Since far too often we only publicly say nice things about people when they are dead I’ve decided to randomly pick a Facebook friend every day and say something nice about them.
June 19, 2019
Today’s person: Howard Swain!
I had worked for decades in the Bay Area and had never managed to work with Howard Swain. It was weird. I’d seen him, he’d seen me. We would hopscotch each other at theatres.
And I didn’t know much about him personally. Married to Nancy Carlin, old ACT, kinda punk, but that was pretty much it.
And then I was cast with him in “33 Variations,” which I did not see coming. An Austrian music publisher of Italian descent who worked with Beethoven was not one of those roles I thought I would get, but on the other hand Howard as Beethoven was brilliant. Perfect. His shaggy genius grabbed the audience and pulled them through every twist and turn of creation. And when we did “Widowers’ Houses” together I was equally blown away by his combination of wooly insanity, desperate power, and emotional precision.
See, here’s the thing - in my admittedly limited experience acting with Howard he seems to me like a guy who is constantly in awe of the amazing mystery of existence. He has the fresh eyes and immediate life energy of someone who just and is constantly waking up from a coma, with each experience totally new and exciting. He is a combination of a bounding and endlessly playful sheepdog, a punk rock guitarist, and the college professor who will not only smoke weed with you but also offer to sell you more weed, but just give it to you because then you’ll have more money for pizza. He does deep research, and joyously argues points, he rolls with the punches, and he always, always looks at you like you are about to say something amazing.
Howard is a fun, interesting guy offstage, and a hypnotically watchable character onstage. Fun to watch, fun to work with. It doesn’t get better than that.