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A Star of My Own Making


Peter Kingsley as John Barrymore in William Luce's
Peter Kingsley as John Barrymore in William Luce's "Barrymore"

Let me start by saying that if you can avoid becoming a performing artist, do so by all means. If you can’t avoid it, be prepared for a career in an overcrowded field. The talents required of any performer are many, varied, but rather common after all.

It was my junior year performance of Marlowe’s “Doctor Faustus” that convinced me that I had what it takes to be a great actor, confusing in my naiveté and sheer ignorance, great acting with great writing. 

I graduated in 1968 with a B.A. in German literature and used it to avoid Vietnam and the military draft by obtaining a position teaching high school German for two years. Then driven to performance on the stage, I was accepted at The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA). After graduating from LAMDA, I earned my Actors’ Equity card at the American Shakespeare Festival Theatre in Stratford, Connecticut, where I appeared as Troilus in “Troilus and Cressida.” From there I spent my early years playing lead roles in regional theaters, then moving to NYC in 1973. I worked several seasons off-Broadway and I appeared in the original Broadway cast of Peter Schaffer’s “Amadeus,” understudying the role of Mozart and playing the role in the touring company.

But all good things must come to an end, and by 1989, my career had dried up. Then for 20 years, I worked in “the real world” at Columbia and New York Universities, supervising union laborers in their research libraries.

But now I have returned to the stage through directing and acting. In 2019, I took a small group of young actors to Moscow to perform Chekhov’s “A Marriage Proposal” at Chekhov’s estate in their 20th annual International Chekhov Festival. In 1998, I joined The Lambs Club of New York; today, as Vice President of the same, I was offered the opportunity to produce and star in a production of William Luce’s 1996 Broadway play “Barrymore.” This is slated for a limited run at The Barrymore Film Center in June in fabulous downtown Fort Lee!

So there it is: a career of poverty and obscurity capped by playing fellow Lamb John Barrymore. I’m not a star but I play one on the stage!

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