"You'd be surprised how many good plays get done with a bad director, but never with a bad cast." — Doug Rowe,
EH: So you came to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival as an actor?
DR: Yes, I was with OSF for five seasons. It was marvelous working there because I’d never worked with such an incredible level of actors. The actors that work at OSF are world class actors, really remarkable people, totally dedicated, hard working. It’s quite amazing. I’ve done Broadway, off Broadway, regional theater for years, but never was the caliber of actors as high as it was here. So it was a thrill to be a member of a company that was very distinguished.
I’ve been totally blessed; I’ve always worked either as an actor or as a director. I was the executive director of the Laguna Playhouse for 18 years. I’ve just never had a lull. When the Regional Theater Movement began in the 1960s, it was the rebirth of theater. It just blossomed. Professional actors were working all over. Now every area has at least one regional theater.
It’s so different here, in Ashland, at the Festival, with such a large company doing large plays. Most of the regional theaters don’t do that. They do small cast plays because of the economics of it all. This has happened in just the last couple of years. With the economy the way it is now, it’s perilous. As an actor, to get started and survive, L.A. and New York are the only places that you can work out of, to keep that work coming in. For the overall amount of work available, that’s where you’ve got to go.
EH: You think the actors make the play?
DR: The writer and the actor are the two key ingredients; the director helps. You’d be surprised how many good plays get done with a bad director, but never with a bad cast.
EH: You worked with Eva Le Gallienne?
DR: I did a play with her in New York. She was wonderful. We had several scenes together; I had one “drunk” scene, and she said, “Young man, you’re a fine young actor, but you’re a horrible drunk. The way to play a drunk is, rather than to try to act drunk, try to act sober.” It worked just great.
That’s one thing I want to tell the people who are starting out: As elated as you can be by the work and how enriching it is, the other side of it is that there is heartbreak for an equal amount of time. It is heart wrenching; you put your soul into something and it doesn’t pan out for one reason or another. And it’s usually in a strange way, you never know, “Why did that not work? What happened there?” I’ve done 10 television pilots and only one of them has sold. There were some wonderful pilots, some good stuff.
EH: Does having a mellow lifestyle, living in the country with your family, balance out the highs and lows?
DR: I’ve been a fisherman all of my life. I’ve always found the country. I’m sure that it has cost me on one level of success. But to look back at it, every time I made a decision that perhaps cost me, I gained so much more in my life. I had it all. If I had to do it again I would do it the same way. I was blessed.
DR: I’m looking forward to doing “The Nerd.” I’ve never seen a play quite like it, where the audience starts laughing on the first page and they never stop. We’ve got a good strong cast. The toughest thing for us in that play is to hold for laughter; it’s just one gag after another.