"Call Me Adam" chats with Thomas G. Waites, director, actor, and writer about directing Baruch Performing Arts Center and TGW Acting Studio's production of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew from July 10-August 23 at Baruch Performing Arts Center (55 Lexington Avenue at 25th Street). Click here for tickets!
1. Who or what inspired you to be a director, actor, writer? Franco Zefferelli directed a production of Romeo and Juliet and it changed my life. That is what prompted me to be an actor. From there I learned directing, then play writing....and teaching as well.
2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like? I would love to work with Seth McFarland. He is so talented and so seriously passionate about what he does, I think he would get me.
3. You are directing Baruch Performing Arts Center and TGW Acting Studio production of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew from July 10-August 23. What made you want to direct this production? It is a personal goal of mine to direct all of Shakespeare before I leave this planet. This will be my fifth production of Shakespeare that I have directed. I have acted in many, but only directed five. I feel Shrew is a particular kind of love story; a story based in tremendous risk, chance, danger and difficulty due to the circumstances. This challenges me greatly.
4. What are you bringing to this production as a director that has not been done before? What I am bringing to this production is live music for one thing, two Juilliard graduate violinists are onstage the whole time, additionally there is some guitar and some trumpet too.
5. What did you like most about dissecting Shakespeare to come up with the way you wanted to direct this production? What I love about dissecting this Shakespeare or any of his plays is that each time I learn something new. This is almost thirty five years and still, in some cases the same material, yet I learn something different and new, it is so refreshing.
6. You have worked with some of Hollywood's biggest names, in stage productions. What was it like working with Al Pacino in American Buffalo and Kurt Russell in The Thing? What did you learn from working with each of them? Al Pacino is one of our country's greatest actors. Each night onstage was a lesson in acting to watch his work, his craft, and his cunning. He is like live electricity onstage but most importantly, how he prepares as an actor. Kurt is a major movie star, one of the biggest in the country. He has such confidence, such authority of presence. Kurt is also a terrific actor. He just plays the movie star game, probably better than anyone and he has been doing it since he was five.
7. Most recently, your short film, Pandora's Box earned you Best Director, Best Screenplay for s Short Film, Best Supporting Actress for Frances Fisher, and Joe Mantegna was nominated for Best Actor in the Atlantic City Film Festival. What do you get from making films that you don't get from your stage work? What did it mean to you to earn these accolades for the film? Directing Pandora's Box was a great thrill for me. It came to me so naturally, so easily, and yet I was so prepared for it. I finished way ahead of schedule. I also feel Joe Mantegna is a great actor and what a great guy. I would be honored to work with him again.
What I get from film is the fact that visually I get to experiment in ways I cannot do in the theatre and it felt great to be recognized. I remember Joe saying to me, "This is good for all of us." And it was. Is.
8. What have you learned about yourself from your career? I have learned that I have a lot to learn. To learn is to teach, to teach is to learn. It is as endless and boundless as the sea. And I am only at the beginning of the journey despite having begun in 1976.
9. What's the best advice you've ever received? The best advice I have ever received was from Al Pacino who said, "You are confused?" I said, "Yes, confused about this scene," "That is good. It is a good state of mind to be in."
Thomas began his acting career in the fall of 1976, with When You Comin' Back, Red Ryder at Center Stage in Baltimore. From there, he opened the premier Spoleto Festival in South Carolina in Simon Grey's Molly. His film career started with On the Yard with John Heard, leading to The Warriors (a 3-picture deal with Paramount), John Carpenter's The Thing, And Justice for All with Al Pacino and many more. On stage, Thomas was in the original cast of American Buffalo with Al Pacino at Circle in the Square Downtown.
He performed on Broadway in Richard III, Teaneck Tanzi with Debra Harry, Awake & Sing with Frances McDormand and Search & Destroy with Griffin Dunne. Thomas, along with Geraldine Page and Matthew Cowles, was a founding member of The Mirror Repertory Company.
Thomas' television work includes central characters on All My Children, One Life to Live, NYPD Blue and Law & Order (6 episodes). He also created the role of "Henry Stanton" for HBO’s hit series OZ.
Thomas recently received national acclaim for his short film Pandora’s Box, winning Best Director & Best Screenplay for a Short Film in the Atlantic City Film Festival. Internationally acclaimed actress Frances Fisher (Titanic, The Lincoln Lawyer, House of Sand & Fog) won Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film & Joe Mantegna (Criminal Minds) was nominated for Best Actor.
Thomas’ Off-Broadway Directing credits include Six Goumba’s & a Wannabe, Golden Ladder with Amy Redford and The Seagull. Other Shakespeare plays directed by Thomas include A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, Two Gentlemen of Verona and As You Like It, all with TGW Acting Studio members.
Thomas has an MFA from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, where he created the one-man show Dark Laughter, about the lives and deaths of Dylan Thomas, William Faulkner and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Other writing credits include Prayer in a Bar, Blue Moon and Macaire - a play with original music compositions, which received its premiere in Cologne Germany last Christmas. Thomas teaches Acting at The Bernie West Theatre at Baruch College.
Thomas is a member of the band Old Kid, playing gigs around NYC and enjoys the challenge of composing music for his band and theatrical productions.