RANDALL NEWSOME - AH, WILDERNESS! GOODMAN THEATRE
If not for a comment by Walter Matthau on the set of Dennis the Menace, Randall Newsome might well be still behind the camera.
The affable, engaging and very busy actor who is currently appearing in the superb production of Eugene O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness! at Goodman Theatre, was serving as an assistant director on set with the task of keeping Matthau on schedule and away from watching a baseball game in his trailer.
“Randall, you belong on the stage!” Newsome recalls in the distinctive style of Matthau’s voice. It was then that Newsome realized that often times others can see things in you that you cannot see yourself. It was all about listening, a skill he feels is essential to everyone on stage and off.
So, Newsome took Matthau’s words to heart and lots of stage work followed including regional theatre at Shakespeare Theater Company and McCarter Theatre, Off-Broadway with Irish Repertory Theater and New York Theatre Workshop and Broadway in Enemy of the People (Manhattan Theatre Club), A Touch of the Poet (Roundabout Theatre Company) and Inherit the Wind. Last seen on the Goodman Theatre stage in Rebecca Gilman’s A True History of the Johnstown Flood, he has performed in Chicago with Steppenwolf, Straw Dog, and Lyric Opera, among others. Featured, supporting and principal roles in television and film projects include Boardwalk Empire, The Good Wife, House of Cards, Washington Spies, Hidden Figures, Straw Dogs and a dozen more. This fall, look for Newsome in a featured role in the action film Geostorm (Warner Brothers) and coming up, Dirt Road to Lafayette(BBC Scotland/Singer Films (UK).
Newsome credits his versatility to his training at the Ringling Brothers Clown College and as a member of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey 125th Edition – Red Unit. In a moving moment of our conversation, he describes the long-ago experience – the sights, sounds and smells of the circus and seeing the joy on the faces of the audience as they looked up at the aerialists – as if it were yesterday.
In O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness! at Goodman Theatre, Newsome plays Nat Miller alongside Ora Jones as Essie Miller, the parents of Richard Miller, who worry deeply about their son who is struggling with adolescence and young love on the Fourth of July in a small 1906 Connecticut town. The brilliant production of O’Neill’s nostalgic comedy is a play that director and the retiring long-time Goodman producer Steve Scott notes is “funny and sweet, but as profound in many ways as some of (O’Neill’s) tragic plays.”
There is much more in our fascinating June 21st conversation with Randall Newsome about the play, the special relationship of a father and son, the rehearsal process and the joy of working with Steve Scott and the amazing cast and production team to bring the O’Neill classic to the stage.
Themes in Ah, Wilderness! … “This play offers the notion that if you love each other and support and look for the positive … beautiful things will happen.”
Lessons learned in the circus … “Listening is perhaps the best leadership skill … I found that I was effective by stopping and waiting for things to happen … when you are really doing it in the right circumstance it is funny. I learned the value of just being still and paying attention … a discovery in the most unlikely of arenas … the circus.”
Goodman Theatre’s leadership role in Chicago … “Even when I lived here several years ago before I was working in the theatre, I knew the Goodman to be the house of directors and that is because they were not just voices of playwrights but also voices of directors that had ingenuitive ideas regarding storytelling, not just in content, but format and manner of presentation.”
Working with Steve Scott … “In a way, he is the most childlike one in the room … so open and generous, and he laughs more than any of us. His gift to me in this show is his generous spirit.”
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