Frank Creasy is among Central Virginia's most reliable character actors, and he's now playing the leading role of Saunders, the opera manager, in Lend Me a Tenor. The Buzz caught up with Frank to discuss his background, his three decades in Richmond theatre, and his backstage experiences during the run of this riotous farce. This is Part 1 of that interview.
Q - Thanks for talking with us today, Frank. You're doing a terrific job in Lend Me a Tenor. (That's Frank in Tenor to the left, with Nick Ciavarella.) It's so much fun to watch you work.
A - Thanks. All of us are having a great time because the audience is having a great time. I'm going to be really sorry when this one closes on October 16.
Q - Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where did you go to college? What was your major? What brought you to Richmond?
A - I grew up in Winchester, VA, and went to Longwood, majoring in sociology. I first moved to Richmond in the summer of 1979, between years at Longwood. I've always had relatives in the Richmond area. My father's mother grew up on Church Hill and attended St. John's Church all her life. Several aunts and uncles also live in Richmond. When I was growing up, my family always came to Richmond every Thanksgiving and Christmas. Also, a lot of the friends I made in college were from here. It just seemed like a natural place to settle down, I guess. Although I'm not sure exactly when the "settling down" part happened.
Q - What was your first job after graduation?
A - Believe it or not, my first job out of college was at Theatre IV in the 1982 production of Mister Roberts. (That's Frank in the picture to the right, just a couple years before Mister Roberts.) Theatre IV rented the Little Theatre a few years before buying the entire Empire complex in 1986. Ford Flannagan was part of that cast, along with some other terrific actors.
Q - Where do you work now? Are your co-workers aware of your theatrical activities? Do they come see you in shows?
A - Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield is my employer. I work as a help desk manager supporting the Anthem website. At least three co-workers have come to see Lend Me a Tenor, and others at Anthem outside my department have seen it and very graciously stopped by my desk to tell me how much they loved the show.
Q - After Mister Roberts, what were your next theatre jobs in Richmond? How did it feel to audition in a new city where you were not that well known?
A - I was cast in Mister Roberts almost right away, in the spring of 1982. Auditioning back then was a little scary for me, right out of college. I auditioned once for Muriel McAuley, one of Barksdale's co-founders, when she was casting Elephant Man at the Tavern. She called to tell me that I read wonderfully but I was just too young for the role. It was a lovely rejection--the first of many to come. Muriel's kindness sticks with me to this day.
Q - Like many actors, you started out in smaller roles, and over time worked your way up to leads. What was that experience like?
A - You know, I played my fair share of leads in college (Paul in Barefoot in the Park, Mortimer in Arsenic and Old Lace, among others). And I've had good experiences playing leading roles at other theatre companies in town. But as a character actor, supporting roles are often where I land, and I'm glad to do them. (That's Frank to the left, as Charlie Martin in On Golden Pond at Barksdale Hanover Tavern.)
I would like to think that my talents have improved, because I've worked purposefully to get better show by show. I've tried to take direction and carefully watch what successful local actors do onstage: David Bridgewater, Scott Wichmann, Joe Inscoe, to name a few who I've watched and worked with, studying how they approached their performances.
I've always believed that if you want to be one of the best, there's no better training than watching what the best in the field do and then modeling your behavior accordingly. It works in all walks of life; acting is no different. Of course, those guys I mentioned have talents some of the rest of us may only aspire to but never fully achieve. My hope is that one day I'll be close enough, in that regard, that someone would think of actors of that caliber as my "peers." To me, that would be the highest compliment.
(to be continued)