In high school, I took a speech class and two acting classes. In college, I took a theatrical speech course at Bremerton Olympic College and a drama course at the University of Puget Sound. Peg and I are both readers, but she outperforms me there. She reads all the time. Peg has written reviews for most of the theaters in Seattle and we’ve both worked together on reviews from Seattle to Tacoma to Olympia for the past few years (not counting COVID TIME). Additionally, I learned the basics of video production and directing at Clover Park Vocational School during my freshman year at Clover Park. Peg has interviewed hundreds of people for our video productions over the years. We love the theater, the people who participate in it and the people who work behind the curtains to make it happen.
While chatting with James Venturini, Co-Artistic Director of Lakewood Playhouse, Peg and I suggested a post about one of their cast, Chap Wolff. James thought it was a wonderful idea, especially since Chap had just joined the board.
We’ve seen Chap Wolff in a number of productions. The first one who really showed his skills was as Max Bialystock in “The Producers” at Lakewood Playhouse, where he cold intervened when one of the main characters couldn’t continue. It never occurred to us that he was carrying a script on stage until the second act. It really impressed us how subtle he had been in Act 1. He played Max Bialystock all the way. We enjoyed the show so much that we saw it three times and brought a group of grandchildren to one of the performances.
We also saw Chap in “1940s Christmas Carol” at Centerstage as Cholly. He played one of the performers. It was an energetic and funny spectacle, ballistic at times and frenzied often with a lot of rush. Everyone kept their cool but they really did exercise. We really enjoyed the singing and by the way Chap has a wonderful voice. Peg pointed this out to Don during intermission. The play was set at a small Midwestern radio station and everything that could go wrong happened. Their recovery was the point. Although Centerstage is actually in Federal Way, we like to think of it as in Northeast Tacoma. It’s just north of Brown’s Point.
Our first question to Chap was pretty basic: “When did you first take the stage?” “
“I first started acting in high school. I was in a production every year. After enlisting in the military, unfortunately I was unable to continue playing mainly because the military is taking over your life. However, after I graduated in 2012, I decided to use my GI Bill and go back to school. While they were in college, they were doing a production of “Avenue Q” in Fort. Steilacoom College. My love for the theater was rekindled and I realized that my passion was to be on stage. Since then (apart from the Covid era) I haven’t spent a year without being on stage. I even decided to try my hand at the movies and I’m currently represented by Big Fish Northwest.
Now I am stepping into a new kind of theatrical role as a member of the Lakewood Playhouse board of directors. I never thought I would be a leader in this community, but it seems I am. I hope I don’t let down the people who make up the theater community. I’m not just talking about the actors; I mean all those who support the theater. From the person who has a subscription to each local house to the person who sits in those seats for the first time; My goal is to leave LPH in a better place than I found it, so that future generations of theater will still have a place to go to see live theater.
“Why did you stay at the theater, and how much did it cost you?
I stayed at the theater because nothing beats it. The adrenaline rush just before you take the stage, the emotional reaction of the audience when you pick up the big joke or walk through a heart-wrenching scene, is electric. Fear when something is wrong, even simple things like dropping a box of cookies, then relief when you are able to cover up the mistake and keep moving forward. Nothing beats live theater.
What did the theater cost me? My time, my sanity, my emotional health, it’s all been tested. Putting on a live play takes a long time. Depending on the stage you are working on and the type of show, there is about 6-10 weeks of rehearsal time and then weeks of performances. I’ve missed birthdays (mine and those of those close to my heart), couldn’t go support friends’ shows or whatever they like to do because of rehearsals. One of the classic actors’ lines is “I can’t go, I have rehearsals”, and trust me, that gets used to it a lot. It cost me a lot of late nights away from home and I lost sleep. Technical week is always tough, but there have been times when I get out of rehearsals after midnight and then have to wake up to work the next day. I also work full time and balancing my energy for this and the theater can be a strain.
My sanity has been tested; actors are a special breed of people. So when you have so many people on stage and it’s the critical moment, sometimes things get heated up. There’s also the stress of waiting for the phone call after an audition, which is a special kind of hell. However, coming home and seeing my dogs running around the corner with love in their eyes and wagging their tails still makes me happy. My partner’s hug when I get home is also a balm for a ragged brain.
As for my emotional health, being an actor is being faithful to the scene, and sometimes those emotions don’t go away after I give up the role. When I played the part of Sweeney Todd (Ft. Steilacoom), it took me to dark places, and it took me a month to clear my head and feel like myself again. However, if your question is, is it all worth it? My answer is absolutely. I wouldn’t give up theater unless I absolutely had to. It made me a better person because I had to put myself in the shoes of characters who are the opposite of me. It put me in touch with some of my best friends. The theater is a community. Yes, I sometimes compete with my friends for the exact same role, and it hurts when I don’t understand; However, after getting over that pain, all I feel is joy for those who got the part and cheers them on for a great performance.
Chap was in the Lakewood Playhouse production of “Broadway Bound”, the last of Neil Simon’s three-piece series about his childhood and his entry into the performing arts in the late 1940s.
Chap plays Stan, the older brother of Jerome, the character of Neil Simon. They’re really trying to get into radio writing skits and jokes while their mom is going downhill. They finally have their first skit on a local New York station and they’re thrilled. Stan is the most worried, the planner, the finagler who fishes again and again to meet the right people while Jerome is content to write, and to get them recognized. It does the pressure well. Their end goal is finally almost in sight.
We look forward to more productions involving Chap Wolff around the southern sound and probably more at Lakewood Playhouse as well. – lacwoodplayhouse.org/