My generation knew him as Mike Hammer of Mickey Spillane fame on television (my dad was fan of the show and its spinoffs thus be default I watched as well) but actor Stacy Keach was and is so much more than the trench coat-fedora-wearing private eye.Â The gruff actor with the distinguished and distinguishable voice has a long and illustrious career which includes portraying numerous dramatic Shakespearean leading men, various of roles in films and the small screen, and he even currently narrates the CNBC show American Greed.
But let’s go back to his stage life, which I along with with many folks who packed into Harman Hall learned of during his one-on-one interview with Shakespeare Theatre Company’s (STC) Artistic Director Michael Kahn.Â Monday night was the final “Classic Conversations” installment for the season and as usual, Michael and guest didn’t disappoint.Â He chooses his guests well not only for their audience appeal, but also for the noticeable chemistry which he has with them.Â Stacy delved into a bit about his background, one that he might have been born in Georgia, but moved as a baby to Pasadena, CA where he went to high school and discovered he had the acting bug. Interestingly enough, his dad, Stacy Keach Sr. came from the industry and while he didn’t encourage him to get into performing, he did help him out with direction.Â Stacy told us that when he was around 13 or 14 years old, he had a part in Our Town as the stage manager, and his father began to get involved with coaching his acting.
He came from a family of Northwestern grads, but he went to Berkley thinking he’d be a lawyer, but ended putting his attention toward drama.Â Later, he earned an M.F.A. at the Yale School of Drama and was a Fulbright Scholar at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.Â He talked of his love and appreciation for radio theatre, his beginnings with the group LA Theatre Works, some of his favorite leading ladies (Stockard Channing), how he learned from some of the best teachers who broke down Shakespeare line by line by line and how the way he was able to perform show after show night after night for years was to walk onto the stage and think, “I’ve never been here before. This is new to me.”Â That the execution of even one single line within Shakespeare could be different time after time, it could be bad, but at least it would be different.Â The audience would not ever feel that it was a show which was acted each night, but rather that it was fresh, the first time for all.
Stacy has won numerous awards, performed the lead role in Shakespeare’s King Lear, Merlin in Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot and again took on King Lear at Sidney Harman Hall which won him the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Actor. He has also played the role in three separate productions over around a 5 year period of Hamlet (which he claimed he was a very young Hamlet in his 30′s).
He then took questions which had been sent to STC by way of Twitter, Facebook and email, including mine (yay) which I tweeted to #AskStacy: What was the most challenging role of stage, TV and film which you took on? He answered that filming the lead role in Luther based on John Osborne’s biographical play of Martin Luther, was the most difficult because they couldn’t define as to whether it “was a movie or a movie of a play”? Unfortunately the direction which Luther ended up going wasn’t ideal.
Besides Martin Luther, he’s played Nixon and other historical figures, which he thoroughly enjoys.Â He’d love to play Teddy Roosevelt, during the time when he went up the Nile River on a boat, but unfortunately, Hollywood isn’t keen on period pieces these days he lamented.
For fans rooting for Stacy to come back for a remounted performance of King Lear, well, we can keep asking right? Meanwhile, you can tune into him on CNBC and catch him in the long awaited action thrillerÂ The Bourne Legacy, which is in theaters August 10th.
Pamela Lynne Sorensen is the founder of Pamela’s Punch, a leading source of information for the “who, what, when, and where” of Washington, DC’s elite social, professional, and philanthropic scene, which she founded in November of 2006. In 2012 she launched Pacific Punch, based in Los Angeles. Pamela comes from an extensive background in sales and business development from a variety of industries, has been involved with charities and fundraising for a number of years and holds several Board and leadership positions. She currently resides in Arlington, Virginia and when she’s not out on the town, she’s reading or writing while sipping fine wine, or traveling the country and the world ISO adventures, beauty, fun, food, style, libations, music, and the good life. Follow her on Twitter at @pamelaspunch.