Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express

Ruminations on theatre, music, and just about anything else that crosses my bipolar brain.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Scott Wichmann Rules

I want to tell you a story from Sunday night's performance of Henry IV, Part 1.

I was standing at the Richmond Shakespeare table at the theatre entrance with Shawn Smith, board member. Being who we are, a Shakespearean actor and an English professor, we were of course talking about baseball. In the midst of a rhapsody about the existential nature of the game, as if on cue, Scott Wichmann appeared up the road with his arms wide for a hug. We hadn't seen each other in person since Shrew, so it was a lovely reunion.

I didn't have a long time to chat with him, but as usual with Scott he made the whole thing about me, not himself. He asked about what I'm up to, and asked about Richard II, coming soon this Fall. As I was about to break off to go get in my place for the show, we were approached by a couple who had seen Scotto the week before in The Odd Couple. They wanted to tell him how great he was in that show (big surprise there). Scott was kind and gracious, all thanks and toothy smile. I had to leave to set up my drums.

A few minutes after the show began, I noticed that Scott, who had come to the show alone, was sitting with some people in the house. Of course, it was the pair who had chatted him up.

At intermission, I caught him just long enough to ask, "Do you know those folks?"

He answered, "I do now. I was like, 'let's hang out.' "

See, this is why I want to be Scott Wichmann when I grow up. This is why Scott rules.

And this is why theatre in Richmond rules, why it's so important for great artists to be supported in this town enough to keep them here. There can be a small-town accessibility here that in larger towns qualifies as "celebrity sightings." Scott's a big-town, big-time talent, guys, and he's far from the only one in town. We're blessed to have him here while we do, not just for his talent but because he comes to the show alone and sits with a pair of fans who just wanted to say they liked his performance.

And he gave the actors a heartfelt one-man standing ovation in a tiny first-Sunday house.

Scott Wichmann rules.

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  • At 7/17/2007 10:33 PM , Blogger Dave T said...

    Amen, Andrew; Scott totally rules and this town is pretty unique. The talent here is amazing and yet, when you bump into a "big star" at Lowe's or Ukrop's, they're generally exceedingly personable. Go Richmond!

  • At 7/18/2007 1:38 PM , Blogger Scott Wichmann said...

    Andrew... WOW. Thank you very much for that incredibly kind and effusive blog posting!! It was really great to see you again (seems we only meet in the blogosphere anymore) and the show was an absolute blast. (I will go on and on about this point...)

    The folks I sat with are named Bob and Marilyn, and they are DIEHARD richmond theatre patrons. I mean it-- they have seen EVERYTHING. Apparently, according to Marilyn, it was at a Barksdale theatre Performance that she first knew she loved Bob. Talk about moving-- They are deeply connected to Richmond Theatre, and they support every theatre in town.

    They knew Jack Parrish from several plays, and they were very excited to see him (She said, "Jack Parrish, we love him, we saw him in 'Money Matters,' he's great!!")I told them I had several friends in the cast, including James Ricks, who blew us all away with his talent and passion, and she said, "Your friend James is WONDERFUL!!" Hell, Bob even gave me a diet Dr Pepper!! What nice people!!

    RST--or is it RSF-- I use 'em both-- should be very proud of the show; I've been singing it's praises to all who will listen. So, are they really going to attempt the ENTIRE history cycle?? Because Phil Brown as 'Henry V' would be worth admission from half a world away. (and then, if they announced that they were doing 'Henry VI pts 1,2, & 3,' I daresay I would give myself scoliosis for a chance to play everybody's favorite crook-backed douchebag) but I digress...

    The fights were wonderful, and they really told the story, as opposed to some stage fights ("now let us do choreography!!") where it goes: 'parry, thrust, parry, thrust, parry, talk, parry, thrust, monologue, die, scene' -- Oh no, they were really dynamic and inventive, and Jacquie O kicked ass in her face-off with Grant. James and Phil's fight was empire-strike-back-tastic, because we'd been waiting for their meeting the entire play, and it didn't disappoint. It was like watching a highly-anticipated sporting event (Colts-Patriots or Yankees-Red Sox) the whole thing had such human depth, and your music was phenomenal as always; You are an incredibly inventive musician (great lullaby ballad) and you scored it so well that the music only ever HEIGHTENED the experience, it never distracted from it. All I can say about the play is that it was an exercise in great storytelling. That's really the only praise any of us ever need to strive to hear as actors & directors, etc-- that cuts right to the heart of what we do... and apparently, how we tell stories matters not just to us, but to the people like Bob & Marilyn who keep coming back to be whisked away to another world for a few hours.

    Good Job, RST-- or is it RSF?? I use 'em both.

  • At 7/19/2007 9:36 AM , Blogger Andrew Hamm said...


    The company is officially "Richmond Shakespeare." The downtown season is the Richmond Shakespeare Theatre, and the summer at Agecroft is the Richmond Shakespeare Festival.

  • At 7/19/2007 9:51 AM , Blogger Dave T said...

    Can I just call you guys Encore!?


  • At 7/19/2007 10:46 AM , Blogger Andrew Hamm said...

    I know, right? The whole point of the name change was to be less confusing... Just don't call us "RSC," as some have done.

  • At 7/19/2007 12:13 PM , Anonymous Jacquie O. said...

