I had the honor of interviewing actor Mark Ridgway, check out his work-
Me: So my first question is, for those that aren’t familiar with you, tell us some about you and your acting
MR: I guess I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t involved in some kind of performance activity. Even as early as primary school, if a teacher wanted some sort of group presentation, I would get a group to “produce” a skit, sketch, do most of the writing and direction and performing.
Studied theater at Truman State in Kirksville, MO – then Northeast MO State University – that led to a summer stock program in Hannibal, MO, the Ice House Theater, which led to meeting Heather Laird, who came over from Jack Wright’s KU program. Jack was a mentor to my mentor in college, Al Srnka. That was 1977.
I knew Heather had gone west to try her acting work in LA, but in 1992, I saw an article in KC Star about two major films being shot in KC, and Heather was doing local casting for Wright-Laird Casting, and I thought, “There can’t be another Heather Laird,” so I called her, and she said to come on down and work on those films, Truman with Gary Sinise for HBO, and an ensemble cast in Kansas City, directed by Robert Altman. I did extra work, but the future was set, with me deciding to turn to more professional work afterward, what, with my daughters grown up, and having always had the goal of making some level of “pro” in the business. Been coming down to KC through my agent, Exposure Talent, ever since when opportunities arose.
Prior, I had spent my time honing and keeping skills up with our local theater group, Kaleidoscope Players, which had formed in 1971, my early high school days.
My first real play was Diary of Anne Frank, as a junior, K-Players asked me to be the telephone repairman in Barefoot in the Park, and my course was set, to study theater in college – against the compassionate advice of my high school counselor and close family friend, who recommended, I might want to choose something a little more practical…? I couldn’t oblige him, I loved the work too much to be practical.
Don’t sell little population (4,243)of Brookfield, MO short, I tell people, haha – we may be, PER CAPITA, the performance producing capital of the center of the country. As I scribe, there are no fewer than double-digit numbers of Brookfielders at work in the business, as teachers, actors, dancers, singers, etc. Seriously, I kid you not.
I may be the elder statesman of that group, but we’ve got three in LA now making some success, starting with Andy St. Clair – a little older than my oldest daughter – who ended up with Second City in Chicago, and even had an audition for Saturday Night Live. Then there’s Luke Gregory (SAG name, born Luke Wilson, but there’s already a preeeeetty successful Luke Wilson in the SAG registry, so our Luke took his dad’s first name for his pro name). Luke’s been in several things, small roles, but good features and TV appearances, and now writes a review blog which has been catching on for some time. Also Cody Mobley (who may have the most natural ability of any of us), who’s been out west, and is enjoying a little bit of early success.
I’ve done lots of “stuff” as my resumes indicate, been fortunate to work with great people, been fortunate to get some accolades along the way, too.
I guess, if I could go back, and list all the work I’ve done in KC, the pro resume might end up being 3-4 pages long, but that’s way more than anyone would care to review, and too bulky to tack onto a headshot, and some of those things don’t matter to a more current resume anyway. I’ve reached the point where listing the things that don’t help my credits aren’t worth listing, and my career, such as it is, is more about helping young people move forward in theirs. Also, I’ve reached the point, where I feel like I can pick and choose most of my work depending on the project, the money, etc.
Me: All awesome stuff!, that’s alot of work, what have your favorite things been?
MR: Theatrically, some of the comedies have been favs, just because they’re so well written, Don’t Dress for Dinner with K-Players, Unnecessary Facre with Carousel Productions, in neighboring Macon – great friends over there now, but sometimes, you just need to scratch an itch, so a few of the dramas have been essential to reaching out artistically. Of course, to play Stanley in Streetcar… was always a goal, but to do Time Flies When You’re Alive as a drama, with a lot of humor and as a fundraiser for the ACS was special, and I’ve reprised it a few times, since first doing it in the early ’90s.
University theater was a pleasure, small dept, so everyone got to do lots of shows, Rimers of Eldritch by MO playwright Lanford Wilson was a powerful show, but Godspell launched me at Truman.
I was freshman, and no one knew of me, but I saw audition flyers up the first week of school, went and did some cold reading, sang Yesterday, and ended up being cast as the Christ character. Who knew, mainstage production, wasn’t prepared to sign autographs in the aftermath!. I remember laying on the finished stage, all by myself, one free afternoon, the week we were to open, and I was struck with the inevitable insecurity, feeling the opening night butterflies. I laid there in the middle of the stage, just staring up at the ceiling, and finally convincing myself I belonged, I could do this, this was where I belonged, the butterflies went away, and I haven’t felt them since.
Professionally, I can honestly say, I haven’t run into even two people who have even been difficult to get along with in KC. Great bunch of talented folks at every spot.
