Tom Hanks, Shakespearean Actor

April 2, 2010 at 10:27 pm (Asides) (, , , , , , )

Spring break in Cleveland got me thinking about my mom who passed away a few years ago. I owe my love for Shakespeare and the arts in general to her! So here’s a manual for how to create an arts lover without really trying. Well, maybe not a How To manual, but it worked for me! 

I mentioned in my About Me that my mom took me to plays often. I’m sure she had no “plan” other than to go herself and I was a handy and willing companion. The effect of frequent theater-going for me was that it became a habit. I am not a picky theater-goer. I tend toward cheap and convenient community theater over big blockbuster shows. But when time and money have been available, I’ve subscribed to theater series and attended regularly throughout my adult life.

I don’t have a lot of specific memories of the shows my mom took me to. It was long ago, and I was a pre-teen/teen… not the best age for paying a lot of attention. But I know I loved going and it left a big impression.

The Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival performed professional productions at the Lakewood Civic Auditorium, located at Lakewood High School, a couple miles from our home on the West Side of Cleveland. Vincent Dowling came from the Abbey Theatre in Dublin to be GLSF’s Artistic Director in 1976. I think his arrival in town spurred my mom to attend theater (I’m thinking she didn’t get out a lot while she was raising 6 kids). I would have been 10 or 11 years old, just old enough to be able to sit through a play.

Great Lakes Theater Festival

Dowling stayed at GLSF from 1976 through 1984, and I left Cleveland before the 1985 season started, so my theater attendance with my mom coincided with Dowling’s leadership of GLSF. The GLSF moved from Lakewood to Downtown Cleveland’s newly-renovated Ohio Theatre in the early 1980s. We were very excited about the renovated Playhouse Square and attended shows and ballets at all the beautiful theaters there.

I think my mom subscribed to all of the GLSF productions most seasons. Unfortunately, she’s not around to ask anymore, but I’m pretty sure we went to about everything GLSF put on from 1976-1984.

A big thanks to Todd Krispinsky, Marketing and Public Relations Director for Cleveland’s Great Lakes Theater Festival (formerly Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival) who pulled the following info out of the archives about GLSF’s productions back in the 70s and 80s. I put the Shakespeare productions in bold.

1976 Production Director
Shakespeare, William The Tempest  Dowling, Vincent 
Kilty, Jerome Dear Liar (Featuring Vincent) Dowling, Vincent
O’Neill, Eugene Ah, Wilderness! Dillon, John
Shaw, George Bernard The Devil’s Disciple Dowling, Vincent
Shakespeare, William Romeo and Juliet  Glover, William 
Shakespeare, William Hamlet (Tom Hanks as Reynaldo)  Dowling, Vincent 
Manners, J. Hartley Peg O’My Heart Dowling, Vincent
Smith, Frederick In a Fine Frenzy Simon, R Hendricks
Williams, Tennessee The Glass Menagerie Dowling, Vincent
Wilde, Oscar The Importance of Being Oscar (featuring Vincent) Simon, R Hendricks
Shakespeare, William The Taming of the Shrew (Tom Hanks as Grumio)  Sullivan, Daniel 
Gay, John Polly (Tom Hanks as Hacker) Dowling, Vincent
Shakespeare, William Two Gentlemen of Verona (Tom Hanks as Proteus)  Sullivan, Daniel 
Barrie, James What Every Woman Knows Simon, Roger H
O’Keefe, John The Wild Oats (Tom Hanks as Muz) Sullivan, Daniel
Harris, Christopher The Nine Days Wonder of Will Kemp David, John
Shakespeare, William King John (Tom Hanks as Robert Faulconbridge,son)  Dowling, Vincent 
Shakespeare, William Twelfth Night (Tom Hanks as Fabian)  Sullivan, Daniel 
O’Casey, Sean Juno and the PayCock (Tom Hanks as Jerry Devine) Dowling, Vincent
Tarkington, Booth Clarence Thomas, Eberle
Dowling, Vincent Do Me a Favorite (Tom Hanks as Harold) Dowling, Vincent
Coward, Noel Blithe Spirit Reich, John
Shakespeare, William Othello Dowling, Vincent
Shakespeare, William Henry IV, Part I  Mackechnie, Donald 
Thomas, Brandon Charlie’s Aunt Dowling, Vincent
Brown, James My Lady Luck Egan, Michael
O’Neill, Eugene Hughie (double bill with The Boor) Stern, Edward
Chekhov, Anton The Boor (double bill with Hughie) Stern, Edward
Shakespeare, William Comedy of Errors  Ellenstein, Robert 
Shakespeare, William Titus Andronicus Dowling, Vincent
Wilder, Thorton The Matchmaker Silver, Dorothy
  Streetsongs Maltby, Richard (Jr)
Shakespeare, William King Lear  Dowling, Vincent 
Ibsen, Henrik A Doll’s House Stern, Edward
Shakespeare, William Much Ado About Nothing  Dowling, Vincent 
Brown, James My Lady Luck (also performed at White House) Silver, Dorothy
 1982 *Moved to Ohio Theatre   
Shakespeare, William As You Like It  Gruenewald, Thomas 
Synge, John Millington The Playboy of the Western World Dowling, Vincent
  Piaf: La Vie L’Amour! Dowling, Vincent
Dickens, Charles The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby Lanchester+Stern
Thomas, Dylan A Child’s Christmas in Wales Williams, Clifford
Shakespeare, William The Merry Wives of Windsor  Williams, Clifford 
Shaw, George Bernard Blanco! Dowling, Vincent
Beckett, Samuel Waiting for Godot Morrissey, Eamon
Shakespeare, William Henry V  Boyd, Gregory 
Fugard, Athol The Island* O’Connor, Jim
Shaw, George Bernard The Dark Lady of the Sonnets* Love, John
Shakespeare, William W.S. Boys, Barry
Dickens, Charles The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby Dowling, Vincent
Thomas, Dylan A Child’s Christmas in Wales Williams, Clifford
Shakespeare, William The Taming of the Shrew Arrick, Larry
Goldsmith, Oliver She Stoops to Conquer Trainer, David
Wilder, Thorton Our Town Albers, Kenneth
Wilder, Thorton Alcestis and Apollo Bihr, Jeff + V.D.
Wodehouse, P.G. Jeeves Takes Charge Lynne, Gilian
Manners, J. Hartley Peg O’My Heart Bruce, John + V.D.
Shakespeare, William A Midsummer Night’s Dream Dowling, Vincent


