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Published by The Western States Theatre Review, 2010

Most directors are after the same thing: an amazing show. A show that is astounding at every level. A show that inspires, thrills, educates and illuminates. A show that is simply brilliant.

Inspired by the director’s vision, numerous elements go into creating such a production: scenery, lighting, sound, costumes – and great acting. Great acting can transform a production that may not have the budget for a striking set or grand costumes. It is an element of the theatre than can move an audience like no other.

Ken directing The Odd Couple

Ken directing The Odd Couple.

As a professional actor for 15 years I very much appreciated the value of acting. In fact, I was one of those actors who was “hooked.” I wanted to act – and only act. My interest in directing was slim to none.

Then in the mid 1990’s a friend who taught at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute asked me to take her place teaching film acting. So, I started teaching and directing for the first time – and very quickly found two new passions.

Soon after leaving Strasberg I landed a job as performing arts director at a California private school, and later as a theatre instructor at a community college. I started directing non-stop, from six to 12 plays every year. Eight years later I had directed over 50 plays – quite a transformation for someone who hadn’t had much interest in directing!

When I started directing I realized that my perspective as a director was greatly influenced by my experiences as an actor.  Naturally I felt a strong connection with actors, and I began to make some interesting discoveries. . .

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Actor, Entrepreneur, Risk Taker

I spoke with actor, writer, and producer John Tartaglia because I wanted to find out how he has achieved so much in show business in such a short time. Our interview explored the actions, skills and beliefs that have led him to a successful and eclectic career.

John Tartaglia

Ken Womble: Has training played a significant role for you?
John Tartaglia: I had some great voice and acting teachers, but I think you can only teach someone up to a point, all the technique and all the rules. And then you have to take it yourself, fly with it and make it your own – or keep looking for somebody to tell you how. I find that the people who are most successful are the people who jump. They take the risk and hope that it pays off.

Ken Womble: Can you give me an example or two of when you’ve jumped?
John Tartaglia: Well I think, number one would probably be moving to New York City. I mean that was a huge risk at 18. I had a full scholarship to the University of Maryland, but I had an opportunity in front of me with Sesame Street. The other example was when I left Avenue Q. It was a role that was very much identified with me. I had work. I had security. But I felt that I wanted to take the risk of leaving, and leaving while I still loved the show, not when I started to resent it. There were a lot of people who said, “What are you doing? You have a hit show.” I just knew that if I didn’t jump and go for it maybe the other things I wanted to achieve, I wouldn’t.

John Tartaglia starred in Beauty and the Beast and Shrek the Musical on Broadway, and in the recently wrapped feature film Hotel Arthritis. He wrote and produced the children’s musical ImaginOcean Off Broadway,and created, produced and starred in Johnny and the Sprites for Playhouse Disney. John is perhaps best known for his Tony nominated turns as Princeton and Rod in the hit Broadway musical Avenue Q.

John’s journey to Avenue Q began on Sesame Street. . .

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Last Updated: March 14, 2014
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