The work with Patrick Rea has to stand out though. First auditioned for he and Stephen Deaver for The Empty Acre. Great audition, really prepared, got into the very soul of the character. Didn’t get the role, lol!, but they had good reason, and still invited me to join them. Went down to Lawrence a couple of Saturdays (no pay, no mileage – kids needed help) to shoot the bar booth scenes. People got a kick out of seeing we four old pros- Ric Averill, Bob Campbell, Doug Weaver, throw so much improv into the shoot before we lit into the written dialogue, then joined in the scenes by John Wilson, a fine actor himself. Great fun.
That led to Patrick inviting me to be the doctor, in Emmy winner, Woman’s Intuition, that led to having the Café at the Crossroads role of Edgar being written with me in mind, which led to reading for Emmy nominee, Mrs. Brumett’s Garden, and that led to reading for Nailbiter. Now lots of pre-production work has been done on Nailbiter II, so we’ll see what that brings, since Sheriff Shurman lives through the first one!
Great kids, great crew of filmmakers.
Me: Definitely alot of awesome roles!, so what are your current/upcoming projects?
MR: Weeeell, I’m trying to work my way back into the time for it.
My wife and I recently bought the perfect house for our eventual retirements, perfect for the kids and grandkids!, and I’ve been working for a staffing company to pay for it all, lol, for the third year which has taken 55-60 hours a week, and I haven’t been able to come down for acting work since Jan of 2014!, but if Nailbiter sequel(s) are in the mix, I’ll find a way, if Exposure has any good paying work to drive in for, I’ll have more of a chance, since the staffing work has ended, and as I look for another job locally, which doesn’t take so much of my life.
In the meantime, I can stay sharp with stage work up here, with our local groups, maybe even a little something more with Maples Rep in Macon. My future has always been a little unpredictable, and though that can create some anxiety from time to time, it’s always been the way of my life. Forward.
Me: So you’ll probably just be doing theater this summer?, and what are exposure and maples?
MR: Oh, sorry!, Exposure talent, my agent in Overland Park, KS. Maples Rep is a pro rep theater in neighboring Macon. Our Kaleidoscope Players in Brookfield is going on 45 years of age this year, and Macon has had their Carousel Productions for a just a year or two less. One of Carousel’s long-time folks is Todd Davison, who started a pro rep company over there, good guy. They have a historic theater, the Royal, and do a summer season, along with fall and winter shows.
Carousel will be doing something this fall and in the spring, and our K-Players group is due for a meeting, to see if we can plan something as well. I’ve found myself being president of K-Players for (too) many years!
I would sometimes prefer to do much of this local work before worrying about taking small pro work in the city. More artistic satisfaction, I suppose, not to mention, working closely with so many local friends. Trust me, our groups don’t lack for professional level performances. Some of the best all-around work I’ve seen or been involved in have been just as good as any pro work I’ve ever attended.
Me: Definitely awesome!, so will theater always come first?
MR: Depends on the commitment. I’ve done lots of shows while mixing in pro work, since the pro work tends to only last a day or a few. In the case of Nailbiter, as an independent production, they were subject to working scenes when people were free from other work. In the second season, we were shooting the film, I was able to do plays, one with K-Players, the other with Carousel, and keep everybody happy, didn’t lose a day with anyone. Just needed to finally shave the goatee when Nailbiter was wrapped, to play a much younger role for Carousel, in time to open that show. Only thing left for Nailbiter after that was some ADR, well after the play closed. Long and short of it, theater for satisfaction, film for money, or to do something meaningful, or to help young filmmakers who may not have lots of money.
Me: Awesome!, is having a theater fanbase what led to film roles?
MR: Not a fan base really, since not a lot of folks often know where to find some of the independent film work one can do. For example, not that many who may see a play know to find those Emmy short films I listed earlier on vimeo.com ,and by looking up Patrick Rea on the site, or finding Senoreality.com and using those links to vimeo or YouTube.
Sometimes, a bio in a playbill will show people a range of work.
A theater base in one’s education though? Absolutely. Learn the craft, all you can about everything; learn the business, all you can about everything. Go give it your best, stage or set.
Patrick had never seen my work before. Interestingly, Heather Laird pops up again in our story. She and I knew one another for years, Patrick was a KU grad starting his film career. She gave him space in her studio to conduct Empty Acre auditions, and at the same time, thought of me as one of the people he ought to see, audition script comes, we all meet up that day, at her place, rest is history. No, I don’t expect anymore than a handful in KC have seen any of my theatrical work.
Theater work prepared me for film, but no film work came from anyone seeing me on stage.
Me: I see, so what all can we expect from you in the future?, you mentioned a return to the screen
MR: The Nailbiter sequel is the only thing that may be on the horizon, but with a return to being more free to come to KC, we’ll see what may align!,
and a couple of Oscars and SAG awards for work that no one could ever predicted I would get, LOL!
Me: Well we definitely look forward to it!, is there anything else your fans would be interested in knowing?
MR: Hmm, happily married to best friend I’ve known since her family moved to town when we were in second grade, four kids between us from previous marriages, all grown up, five grandkids, all growing up. Doesn’t get any better than that.
Me: That’s a long time!, thank you so much for this interview!
MR: Totally welcome, it was a pleasure.