Five questions with Tom Loughlin
"Romeo and Juliet" director Tom Loughlin
Tom Loughlin is more than just an award-winning actor. He is chair of SUNY Fredonia’s Department of Theatre and Dance and a Distinguished Teaching Professor. He performs in Buffalo whenever he can; his resume includes: Kavinoky Theatre, the Irish Classical Theatre Company, and a widely praised portrayal of Oscar in The Odd Couple, which just concluded its run at the Jewish Repertory Theatre. For more than a dozen summers, Loughlin has spent his break from school working with Shakespeare in Delaware Park six nights per week. He will direct SIDP’s first play of the season, Romeo and Juliet, starting June 18. Is he really Superman, spending his days as a Clark Kent-like professor and thespian? Does he sleep? Forever Young needed to find out.
Between your commitments at SUNY Fredonia and directing the first Shakespeare in Delaware Park play of the season, your dance card must be full. How do you do it?
Luckily enough, my academic year ends just as rehearsals start, so my commitments at Fredonia, while not completely eliminated, are reduced greatly. That allows me to concentrate a bit more on my directing duties without wearing myself out too much. I consider myself quite fortunate in that regard.
Of all the SIDP plays you’ve acted in over the years, which role was your favorite and which play do you look back on most fondly?
It’s always tough to choose when asked this question, but I guess I would have to say that playing Claudius in the 1995 production of Hamlet really stands out in my mind. That was a time when I think SIDP really started to come into its own artistically. It was my first shot at Claudius, and I was lucky to play that role against Billy Gonta, who was a terrific Hamlet. For me it was a real turning point, and I think it was a role and an opportunity that allowed me to get to the next level in playing Shakespeare.
How did it feel to receive the 2014 Artie Award “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play” for your portrayal of Polonius in Hamlet?
Truthfully, I am not all that big into acting awards, and I actually try to avoid the spotlight. But I can’t deny the recognition was very much appreciated and welcomed. I think the biggest thrill of that evening was that the award was presented to me by two of the people in Buffalo I love most to work with — Tim Newell and Eileen Dugan. Seeing those two on stage smiling at me as they gave me the award was just a very warm and wonderful experience.
Is there any role or any play you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t yet, and why?
King Lear. I have played Edgar once, Albany twice, and Gloucester once, and I love the play. But the opportunity to play Lear has just not come around yet. I think I am just at the age where I am old enough to grasp the role, but still young enough to play it with the emotional energy and force it needs to have. Right now that role is the mountaintop for me.
What advice would you give SIDP newbies? (Actors, attendees, or both.)
I think the most important thing I could impress upon newbies is that Shakespeare is not that hard. You just need to open your heart to the full humanity that is Shakespeare’s characters and language. There is no other playwright in the English language who writes with such a deep understanding of and love for the human condition. He’s not that hard to grasp once you understand he is speaking from his heart to your heart, from his humanity to yours, and does so with everything from bawdy humor to heart-wrenching sorrow. I think SIDP’s greatest advantage is that it allows actors and audiences alike the opportunity to enjoy all that amidst a beautiful natural setting on soft summer evenings. It doesn’t get better than that.
Forever Young Managing Editor April Diodato’s first Shakespeare in Delaware Park experience was watching Tom Loughlin play Polonius in the 2013 production of Hamlet.