In high school I took one speech class and two acting classes. In college I took one theatre speech class at Olympic College in Bremerton, and one acting class at the University of Puget Sound. Both Peg and I are readers, but she outclasses me there. She reads all the time. Peg has written reviews for most of the Seattle theatres and the two of us have worked together on reviews from Seattle to Tacoma to Olympia over the last few years (not counting COVID TIME). In addition, I learned the basics of video production and directing at Clover Park Vocational School in my Junior Year at Clover Park. Peg has interviewed hundreds of people for our video productions over the years. We enjoy theatre, the people who are involved, and the people who work behind the curtains to make it happen.
In chatting with James Venturini, Co-Managing Artistic Director at Lakewood Playhouse, Peg and I suggested an article about one of their actors, Chap Wolff. James thought it a wonderful idea, especially since Chap had just joined the board of directors.
We’ve seen Chap Wolff in a number of productions. The first one that really showed off his skills was as Max Bialystock in “The Producers” at Lakewood Playhouse, where he stepped in cold when one of the main characters couldn’t go on. It never occurred to either of us that he was actually carrying around a script on stage until the second act. It really impressed us how subtle he had been in Act 1. He played Max Bialystock to the hilt. We enjoyed the show so much we saw it three times and brought a gaggle 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 show, ballistic at times and frenetic often with lots of rushing around. Everyone kept their cool but they really had a workout. We really enjoyed the singing, and, by the way, Chap has a marvelous voice. Peg remarked on it to Don at the intermission. The play took place in a small radio station in the Midwest and every thing that could go wrong did. 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 go on stage?”
“I initially started in theater in high school. I was in a production every year. After enlisting in the Army, I was unfortunately unable to keep performing mainly because the Army takes over your life. However, after getting out in 2012, I decided to use my G.I. Bill and go back to school. While in college, they were doing a production of “Avenue Q” over at Ft. Steilacoom College. My love for theater was reignited and I realized that my passion was to be on stage performing. Since then, (aside from Covid-era) I have not gone a year without being on stage. I have even decided to try my hand at film work and am currently represented by Big Fish Northwest.
Now I am stepping into a new type of theater role as a Board Member for the Lakewood Playhouse. I never thought I would be a leader in this community, but it seems I am. It is my hope that I don’t fail the people who make up the theater community. I don’t just mean actors; I mean everyone who supports theater. From the person who has a season ticket to every local house to the person who is sitting in those seats for the first time; My goal is to leave LPH in a better place than I found it, so that future theatre generations still have a place to go see live theatre.”
“Why did you stay in theatre, and what has it cost you?”
I stayed in the theater because nothing beats it. The rush of adrenaline right before you go on stage, the emotional response of the audience as you land the big joke or get through a harrowing scene, is electric. The fear when something goes wrong, even simple things like dropping a box of cookies, and then relief when you are able to cover for the mistake and keep moving through the scene. Nothing beats live theater.
What has theater cost me? My time, my sanity, my emotional health, all of it has been tested. Putting on a live theater performance takes a lot of time. Depending on the stage you work on and the type of show, there are about 6-10 weeks of rehearsal time, and then the weeks of performances. I have missed birthdays (my own and the ones of those I care about), I have been unable to go support friends’ shows or whatever they like to do because of rehearsal. One of the classic actor lines is “I can’t go, I have rehearsal”, and believe me it gets used a lot. It has cost me a lot of late nights away from home and lost sleep. Tech week is always tough, but there have been times I get out of rehearsal after midnight, and then have to wake up for work the next day. I also work a full time job and balancing my energy for that and theatre can be a strain.
My sanity has been tested; actors are a special breed of people. So, when you get that many people on stage, and its crunch time, sometimes things get heated. There is also the stress of waiting for the phone call after an audition, which is a special type of hell. However, getting home and seeing my dogs run around the corner with love in their eyes and their wagging tails always brings joy to my heart. The hug from my spouse when I get home is also a balm to a tattered brain.
As for my emotional health, being an actor is about being true to the scene, and sometimes those emotions don’t go away after you have put down the role. When I performed as Sweeney Todd (Ft. Steilacoom), it took me to dark places, and it took a month for me to clear my head and feel like me again. However, if your question is, is all of this worth it? My answer is absolutely. I wouldn’t give up theater unless I absolutely have to. It has made me a better person because I have had to step into the shoes of characters who are the polar opposite of me. It has connected me with some of my best friends. Theater is community. Yes, I am competing against my friends for the exact same role sometimes, and it hurts when I don’t get it; however, after I get past that pain, all I feel is joy for those who got the role and cheer them on to a great performance.”
Chap was in Lakewood Playhouse’s production of ‘Broadway Bound,’ the last of Neil Simon’s series of three plays about his growing up and getting into show business in the late 1940s.
Chap plays Stan, the older brother of Jerome, the Neil Simon character. They are trying really hard to get into radio by writing sketches and jokes while their mother is getting rundown. They finally have their first sketch on a local New York station and they are ecstatic. Stan is the worrier, the planner, the finagler angling again and again to meet the right people while Jerome just writes, and to get them recognized. He does pressure well. Their final goal is finally almost in sight.
We look forward to more productions involving Chap Wolff around the south sound and probably more at Lakewood Playhouse as well. – lakewoodplayhouse.org/