Many of you will recognize actor Oliver Wadsworth as a DTF favorite. Most recently he played Oscar Wilde in the 2015 summer hit- Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily. He also can be remembered for DTF productions of Murder on the Nile, Barefoot in the Park, and Noises Off. He has performed on Broadway and Off, and is known for his extensive regional career.
We are thrilled that he has branched out into playwriting as well and will be presenting his original one-man show- The Tarnation of Russell Colvin as our first Local First Festival of New Plays feature on Sunday, November 1st, at 1:00pm/ Northshire Bookstore.
We caught up with Ollie to ask him some questions about his process and share these with you here.
1. What prompted you to write this play?
I wanted to tell this extraordinary true story that happened in Manchester Vermont in 1812. Very few people seem to know about Russell Colvin. He was a mentally impaired man who was murdered. The more I read about him the more compelling and delightful I found him, but during his lifetime, very few people seemed curious or interested in understanding him. The writing coincided with an incident in my own life whereby my nephew was diagnosed with Autism. Because of this, I felt the need to explore a character who was struggling to overcome both personal limitations and limitations others had set on him.
2. What was your process in writing the play and how much does your skill as an actor engage your process as a writer?
The story is stranger than fiction. When I started telling it from different narrators points of view (Russell Colvin being one) it allowed me to explore all it’s incredible ramifications AND do the kind of acting work I love. Doing multiple character tracks in plays has become an addiction. If there was a twelve step program – I’d be working it. I get all fired up. For me. playing all the characters is a joy akin to Bottom’s in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
3. How do you see this play eventually being produced?
This is a one man show in the spirit of one man shows in the 19th century. The production should look like it fits in a trunk and could be moved from one venue to the next in a stagecoach. The actor does everything: Changing costumes, scenery, etc. At one point Russell Colvin is on view in a Tableau Vivant of the Vermont countryside in the Albany Museum. If it is a set piece, I could see me dragging it on from the wings.
4. What part of your process do stage readings play in the development of new material?
Each time I learn so much. The final ingredient is the audience and their interaction. Each step forward in the development of this play has come from a stage reading.