Okay, folks, we're heading into closing weekend of Intelligence at Arena Stage! We have only five performances left. If you haven't seen the show, there are standing room tickets available! I had hoped to be there to celebrate closing weekend, but life and work have other plans for me, so I won't be able to get away. I must say, it's made sharing these actor interviews that much sweeter. Next up, we have Lawrence Redmond, who plays Joseph Wilson, former U.S. Ambassador. Larry speaks about his passion for theatre, the relevance of this play, his relationship with his characters, and where we can see him next onstage. Please enjoy!
JACQUELINE LAWTON: To begin, why did you decide to get into theater? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you?
LAWRENCE REDMOND: I fell into theatre as an inspiration. While I grew up in a house where my father was a gifted musician, theatre became an outlet in High School. As things progressed, and I realized that I was never going to be the “High School Star” (it was a very competitive all-boys Military Catholic High School), I found other avenues like assistant directing and producing which I continued with into college, grad school and my early 20’s. That first show? It was Anything Goes! I fell in love from afar with the girl playing Reno Sweeney, and I was rapturous with the whole damn thing at 13!
JL: Set in 2003, INTELLIGENCE is a historical fiction that examines the lies that led to the war in Ira, the impact of the war on the Iraqi people, and what happened when the Bush Administration retaliated against two U.S. citizens when the truth of those lies were revealed. Why do you feel this play is relevant to today’s audiences?
LR: ‘Tis said that History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes. I say in this play, more than once, that “the President lied”. In the world of 2003, the notion that POTUS would lie, to advance a held policy objective, regardless of facts in evidence, is a shock to the body politic. Yet, here we are in 2017 bandying about terms like “alternative facts” and “fake news”. Honestly, I remember in rehearsals saying out loud that I missed our 43rd President in retrospect. The most relevant thing for an audience member to take to heart is that for this flawed, yet noble, human experiment called The United States of America to work, it requires everyone’s input “to form a More Perfect Union.” We aren’t done yet. It’s unfinished, like the pyramid on the back of the Dollar Bill. .
JL: Who are you playing? What, if anything, do you have in common with this character’s passions, values, intentions, or belief system?
LR: If you haven’t figured it out from the previous answer, I’m playing Amb. Joseph Wilson. As I said to you once, Jackie, I believe that the subtitle of INTELLIGENCE is “Five Patriots”. Each person that we see is doing what they believe to be right for their country and their sense of self within that country. My mother was a Vice Consul in the Cuban Embassy, in the years before Castro. Her family had seen the effects of changes of government, both peaceful and radical. And still she loved her countries, both Cuba and the USA. And she trumpeted the best that those countries had to offer. That’s who Joe Wilson is. Sure, he’s brash. One woman on opening night said I had captured his “arrogance”. My Mother’s counsel would have said: Say the nastiest thing in the nicest way; that is the mark of a diplomat. So, I hope I have “captured his unshakeable confidence!” Wilson’s job was always to show the best of who we are, the best of who we wish to become. There is a reason it’s called the Foreign Service. Ultimately, those Ambassadors, and Consular officers serve the interests of the American people, and hopefully service those interests by setting the best examples of who we are as a nation to the world at large.
JL: What do you hope the audience walks away thinking about after experiencing this play?
LR: I think two basic things. The first is that the work of Intelligence is tirelessly boring holes through hard boards. Mistakes can be made in haste and we repent in lost lives and treasure. Secondly, I hope people will understand why the present Secretary of Defense, former USMC Gen. James Mattis said only a month ago, “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition ultimately”!
JL: What’s next for you as an actor? Where can we follow your work?
LR: What’s next is another world premiere of an entirely different variety. I’ll be playing the role of Steven Keaton in the stage version of the popular 80’s sit-com “Family Ties” at Human Race Theatre in Dayton, OH. That finishes up at the end of June. I expect to return to my home in Washington, DC to audition for projects for the upcoming season. That is, unless, some other theatre wants to give me another crack at Joe Wilson!
LAWRENCE REDMOND (Joseph Wilson) was last seen at Arena Stage as Richard Russell in All the Way. Other Arena Stage credits include The Music Man, Ruined, Christmas Carol: 1941, Damn Yankees (Helen Hayes nominee), Passion Play: a cycle, South Pacific (Helen Hayes nominee), The Misanthrope, The Great White Hope, Guys and Dolls and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Earlier this season he was seen in Titanic (Signature Theatre) and A Prayer for Owen Meany (Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park). Other D.C. credits include A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing and The Government Inspector (Shakespeare Theatre Company); Rock ‘n’ Roll and Jerry Springer: The Opera (Studio Theatre); and The Nutcracker, The Trip to Bountiful and Permanent Collection (Round House Theatre)
I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!