In “Glengarry Glen Ross,” now playing at Oregon Stage Works, Joe Charter plays James Lingk, the sensitive victim of a fly-by-night real estate scheme. Joe has been acting in Community Theater since 2004, when he played in “Inherit the Wind” at the Camelot Theater. Joe is a lawyer and a part-time judge for Jackson County. We got together at Noble Coffee one sunny Saturday morning.
EH: How is it that you became interested in Community Theater?
JC: It’s something I took up. It sort of grew out of being very left brain/lawyerly. My oldest daughter said, “Dad, you need something creative to do, you have such a brainiac job.” I always thought that performing in a trial in court was like helping to write a script and be in a play.
EH: So it’s a natural progression onto the stage?
JC: It gets under your skin. It’s a way for me to be part of a community for a short period of time. You develop a bond with people. I don’t think most people know the intensity of the work, the dedication and the time that goes into it. You create something, you gift it and you go on.
EH: What do you think draws people to do theater?
JC: We’ve got to admit that there’s some ego involved, being the center of attention, being on stage. There’s some of that. But there’s something else that happens for me; there are moments that can just be magic. You might not get a good review from a critic on a particular night, but if there’s one person that has one insight or magical moment in the audience, that’s what it’s for. To me it’s that very human creative connection in a storytelling venue. I think that’s what draws me.
EH: What was it like working on “Glengarry Glen Ross”?
JC: Bill (Langan) is a great director. There is a comfort level, because he obviously brings so much experience to it. You trust him. To me, a good actor is not so much that you know exactly what to do coming in, but that you are able to adapt to the director’s vision. It’s about the whole picture. A good actor is somebody who can take directions and be flexible.
There is an interesting interplay between doing the same thing the same way every time, and doing it between some parameters to give it some life. That’s why I love to get to the run of the play. When you’re being directed you’re trying to deliver what’s asked. But when you’re running it, it’s finding the nuances of what you can do. And the audience adds a dynamic: their reactions.
I didn’t know that “Glengarry Glen Ross” was a comedy until that first reading. It is really funny stuff. I also began to appreciate, through Bill, how Mamet is the American Shakespeare. He is using the vernacular. There is an attention to detail in the language, and there is a nice rhythm to it. It is a roller coaster ride. Bill talked about tightening up the dialogue and taking the air out, and when we’re right on top of each other it is more exhilarating — it is more rhythmic.
EH: You guys have a nice ensemble feeling.
JC: It’s a very good crew. You spend so much time with fellow actors that you have to have at least respect for them, if not liking and affection. I’m very pleased with the project.
“Glengarry Glen Ross” plays Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays at 8 p.m. with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. through Oct. 19. For tickets and information, call 482-2334.
Evalyn Hansen is a resident of Ashland. She has a bachelor's degree in dramatic arts from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master's degree from San Francisco State University. She trained as an actor at the American Conservatory Theatre, and is a founding member of San Francisco's Magic Theatre. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.