|Keith Firstenberg as Leo Clark (right) implores Lance Alan as Jack Gable to embrace the "role of a lifetime."|
As the Beatles sang in I Am A Walrus, “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.” Keith Firstenberg can certainly relate to this lyric when it comes to playing multiple identities in the Farmington Players’ production of Leading Ladies. Only in Keith’s case, some of the “He”s are “She”s! Keith’s primary role is Leo Clark, an amateurish professional Shakespearean actor who just can't seem to catch a break … until he decides to dress as a woman to steal an inheritance!
Keith describes the challenge of playing multiple roles: “It's hard to keep track of where the actor stops and the character they are playing begins. At one point in the show I am playing a role (Leo) who is portraying an affect (Maxine) who has taken on a character from Shakespeare (Olivia). And how good is Leo at playing Maxine? Can Leo do a good job convincing everyone that he is Maxine, and then show how Maxine would play Olivia, as opposed to how Leo himself would do it? And then I take a step back and realize that I have to bring all three characters across and show how the first two are struggling with the character they are portraying. I can't just figure out how I should present Maxine, because I have to play Leo portraying Maxine. And I have to do all this in only a few words; It gets a bit heady. But then it's the challenges that we enjoy, isn't it?”
As Leo says, “It’s the role of a lifetime!” and Keith certainly rises to the challenge, constantly switching back and forth between Leo and Maxine, sometimes in the same scene. Keith was familiar with Leading Ladies and said he wanted to be in the show because “I just like farce; it suits my sense of humor. It's funny. Plain and simple. Ken Ludwig makes it easy to understand your character's motivations; the fun part is working out the timing.” Speaking of timing, Keith’s constant costume changes require synchronized movements and the assistance of a personal offstage dresser – in Keith’s case, his lovely wife Jayne. I asked Keith if he had ever done anything silly to impress his wife, and he answered, “I thought just doing theatre was impressive enough to win me my love; turns out I just had to go dancing.” As it turns out, Keith is an excellent dancer and he even choreographed the dance sequences between Leo and Meg in our show.
Theatre is Keith’s main hobby and he's been doing it for as long as he can remember. He grew up just north of New York City and has lived in Minnesota and Traverse City, before moving to the Detroit Metro area in 2012. He currently works for the Federal Mogul division that makes Champion Spark Plugs.
The Farmington Players' production of Leading Ladies has three more performances, December 18 – 20. The show is proudly sponsored by Cadillac Travel Group. Tickets can be purchased online at www.farmingtonplayers.org or by calling the box office at 248-553-2955.