For the Gertzogs, theater is a family affair.
For the Gertzogs, theater is a family affair.
Chip Gertzog is a founding member of Providence Players, the all-volunteer theater company founded in 1998 which has since made its home in Falls Church’s James Lee Community Center Theater. His wife, Barbara Gertzog, will be directing the Providence Players’ upcoming production, “The Shadow Box,” which opens in April for a two-week run, and Chip will play The Interviewer.
“The Shadow Box,” a Pulitzer- and Tony Award-winning play by Michael Cristofer is about three terminally ill patients in a California hospice facility, who share their stories about the process of dying with The Interviewer.
According to Chip, the Providence Players had been considering this production for many years, at Barbara’s suggestion, and decided that now was the time to bring the drama to life.
“It’s a beautifully written piece of work,” Chip said. “Although it’s about family and relationships in the context of terminal illness, it’s really about embracing life and living life.”
Chip admits that this play will be a role-reversal for the husband-wife duo, as he is often directing his wife in Providence Players shows.
“Turnabout is fair play,” Chip said. “I’ve been blessed with being able to direct my wife on stage a number of times. This is her first time having a crack at directing me, and she’s done a great job of whipping me into shape.”
He hopes that his experience as a director will make him a better actor for his wife.
“After having directed a number of plays, I can take my relatively average talent as an actor and maximize it a bit better, because I can look at myself as a director as well, and when a director asks for something, I have a better sense of what they mean,” Chip said.
In a challenge to Chip, the role of The Interviewer has been reenvisioned. What was written as a disembodied voice spoken offstage will, in the Providence Players production, be an onstage role. Chip will play the role alongside mainstay lead actor John Coscia, Jayne Victor, Ari Post, Sara Bennett, Mona Kay Helper, Leta Hall and newcomers David James and Andrew Scallion, who will play the ailing residents of the hospice facility and their families.
In his wife’s production, Chip is also working behind the scenes in set design, construction and decoration. Chip and fellow actor Coscia have designed a set that abstractly represents the three cottages in which Joe (Coscia), Brian (James) and Felicity (Helper), will live their final hours.
Managing all of the behind-the-scenes action as technical director is Chip and Barbara’s son, Jimmy. At 24, Chip says Jimmy has grown up with Providence Players, first getting his name in the playbill as a preteen.
While the couple’s other two children – Charlotte, a sophomore at Woodson High School, and Margaret, a junior at Dickinson College – won’t be taking part in the production, both join the family in their interest in theater. Charlotte works behind the scenes in prop construction for high school productions, and Margaret has acted in plays at her college.
“The theatre bug has spread to the entire family,” Chip said.
When any Gertzog is taking part in a Providence Players production, Chip says the house can get a bit hectic, as it becomes a place to run lines, design sets and send out promotional material.
“When one of us is directing a play, or acting in a play, it’s pretty all-consuming,” Chip said. “We rehearse until 10 p.m., but then we talk about it until midnight.”
And while Chip admits that devoting so much to community theater makes him feel guilty that he isn’t spending more time with his family, he praises the benefits of involving his children in community theater, where they can see their parents doing something they love without pay.
“We take pretty significant pride in the stuff we put on stage,” Chip said. “It’s very rare that children can see their parents endeavor so intently. It’s a marvelous example for kids about what one can do with their leisure time and what passion for something really means.”
“The Shadow Box” will be performed April 1 – 16. Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances are held at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday matinees will be staged at 2 p.m. Tickets are $18 for adults and $15 for seniors and youth, and can be reserved by e-mailing email@example.com or calling 703-425-6782. Performance will be held at The James Lee Community Center Theater, 2855 Annandale Road, Falls Church. For more information about the Providence Players, visit providenceplayers.org.