Actor Andrew Veenstra returns to the Shakespeare Theatre Company as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet through November 6 following roles there in Two Gentlemen of Verona, As You Like It and The Heir Apparent. Don’t miss this artist whose early history ranges from Cats to Willy Wonka, but who dreams of Audrey Hepburn. Catch the full story in this week’s Take Ten.
1) What was the first show you ever saw, and what impact did it have?
When I was in kindergarten my mother took me to see Cats in Boston. I had an aisle seat, one of the cats rubbed my head during the Prologue: Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats, and that was it for me - I was sold on the magic of theatre.
2) What was your first involvement in a theatrical production?
I played Willy Wonka in my third grade production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I don’t remember too much about the production except that they made us wear WAY too much makeup, and I wasn’t even playing one of the Oompa Loompas.
3) What’s your favorite play or musical, and why do you like it so much?
That’s such a difficult question to answer, as it seems to be forever changing based on where I am in life, or what projects I’m working on. If forced to answer, I’d probably have to say Hamlet – it has to be one of, if not the greatest play ever written.
4) What’s the worst day job you ever took?
For about 2 weeks between the end of college and my first Off-Broadway show I worked as a server at the Olive Garden in Times Square. The unlimited free breadsticks for staff isn’t enough to make me ever go back.
5) What is your most embarrassing moment in the theatre?
During a performance of War Horse at The Kennedy Center here in D.C., I started to feel the effects of food poisoning. Stage management had trashcans on either side of the stage that I began to… employ in between scenes. Fortunately I was able to keep that part of my performance in the wings, but my microphone did pick up one unfortunate sound effect... I blamed it on the horse.
Apart from working with such an incredible group of artists, it has to be the language of this play. Anytime you get to live in the world of Shakespeare is such a joy and an honor, but Romeo and Juliet, maybe the most famous play of all time, adds another level to that. Each night I’m humbled and excited at the awesome opportunity I have to say these words, with these people, at this theatre.
7) Other than your significant other, who’s your dream date (living or dead) and why?
I’d probably have to say Audrey Hepburn. I often feel I was born in the wrong era, and would have loved the opportunity to live and work in 1950’s Hollywood/Theatre.
8) What is your dream role/job?
It’s such a dream just to be able make my living as an artist. Too many people don’t get the opportunity to do what they really want in life, and I’m so fortunate to have that opportunity. I have a long list of roles that I’d love to play from Edmund in Long Day’s Journey into Night to King Lear many years from now, but honestly, any job I get is a dream job, because it allows me to continue to live my dream.
9) If you could travel back in time, what famous production or performance would you choose to see?
John Gielgud’s Hamlet.
10) What advice would you give to an 8-year-old smitten by theatre / for a graduating MFA student?
Acting is all about truth and honesty, and I feel the best actors are the ones who have lived the most interesting lives – who have lots of experiences and people to infuse what they do. So for anyone interested in story telling, from an 8 year-old to a graduating MFA student, I would say, live your life. Try lots of new things. Get to know lots of new, interesting, and different kinds of people. Travel. Read, watch, listen, and keep learning. Have fun. And let that infuse your work and your life.
ANDREW VEENSTRA is an Affiliated Artist with the Shakespeare Theatre Company where he has performed in As You Like It (Orlando), The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Valentine) and David Ives’s The Heir Apparent (Eraste, World Premiere, dir. Michael Kahn). His New York credits include Lincoln Center Theater: Hamlet (Hamlet) and Off-Broadway: An Error of the Moon (John Wilkes Booth). He performed in the First National Tour of War Horse (Albert Narracott) and regionally, Lion in Winter (King Philip), Measure for Measure (Claudio), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Lysander/Nick Bottom), Tartuffe (Tartuffe), Dial “M” For Murder (Max Halliday), The Seagull (Medvedenko), Parade (Frankie Epps), The Tempest (Ferdinand), Beauty and the Beast (Lumiere), A Christmas Carol(Young Scrooge). Film and television credits include Blue Door, Rabbits Foot, Kingdom of Hills (Short, Festival Award for Best Acting), Unveiled, Bones, Law and Order: SVU. He is a past winner of the Kennedy Center's American College Theatre Festival. Find him at AndrewVeenstra.com.