Illuminating our Stories: Gavin Lawrence becomes APT's first black core company member

Posted June 13, 2019

Gavin Story News

By Lindsay Christians, The Capital Times

SPRING GREEN — From a chair onstage, Gavin Lawrence is listening.

It’s mid-afternoon and the theater is mostly empty. The sun has come out from behind the clouds, making the actors squint. At stage left, a musician strums a guitar while Kelsey Brennan, playing a woman consumed by unexpressed passion, shifts nervously. Director John Langs watches from beneath his baseball cap.

As the lovelorn Duke of Illyria, Lawrence looks mysterious, like he sees something no one else does. His inscrutability draws the eye.

After three seasons at American Players Theatre, local audiences know that this is part of Lawrence’s appeal as an actor — the ability to show, in his eyes and his posture, a deep well of feeling.

“I grew up with people asking me, ‘Are you upset about something?’ because I tend to be quiet,” Lawrence said. “I think I have resting serious face. People think I’m in a bad mood when I’m in a quiet mood.”

Lawrence opens his fourth season at APT with “Twelfth Night,” in previews starting June 8. The classical company was founded by Randall Duk Kim and Anne Occhiogrosso 40 years ago on this hill.

APT runs plays in repertory all summer in two theaters, a 1,100-seat amphitheater (the Hill Theatre) and the 200-seat, indoor Touchstone. Five plays open in June, with three more in August.

Forming the backbone of this work is a core company of 13 actors, among them Jim DeVita, Colleen Madden, Sarah Day and Marcus Truschinski. When he accepted APT’s offer last fall, Lawrence became the first black member of that company. Melisa Pereyra, an actor born in Argentina who played Juliet in 2014, was the first person of color to join the core company, in 2016.

“It was an amazing opportunity to be part of one of the best theaters in the country,” Lawrence said. “The work here is ridiculously good. I’ve grown very fond of some of the people here.

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