“The Tutor,” Village Theatre’s newest musical, is a homecoming of sorts for local actor Eric Ankrim. He’s back in Seattle after moving his family to New York and performing on Broadway. He’s also reprising a role that he helped debut 10 years ago, when the show was part of Village Theatre’s Festival of New Musicals.
The musical focuses on an angst-ridden novelist (played by Ankrim) who tutors high school kids on the side in order to make a living.
Ankrim is a local favorite, both onstage as an actor (“First Date,” “Oklahoma”) and off, when he’s directing (“Elf,” “Spring Awakening”).
In a Village Theatre rehearsal room in Issaquah, the 33-year-old Ankrim talked about family and the “survival” skills it takes to work as an actor.
He also sang us a song about writer’s block.
Q: What’s it like to come back to a show that you were part of a decade ago?
A: I had an incredible experience with “The Tutor” as a young actor. I was 24, 25 when I was experiencing the show for the first time. It was the first show that ever took me to New York (as part of the New York Musical Festival). So it’s always going to have a special place in my heart.
Q: So Steve Tomkins (Village’s artistic director) says we’re bringing it back and you say, ‘I have to do it!’
A: At the time it (Village’s 2013-14 season) was announced, I was acting in a show: “First Date” on Broadway. I did that show in Spring 2012 at ACT. And they had always had New York aspirations. They [the producers] had negotiated to hire Zachary Levi to play the role I did, but I was eventually offered the standby and understudy position. My family and I went out there for 7 months. And I went to My Broadway Theater every day. I performed a total of 12 times.
The producers gave us some notice when the show would close. Once I had that date, I knew I would be available for “The Tutor.” It was definitely on my radar, I just didn’t know if I would be available.
Q: So what happened next?
A: I called Steve and asked, ‘Hey have you cast it yet?’ and they were literally in the middle of auditions. I met with David Ira Goldstein, the director. He was in New York, so we had dinner and he kind of felt me out, my energy, to see if he was interested. It ended up working out.
Q: You’re not shy when it comes to getting work.
A: Actors, directors, anyone in a business that is so based on relationships, you have to put your own personal energy out there. You can’t just sit around and wait for people to call you. We aren’t film stars. We don’t have publicists. A lot of people in Seattle don’t even have agents.
So it really rests on your shoulders to put the pieces together yourself. When a season is announced, you think, ‘Ok, I might be good for that.’ And be as proactive as possible and that’s something Seattle actors have to learn because they don’t have someone keeping tabs on opportunities and filtering them out for you.
I just try not to be offensive when I call people and start banging on their doors! (He laughs when he says this).
Q: How did you learn that?
A: My dad told me in high school, when I said, ‘Listen, I may want to quit the baseball team and do this musical.’ He said, ‘You can do whatever you want as long as it’s 100 percent.
Coming out of college, Bill Berry (the producing director at The 5th Avenue) became kind of my mentor. And he taught me a lot about how to deal with offers and how to manage yourself and keep yourself busy. How to say ‘Yes’ to as many opportunities as you can, but don’t overbook yourself.
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