John Glover Plies His Trade
The Tony Award-winning actor discusses playing a driven director in Primary Stages' Secrets of the Trade.
It seemed that things he had learned about opera great Maria Callas for his recent role as Mendy in Terrence McNally's The Lisbon Traviata at the Kennedy Center, were bubbling to the surface. "It's interesting how one role can affect you," he notes. "Marty Kerner talks a lot about being an artist, and she was the ultimate artist. Her dedication to her art before she met Onassis was nun-like. She was 'Vissi d'Arte, I live for art.'"
The same might be said of Glover, who's been bouncing from one well-received play to another -- most notably the Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of Waiting for Godot and the Manhattan Theatre Club's production of The Royal Family -- since Lionel Luthor, his evildoing character on the long-running CW series Smallville, became a patricidal victim two years ago. It was actually during the Writers Guild strike in 2008, which shut down production of that series, that Glover first became involved with this play back in Los Angeles.
Director Matt Shakman, a former child actor, had played Glover's son in a movie called Meet the Hollowheads, so Shakman decided to ask him to take part in the production at the 30-seat Black Dahlia Theatre, where he is the artistic director. After a successful engagement, they've reunited for this Off-Broadway run, along with previous cast members Amy Aquino and Bill Brochtrup and new castmates Mark Nelson and Noah Robbins.
Beyond professionally encouraging Andy (whose enterprising ideas include a Marxist version of The Pajama Game), Kerner also helps the young man come out to his family and himself.
"He wants the kid to look at the truth about things because the choices that you make in your life are mirrored in the choices you make in your art," says Glover. "That's what he's after the kid to do, so his work can be better and truer and more honest and touch people. And mean something."
Glover, who frequently returns to his alma mater Towson University to work with students there, counts the legendary Harold Prince among his mentors. The director cast him in a Broadway revival of Eugene O'Neill's The Great God Brown in 1972, when Glover was still in his 20s. "I was over the moon about it," he says, the enthusiasm still registering in his voice. "Hal fucking Prince! It was amazing. But as I'm reading about him, I see that he was always mentoring young talent."