist last year. Can you please bring us up to date on what is happening with that show?

Thanks for those words. Well, I am very happy to tell you that The Originalist will have another run at the Asolo Rep in Sarasota, Florida this coming winter. There have been a few changes in the script and cast, so we are looking forward to exploring the next stage of development of the play. The play runs from January 18 through March 5, so I am also delighted to be stuck in Florida for the winter. The play runs in rep, by the way, with The Great Society, the second play in the LBJ story. Jack Willis, who plays Horace in The Little Foxes, will be reprising his role as Johnson. So Jack and I will get to spend more time together, too!

When not performing, you are on staff at George Mason University. How does one teach a semester while being one of the busiest actors in town?

Ha. With great support from my colleagues! Most of my classes are scheduled on the Equity day off (on Mondays). It makes for a long day from 9 AM until 4 PM. One of my classes is split between Monday and Wednesday mornings. This is one of those periods where I work seven days a week. No day off until The Little Foxes closes. I use my downtime in rehearsals, or between shows to catch up on emails, grade work, and take advising meetings on Skype. Sometimes, I get to sleep. The real support comes from finding creative ways to allow me to go to Chicago or Florida. I was the first to use Mason's technology to distance teach through a kind of advanced Skype technology. It's a juggle, but so worth it. I am fortunate to be able to engage in the work process with students during the day, and practice in the theatre at night.

Edward Gero as Ebenezer Scrooge in Ford's Theatre's production of A Christmas Carol. Photo by Scott Suchman.

This will be the first time in seven years you won't be playing Ebenezer Scrooge in Ford's Theatre's annual production of A Christmas Carol. Will it be weird for you to not spend the holidays performing in that show?

I loved doing the Carol. Being Scrooge was a real blessing. It kicked off the holiday season for so many Washingtonians and citizens visiting Ford's. It also meant a great deal to raise over $500.000 during those 7 years in support of the homeless. We made a difference in our community. But it meant sacrificing my own holidays with my family, too. So, to be back at home for Thanksgiving will be a real treat. I would still be playing in it if the opportunity for The Originalist hadn't materialized. The dates conflicted, but that's show biz. I am thrilled my good friend Craig Wallace will be assuming the mantel. He will be terrific. And who knows, maybe someday Ford's will welcome me back.

In the last few years you have appeared in The Chosen, Red, The Originalist and now The Little Foxes at Arena Stage. What do you enjoy the most about working at Arena Stage?

I love the leadership. Molly Smith has a great eye for new material, and loves the artistic process of nurturing new plays, and mining classic American works. She also has the courage to do works that speak to our political climate. With programming like Camp David, or The Originalist, the upcoming Roe and so forth, Molly has positioned Arena to define what Washington theatre is - a theatre of politics. Her vision captures what makes doing theatre in Washington so unique and exciting: smart theatre for the smartest audiences in America. What could be better?

Special thanks to Arena Stage's new Director of Media Relations Greta Hays and her predecessor Kirstin Franko for helping to coordinate this interview.

Theatre Life logo designed by Kevin Laughon.

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