‘A Quick 5′ with Nick Olcott

Nick Olcott

Nick Olcott  is making his first appearance on stage in over ten years with I Love To Eat at Round House Theatre where he is portraying the culinary icon James Beard.  Washington audiences know him better as a director, especially for the thirteen productions he has mounted at Round House over the last twenty years, including Around the World in 80 Days, A Year With Frog and Toad, The Cherry Orchard, The Weir (Helen Hayes Award nomination), Uncle Vanya, and All in the Timing (Helen Hayes Award nomination).  Directing credits elsewhere include productions at Arena Stage, Theatre J, Constellation Theatre, Imagination Stage, Adventure Theatre, the Kennedy Center Family Theatre, the Berkshire Theatre Festival, and the Philadelphia Theatre Company.   Prior to 2000, he acted extensively, including roles in Dead Funny at Woolly Mammoth (Helen Hayes Award nomination); Expecting Isabel, Nothing Sacred, and The Man Who Came to Dinner at Arena Stage; Faith Healer at Scena Theatre (Helen Hayes Award nomination); and seven productions at Round House.  Mr. Olcott is also active in opera, with directing credits at Wolf Trap Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Opera Cleveland, and the In Series.  He is Interim Director of the Maryland Opera Studio at the University of Maryland, where his production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute opens on November 16. We here at MTG would like to welcome Nick Olcott back on stage and here’s hoping there are more performances to come.

What brought you to the DC area?

My partner, Tim Westmoreland, got hired to work for a Congressional subcommittee in 1979, and we moved down from Connecticut.  I was working in publishing at the time and only flirting with the thought of doing theatre.  I happened to land in DC just at the right moment, when the theatre scene was taking off.

Was it a conscious choice for you to take a break from acting and concentrate on directing?

Yes.  I decided it was too hard for me to turn my director brain off, and I was enjoying directing much more than acting at the time.  Now, after a dozen years of solid directing, I’m ready to give the director brain a rest.

Nick Olcott as James Beard. Photo courtesy of Round House.

Did you research James Beard prior to starting work on I Love to Eat?

I read Robert Clark’s excellent biography The Solace of Food, and Mr. Beard’s own memoir-with-recipes, Delights and Prejudices.  I also read some of his published correspondence, and lots of cookbooks.  My major research has been in cooking my way chronologically through what I think was his experience of food.

Why did you choose I Love to Eat as the show that would return you to the stage as an actor?

When I read the script, I felt an immediate connection with the character.  He and I are so alike in so many fundamental ways.  I knew I’d love slipping into his skin.  Plus, because it’s a one-man show, if I’m really terrible, at least I won’t ruin anyone else’s performance.

Of all of the productions you have been associated with at Round House Theatre, Can you please pick your favorite one as a director and as a performer?

As a director, I will always hold Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya close to my heart.  That production realized for me what ensemble theatre can be.  It was an extraordinary group of people and a wonderful script. As an actor, I absolutely loved being in Seasons Greetings by Alan Ayckbourne.  It was a wonderful role (a “lovable loser,” as my partner Tim called it), and I got to put on a puppet show.

I Love to Eat plays October 17th through Nov.4 at Round House Theatre, 4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814. For more information visit online.