Category Archives: actor fathers

Acting Fathers

Daddy (James Lawless) as Sir Toby- Laird Williamson’s Twelfth Night- Denver Center (1990).  

My father, who died in 2000, was always a great presence in my life even when he was absent.  He was an actor and some of my earliest memories of him are on stage and he is pretending to be someone else.  I describe, in Chanel Bonfire, a summer spent in North Carolina when he and to a lesser extent, my mother, Georgann, were in Summer Stock.  It was an outdoor theater and they would put my sister Robbie and I to bed in the way back of the station wagon with the seats folded down.  If we woke up, we could just lift our heads and see them on stage.  When I was separated from him for ten years it was often him playing someone else that I remembered most.  When I started acting, simply being in a theater made me feel closer to him.  Later, after I’d found him again, we almost always lived in different cities and he was still and forever pretending to be someone else. He was of the first and probably last generation of great American Regional Theater actors working full-time, year round in repertory companies.  Visits with him were wonderful — half watching him on stage, half hanging out with him at home or, later in his life, in actors’ housing in Baltimore or Washington or Tucson.  But even just hanging out retained qualities of pretending and theatrical experience.  Entrances and exits at airports or more specifically at bars at airports.  Roles of father and daughter that were half-lived but also half-learned.