Right before hitting the Pennsylvania Turnpike on I-70 East, you are presented with a choice. You can pay the toll and take a more straight approach east towards the DC area, or you can cut south on 79 and then east on 68 and wind your way up and down through the mountains of West Virginia for free. Having just spent 4 hours with a new bike rack strapped to my trunk, constantly looking in the rearview mirror to make sure it was still there every 30 seconds, I opted to pay the toll and roll on closer to my hometown. Herndon.
It has been 25 years since I last spent some serious time here. 25 years! A quarter of a century! The last time I lived here, I was 17 years old, getting ready for college, and Russ Duerr and I wanted to put on a show. Les Zidel wanted to start a community theatre. And from that the seed for the Elden Street Players was sown. 25 years later and look at that theatre now! Critically acclaimed community theatre spreading its wings and flying as one of the DC Metro area’s new professional theatres. To say I couldn’t be more proud is an understatement.
As a co-founder of another professional theatre company, the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company—now 20 years old, I look back to the past and count myself truly blessed to be able to say I had a hand in two successful theatres in America. So, when I was approached by Evan Hoffman this past winter and asked to audition for the new NextStop Theatre’s inaugural production, I wasted no time in saying yes.
As a full-time professional actor, if I had an agent (most have them, I operate fine without one), I am sure I would have been scolded for jumping so fast. There are a thousand “professional” reasons to “carefully” consider such an offer. When all is said and done and the bills and expenses are paid, I will probably wind up spending a little money for this trip to perform for my hometown. But, coming back home to perform in one of the present day’s funniest plays for a theatre company that I helped start a loooong time back? Just like taking the toll road for my “ease of mind”, performing for the new NextStop Theatre has an “ease of soul” for me.
In the past week, I have had the chance to get reacquainted with Herndon. A lot has changed, but a LOT of the good stuff that made my 17 year old self so happy and comfortable is still here too. Over the next couple of weeks, it will be my honor and pleasure to recount my stay back in Herndon and my process working on the 39 Steps. I hope you will come along with me to enjoy the ride.