    Thanks for the compliment Scott on the fight. I was a bit disappointed that it was going to be so short...I mean I AM supposed to be the Kings right hand warrior, but yet I die in 5 that wus Grant no less (ha!). But Drew was so lovely...he explained to me that he only had a week to teach me how to fight and since I knew notta...that was all he was going to do to be safe. And he was right. I could take on more now...but it really did take the full week to learn 6 moves. Now I MUST take a class because I friggin love it. Do you think they would let me wear the coat and boots to class? Hmmm...maybe if dreamy Drew taught it. What a hottie! You guys have Phil, I have Drew! Of course he has a LOVELY I will just dream for now!

  • At 7/20/2007 6:48 PM , Blogger Frank Creasy said...

    First - I've read enough raving material about "Henry IV" that although I might be a bit jet-lagged from a business trip next Thursday (26th), I went ahead and made my reservations to see the show that night. I'm not going to take a chance on missing it, since it's apparently the greatest thing since sliced bread! Besides, I can almost HEAR Andrew and Dave T. drooling over Jacquie in their postings, so I will tarry no longer!

    Now, as for our friend Scott, and those of similar spirit and talent in this town: I can't speak for Scott, but for me, meeting folks who do theatre and love theatre and folks who just love LIFE is what enriches my existence. Not only that but it TOTALLY drives my performances. No matter what type of character I play, I want to portray a character who is very much alive, even if they are a miserable SOB. I try to soak in an understanding of people all around me (even people I don't like at ALL) because it helps me understand what kind of person I want to be...and what kind of unique performance I can hopefully bring to a role by having been exposed to all the good and the bad humanity has to offer. I think that goes a helluva lot farther than an acting class.

    I dunno...maybe Scott or Jacquie or any number of others would agree. If they said I was full of it, I'd thank them for their candor. In any event, there's a strong thread of both humility and humanity that runs through this theatre community. It's quite evident not only in Scott but in his wife and in Andrew Hamm and in Grant Mudge, etc. etc. I think I'd do a lot less theatre in this town if there wasn't so MUCH to love about it.

    Okay, Andrew, I'm several postings behind - you're on to Vick and other stuff now, but I've been away a few days and I'm trying to catch up!!!

  • At 7/20/2007 10:16 PM , Blogger Robinitaface said...

    I must say, while we're being all oogly-googly, that I've been blessed to have had Scott Wichmann touch my life. I haven't gotten to work with him nearly enough - but the times I have, I was always learning. He has a true desire to know and learn, as well as the desire to see people happy. Both he and Jen are such GENUINE people. I love them both, and wish them all the happiness in the world.

  • At 7/21/2007 2:56 PM , Blogger Frank Creasy said...

    Clearly I was kind of burnt out from traveling yesterday when I posted above (a road trip with in-laws can do that to you), so I'd like to point out that Robin probably said it much better than I did.

    I was trying to make a point about being willing to LEARN and to therefore play and create. Scott taught me that better than anyone, and Richmond Shakespeare totally supports that approach. Exposure to both entities have made me a better actor and a better person.

    I'm an analytical guy (hey, I DO work in information technology by day), and I take that analytical approach to a role. But sometimes you just have to BE, to go with your first thought, and Scott and I have had some great discussions on this in the past. It ties in with some of his spiritual and religious beliefs, and with some of my own as well from the world of martial arts (where I spent some years before returning to the theatre). Creativity is not deliberate and analytical, it is spontaneous, and it can be a fantastic tool both in rehearsal and when performance conditions change unexpectedly. I wouldn't say I was devoid of that knowledge before my association with Scott or with Richmond Shakespeare, but I sure developed it more strongly as a result.

    But as much as the props go out to Scott on this count, I have to also give credit to Grant Mudge and the atmosphere he's developed with Richmond Shakespeare. It's special, knowing as an actor that your specific skills and energy are encouraged in bringing a unique, compelling production to the stage. That, probably more than any other reason, is why each and every Richmond Shakespeare production ALWAYS has numerous welcome surprises. There's no formula but honoring the words and embracing the talents involved, and that allows for infinite variety and enjoyment.

  • At 7/21/2007 3:36 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety...

  • At 7/21/2007 11:52 PM , Blogger Frank Creasy said...

    ...and Richmond Shakespeare makes hungry where most it satisfies!

    Nicely referenced, Anon!!! Point, set and match!

  • At 7/23/2007 8:01 AM , Anonymous Jacquie O. said...

    Frank and Robyn...beautiful said. I just want to touch on one thing you said Frank...your willingness to learn. We come out of school and have this hunger to peruse whatever field our heart yearns we watch, find mentors and become a sponge. I remember being so excited to be in the chorus or listening to older actors take endlessly about craft and just loving to watch my favorite actors off stage night after night and marvel at their work and pray I was soaking it in (making little to no money during this time as well.) And while we do move on to the larger roles (and maybe a bit more money), sometimes we tend to lose our thirst for knowledge and we lose sight of why we got into acting in the first place…it is replaced with this “been their done that…I am entitled attitude”.

    It is sad to me that we lose that yearning to learn that we had early on in our careers. It becomes so much more complicated by the outside image our careers give us (what others say we are…hurtful gossip.) It’s hard sometimes to get back to that pure place…that love of what we do and why we do it. That YEARNING and knowing we are BLESSED to be in this career!

    So thank you Frank and Robyn for reminding me again to stay true and enjoy the ride. Richmond is indeed filled with such gifted and LOVING people. It is not perfect, but in the end we know how to circle the wagons. We are family.

  • At 7/23/2007 8:02 AM , Anonymous Jacquie O. said...

    Sorry Robin...I spelled your name with a "y"!


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