An Evening with Mike Nussbaum: Star of Stage and Screen

From Becky Peters, Director of Community Outreach and New Media at Theater J

For me – there are people who when they cross my path something tells me that I should drop what I am doing,  pull up a chair and listen to whatever they are willing to share.  Mike Nussbaum is one of those people.

Maybe it’s because as a fellow actor I am intrigued by his 50+ year resume as an actor/director and I can only imagine the stories that he has to share about the work he has done or the personalities he has come across.  Maybe it’s because when you meet Mr. Nussbaum there is a genuine warmth that fills the room.    Maybe it’s simply that the older I get the more I realize how much I still have to learn and as a gentleman who is nearing 90 and not quitting but instead in rehearsals right now for Imagining Madoff – he is someone I want to learn from.

I’m not entirely sure which intrigues me more.  But whatever the reason – I am grateful to have chance to see him work and hear him speak.   In addition to performing in the show we asked Mr Nussbaum if (on one of his nights off) he would let us all just pull up a chair and listen.  And thankfully he said yes.

And to paraphrase my grandmother – I am ready to put my “listening ears” on and settle in for what I think is going to be a pretty wonderful evening.   I do hope you will join me!

Mike Nussbaum*: A Life in the Theater (and on the Screen)
Monday, September 19th at 8:00 pm   FREE

Join Theater J for an evening of clips and conversations highlighting eminent Chicago actor Mike Nussbaum’s illustrious career in the films and plays of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and screenwriter David Mamet, as well as Mike’s work with directors Peter Brook, Roger Stephens and countless other heralded productions over his half-century-long career.

An Excerpt of Recent Theater J Interview with Mike Nussbaum

TJ:  You have a rich history with playwright David Mamet, appearing in the original production of American Buffalo, and many more.  Can you share a particularly memorable experience from that collaboration?
MN: David and I were in a play together (written by Dick Cusack–father of the acting Cusacks)and I teased him about being such a bad actor. The next day he brought me a copy of “Duck Variations“, a beautiful play he had written, and I knew from that moment that he was a major talent.

TJ: When you look back on your formidable history in show business, what are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned?
MN: Most of what I’ve learned has come from watching other actors work. I am constantly amazed and thrilled by the quality and artistry of actors. I borrow shamelessly from the great ones.

TJ: You have been a major player in the Chicago theatre scene for some time now—how have you seen theatre in Chicago change over the years?
MN: When I started out over 50 years ago there were only New York touring companies in the downtown theatres–today Chicago has over 160 theaters of all sizes, doing inventive quality work by established and new playwrights (many of whom are Chicagoans) creative directors, and a huge, ever growing source of wonderful actors, all supported by the press, and an educated and demanding audience.

TJ: You are currently involved in a production of Broadway Bound, by Neil Simon—how is that going?
MN: It’s a 900 seat theater, and we’re drawing large audiences. Broadway Bound is a Neil Simon “dramady”, and most of what I do is comic. Getting the laugh is as good as it gets.

TJ: What else would you like the Washington, DC theatre community to know about you?
MN: My daughter and her family are long-time DC residents. It’s a major plus that I will get to spend a good long time with them. At least I hope they think so and don’t pitch me out after a few weeks.

TJ: Can you tell us a joke?
MN: The Frenchman says: “I’m tired. I’m thirsty. I must have wine!” The German says: “I’m tired. I’m thirsty. I must have beer!” The Jew says: “I’m tired. I’m thirsty. I must have diabetes”.

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