Thursday, March 01, 2012
Anthony Guest: A Life in Theatre
by Gillian Ellis
When the musical Grey Gardens opens on March 22, it will be the first OU main stage production directed by new faculty member Assistant Professor Anthony Guest. Before joining the department last September, Tony had already enjoyed a life in the theatre, both as a stage professional and as a teacher.
Tony is a Michigan native and he attended college at U of M Flint, where he was Pre-med, majoring in Biology. It was there that he met his wife Beth, who was a Theatre major. When asked what made him want to study theatre, his pat answer is, “A woman.”
By the time the couple graduated, they were married and committed to a life in the theatre. It was nothing short of a miracle that landed them both into the same MFA program the following fall, at The University of Missouri – Kansas City.
At that time, there were nine equity houses in Kansas City and both the Guests worked regularly to build successful careers. After graduation they worked for a season at the Utah Shakespearean Festival and it was during this season that the festival was awarded the Tony for Best Regional Theatre.
We think, at the very least, this makes Tony (and Beth) part of a Tony-Award winning ensemble, but he is characteristically modest about it. After a successful New York showcase, Tony signed with a well known agent, and thinking that his true measure would be judged in the biggest of big cities, Tony polished his résumé and the Guests packed their bags, and headed for the Big Apple.
There Tony found success, directing for Fordham University, playing Macduff in the Scottish play and playing Stanley Sheff, an IT specialist, on CBS’s Guiding Light. During this time, he was also doing some teaching. Tony says, “I think to be a healthy stage actor, you must give back somehow. One way to do that is to teach. It keeps you balanced. It’s very easy in this business to become narcissistic.”
And then very suddenly, the life the Guests had been living fell out of balance. They were living in New Jersey when 9/11 happened, all the while expecting their first child. “We couldn’t get into the city to work and it was hard to pay the rent,” says Tony. And then came a family health crisis, which called them back to Michigan and demanded a re-evaluation of their lives. Tony says, “Even though my career in New York was cut short, I knew that God had a plan.”
He decided to begin applying for positions in higher education. He spent four years as the director of the theatre program at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids and then four more years as a professor of theatre at Radford University in Virginia, where he attained tenure and was promoted to associate professor. But he and his family were determined to be closer to their family in Michigan and he enthusiastically accepted the position at OU to fill the very big shoes left behind by the retirement of Michael Gillespie.
“To be here is quite surreal,” says Tony. “I actually performed here in 1996, in an OU/U of M Flint joint production of Hamlet. Dr. Gillespie taught me Theatre History. And Beth was an adjunct teacher here, back in the day.” We are sure it will all feel much more real once Tony hears the audience applaud what we know will be a very successful production of Grey Gardens.
Grey Gardens features the story of Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter “Little Edie”— Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ most scandalous relatives. Members of Memphis’ famed Beale family, they were once part of high society, but become East Hampton’s most notorious recluses, living in the dilapidated mansion with 51 cats. With a book by Doug Wright, music by Scott Frankel and lyrics by Michael Korie, the Broadway production won three Tony Awards. For more information about Grey Gardens, the Musical, see the Broadway shows’ website.
Our production has musical direction by Associate Professor Fred Love and scenic design by another new faculty member, Visiting Assistant Professor Jeremy Barnett. Tony says the set is amazing and really draws the audience into the mansion. Two students, Abby Alexander and Lauren Wainwright, have designed the costumes, and Associate Professor Kerro Knox the lighting.
The show opens on Thursday, March 22, with a performance at 8 pm. For a complete listing of dates and times see our season brochure online on our homepage. Tickets are $18 general, $10 students and 10 am matinee, and can be purchased from all our usual services, including online and by phone. Remember, there is never a service fee for purchasing tickets in advance. Find complete ticket information at oakland.edu/tickets.
Photos: Top: Anthony Guest (in the door frame) with the cast of Grey Gardens. Photo by Ashley Rozanski.
Bottom: Anthony Guest as Duke Senior in As You Like It at The Missouri Repertory Theatre.