I’ve done a lot of acting projects over the course of my life. I started when I was just a child, and over the course of time have had the good fortune to get to play in a lot of sandboxes ranging from film to television to the stage.
Some of these projects are accomplished in a matter of days, while others require the investment of years of one’s life. Similarly, sometimes you form a quick friendship on set, while other times those relationships are deeper, more intimate, and last a lifetime. They are the bonds you form in the trenches and in every battle those trenches are different.
The COVID-19 pandemic that shut down our country had a significant impact on the entertainment industry. ‘Will there ever be live theater again?’, was a question on many people’s minds. A few years had to pass, but eventually live theater made its return.
BACK ON STAGE
This year I made my first appearance on stage since the shutdown, hamming it up in the hysterical comedy I Hate Hamlet by Paul Rudnick. Produced by Elgin Theatre Company outside of Chicago, it was one of the most enjoyable productions in my career – and a lot of that had to do with the people involved.
I was cast in the role of TV star Andrew Rally who is hired to play Hamlet despite being woefully unqualified. It was a delightfully fun character to get to play pretend as. I got to play a heartthrob demonstrating why he has no business reciting Shakespeare’s words, and then got to go full circle and show a glimpse of legitimacy by actually delivering Hamlet’s most iconic speech with conviction and confidence.
For the rest of the parts, director Regina Belt-Daniels assembled an incredible collection of many of the best actors in the area: David Gasior as the ghost of legendary actor John Barrymore, Trace Gamache as Andrew’s virginal girlfriend Deirdre McDavey, Travis Greuel as narcissistic Hollywood producer Gary Peter Lefkowitz, Karen Mayberry Greuel as real estate agent and part time psychic Felicia Dantine, and Alison Thomas Hage as Andrew’s agent and Barrymore’s former lover Lillian Troy. Not to be left out, the cast also featured the wonderful talents of sign language interpreter Andrew Ross.
Each year the Broadway World Regional Theatre Awards recognize achievements in the performing arts around the country. In the Chicago awards, I Hate Hamlet has been spotlighted with seven nominations: Best Director, Best Play, Best Ensemble, Best Performer, and three people in the Best Supporting Performer category.
ALL HAND ON DECK
I think the nomination I’m most excited about out of all of them is the Best Ensemble nod. I Hate Hamlet was a success because of the combined talents of everyone involved, and that’s what the ensemble category celebrates. The nomination for Best Play is also quiet a compliment, indicative of the talents of everyone contributing onstage and off.
Our production of I Hate Hamlet would not have been possible without the passion, dedication, and directorial talents of Regina Belt-Daniels. While I encourage you to vote for Elgin Theatre Company’s I Hate Hamlet in all the categories it is nominated, I have previously singled out Gina’s status among the top voter getters in the Best Director of a Play category: The Case for Regina Belt-Daniels as Best Director – Broadway World Regional Theatre Awards.
I am deeply honored to have been nominated in the Best Performer in a Play category. Creating a character that makes such a nomination even feasible would not have been possible without the talents of David, Trace, Travis, Karen, and Alison to play opposite. Of them, three earned Best Supporting Performer in a Play nominations: David as Barrymore, Travis as Gary, and Trace as Dierdre. Karen and Alison turned in performances that easily could have been nominated as well.
I’m not sure who is in charge of the Broadway World award nominations or what the criteria is, but I it is refreshing to see so many wonderfully talented performers celebrated in the regional awards program. And I commend Broadway World on giving the people who see live theatre in each region the ability to vote for their favorite performers.
And that, brings us to you. We’d love your support.
While I encourage you to vote for I Hate Hamlet in the Best Ensemble Performance and Best Play categories, Regina Belt-Daniels in the Best Director of a Play race, and myself in the Best Performer in a Play division, the Best Supporting Performer in a Play category is a bit tricky. I could easily make the case for you to cast your vote for Trace, Travis, or David – but the problem is you can only vote for one of them.
What to do? I guess the best solution is to give a rundown on why I enjoyed working with each of them and what they brought to the role. Then it’s up to you to decide.
David Gasior is one of my favorite actors to perform opposite. We had appeared together once before in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. During that dramatic production and this most recent comic venture, David has proven to have an incredible range of character. I love his commitment and work ethic. As John Barrymore, David got to chew the scenery a bit – and it was a delight to be a part of it. During rehearsals as we developed our characters, David was always coming up new and interesting ideas to bring the play to life for the audience. He is a consummate professional, making extra time to work together outside the normal rehearsal period on the fencing scenes to ensure they were visually exciting to watch and safe to perform. I would play opposite David anytime the chance arises.
I had never worked with Travis Greuel before, but I have been a fan for years. I had seen Travis performing as King Triton in The Little Mermaid and as Julian Marsh in 42nd Street and had been totally floored. You’ll notice those roles are both from musical theater productions. The truth is, I Hate Hamlet is one of only a few non-musical productions Travis has ever performed in. Granted he has a glorious singing voice and I highly recommend seeing him in musicals, but Travis blew me away as the self-centered ego factory that Sir Gary of Beverly Hills is in this play. And he never crossed the line into absurdity. He’d toe the line – get right up to it and tease it a bit, but never cross it. Acting with Travis Greuel is just plain fun.
As was the case with Travis, I had also never worked with Trace Gamache before – but had seen her perform and based on the superb quality of her performance had suggested she be brought in for an audition. We read a number of very talented actresses for the role of Dierdre, but we knew within about 30 seconds of her audition that Trace had to play the part. Despite the ludicrous nature of some of Dierdre’s persona and beliefs, Trace always made her believable. Working opposite Trace is very natural. She is very in-the-moment, always connected to her character and to the scene. She’s a cooperative actress, very willing to give on stage. Trace Gamache is one of the finest actresses I have ever performed opposite.
No matter if you vote for David Gasior, Travis Greuel, or Trace Gamache, you’ll be voting for a very worthy performer. They are all incredibly talented, as was everyone involved in the show. I do encourage you to vote for one of them though. Any one of them would be a deserving winner.
If you want to voice your support for the company of Elgin Theatre Company production of I Hate Hamlet, you can cast your vote at https://www.broadwayworld.com/chicago/voteregion.cfm
I Hate Hamlet is nominated in the following categories:
- Best Direction of a Play – Regina Belt-Daniels
- Best Ensemble Performance
- Best Play
- Best Performer in a Play – Rikki Lee Travolta
- Best Supporting Performer in a Play – Trace Gamache
- Best Supporting Performer in a Play – Travis Greuel
- Best Supporting Performer in a Play – David Gasior
No matter where you are in the world, I encourage you to support live theater in your community. Be sure to keep tabs on The Life and Times of Rikki Lee Travolta for theater recommendations throughout the Chicagoland area.
Whether it’s a Broadway tour or your local theater company, it’s all worth applauding for. And, please, keep the gift alive – instill a love for theater in the children in your life as well.
Peace. Love. Trust.
Rikki Lee Travolta
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This was an ensemble extraordinarie and I wish Karen Greuel and Alison Hage were also nominated.Thanks for another great blog, Rikki Lee! We were all great together!