I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing three plays at Parkland College Theatre this season: Leading Ladies, Around the World in Eighty Days, and The Sparrow. Each of these plays featured, in some capacity, a performance by Warren Garver; and each play was the better for it. In Leading Ladies (above), his lead performance showed crack comic timing and a Vaudevillian style; in Around the World in Eighty Days, he wore many hats (literally) as a utility ensemble member; and in The Sparrow, his supporting turn breathed life into some very underwritten peripheral characters. That, my friends, is as good a definition as I could offer for what a good actor does: whatever the role requires, regardless of whether it’s a lead or a walk-on.
(I missed out on seeing him in his C-U debut, playing Freddie in The Station Theatre’s production of Chess, but our reviewer had some extremely high praise for his work.)
In each of these instances, Garver was both individually good and made the cohesive whole even better.
As I prepare to see The Drowsy Chaperone this Thursday — my fourth Parkland Theatre show this season and the fourth featuring Garver — I thought it was high time I found out a little more about this talented actor.
Smile Politely: Even though you’ve been in several local productions over the last couple of years, I’m going to pretend I’ve never read your bio. Let’s start at the beginning: Where are you from, and how did you get started in theatre?
Warren Garver: I spent most of my life in Decatur and the surrounding area, hopping between a few schools depending on which place I was living, and briefly dabbling in homeschooling. I left that in my freshman year of high school, after which a late enrollment wound up with me having to wait a semester to take health, and I instead wound up in drama. I was hooked after that. I moved out here about a year ago after performing in Chess at the Station Theatre and Spamalot at Parkland.
SP: Tell me about The Drowsy Chaperone, if you would. We’ll have run our preview article already, of course, but what’s your take on it?
Garver: It’s maybe cheating a little bit, but the delightful meta nature of Drowsy affords us a line from the show itself that sums up my feelings about it almost perfectly. “It does what a musical is supposed to do; it takes you to another world. And it gives you a little tune to carry with in your head, you know?” It’s an incredibly fun show.
SP: Your director, J.W. Morrissette said something similar. Since I’ve enjoyed many of his shows but have never had the pleasure of working with him, I wonder if you’d describe what it’s like.
Garver: This is my first time working with J.W., but it’s definitely something I’d like to do again sometime. As a director, he has a very evocative sort of approach to his actors, and I think he inspires a lot of very effective choices in our performances. I feel like he has a very good sense of what this show needs to be, and he’s done a swell job of making it happen.
SP: What are the best and worst parts of any rehearsal process, for you?
Garver: For me, the best part of rehearsal is almost always meeting new people and making friends with all of these actors around town. I don’t think I’ve done a single show so far where I knew everyone involved, so there’s always someone new to meet.
The worst part is learning choreography for the first time. I don’t know what it is, but I have some weird mental block that makes it tricky to pick up on at first, and I tend to get way too hard on myself about not just immediately nailing it. That usually doesn’t last very long, though.
SP: Word association time. I’ll give you a title of a show you were in, and you give me a one-word description:
Garver: Chess—Mother. Leading Ladies—Heels. The Sparrow—Tragic.
SP: I’m basically writing this interview with you because I like your work and want people to get to know you a little better. Your turn now. Who is someone from the cast of The Drowsy Chaperone you think people should know more about?
Garver: I defer the spotlight to my friend, classmate, and cast mate Jace Jamison, who is playing Aldolpho in The Drowsy Chaperone. He’s one of the funniest people I know, and his impeccable comedic timing carries over to the stage flawlessly. He’s constantly finding new, effective approaches to the material, and he’s always perfectly prepared and professional. Jace’s role in this show suits him incredibly well.
SP: Last question, and then I’ll let you get back to learning choreography. For most local actors, it’s hard to plan too far ahead. You wait to find out which shows are being done, you audition, you go on to the next one. What are your plans, looking ahead? What would you like to do?
Garver: Well, I’ve been in rehearsal or performances for one show or another pretty much since last September, so I was considering taking a little bit of a break this summer to spend more time with my friends and loved ones. That said, I have horrendous impulse control, so I’ll probably find something to audition for anyway, and it’ll be a blast, and I’ll hope that everyone comes to see it, whatever this inevitable, vague, nebulous concept of a show winds up being.
As previously reported, The Drowsy Chaperone will run April 16th through May 2nd at Parkland College. Make your reservations to see Warren Garver, Jace Jamison, and the rest of J.W. Morrissette’s cast bring this musical to life.
Photos by Scott Wells.