Great Lakes Theater Festival

So, how to create an arts lover without really trying? Take a kid out to theater on a regular basis. If you go to a show once every couple months, it’s really not that often, but look how it adds up over time! We saw a lot of shows!

And now the title of this post… did you notice the notes about Tom Hanks acting in the plays? Vincent Dowling discovered Tom Hanks and gave him his acting start at these plays that my mom and I went to. Here’s what it says in Tom Hanks’ Wikipedia article:

It was during his years studying theater that Hanks met Vincent Dowling, head of the Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland, Ohio. At Dowling’s suggestion, Hanks became an intern at the Festival, which stretched into a three-year experience that covered everything from lighting to set design to stage management. Such a commitment required that Hanks drop out of college, but with that under his belt, a future in acting was in the cards. Hanks won the Cleveland Critics Circle Award for Best Actor for his performance as Proteus in Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona, one of the few times he played a villain.

I think I probably saw all the plays Tom Hanks performed in for GLSF. We also enjoyed Colm Meaney early in his career. He was married to Vincent Dowling’s daughter Bairbre, and they sometimes performed together.

So, take your kids out to the theater. It is habit-forming, and who knows… you might create a lifelong theater lover!

Great Lakes Theater Festival

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  1. Tue Sorensen said,

    Heh – it’s a good thing some people from the old country wade across the sea and stuff some much needed culture down the throats of you new worlders, eh? LOL! 😉

  2. Ted Leach said,

    That’s wonderful. I had a few early and strong experiences with theater and music, but nothing as regular as that. Still, they did make quite an impression on me, as I imagine that habit did for you.

    • orwhatyouwill said,

      Thanks. You know, I never appreciated the impact until I was much older… maybe in my mid-30s. I think I was semi-embarrassed about going at the time. I doubt if I told any of my friends! We just quietly had our theater nights AND the other thing she did was take me to little hole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurants! We’d go out to eat together on our theater nights and she was not afraid to try little places in dumpy neighborhoods. That’s another habit that has stayed with me!

  3. David Martyn said,

    Think you might be missing a play in the 1976 season. I’ll check. I was a volunteer there through the mid 70’s, and have some of the playbills and programs. The Devil’s Disciple was absolutely brilliant.

    I moved out of Lakewood in 1977, and was sorry to hear they’d moved downtown. It was a simply phenomenal opportunity to see live theater.

    • orwhatyouwill said,

      Talk about neighborhood theater, eh? Really cool. But the downtown theaters are not that far and they are really incredibly beautiful inside. It changes the whole experience to more of an “event.”

  4. Smiling on Bergman’s White Night « Or What You Will said,

    […] note that I added some photos to my Tom Hanks post, courtesy of the Great Lakes Theater […]

  5. Shakespeare Out of the Closet | Shakespeare Blog from NoSweatShakespeare said,

    […] meant to be seen in performance. I am lucky that my mom took me to many plays when I was a kid, so I caught the theater-bug early on. In the Washington DC area, where I live, there are always multiple Shakespeare plays in […]

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