Monday, August 29, 2011

Peter Galman Wants to Bring the Ship to Port

Peter Galman, as Prospero, and Bethany Reeves, as Ariel,
await the coming storm.

. . . and, when I have required
Some heavenly music, which even now I do,
To work mine end upon their senses that
This airy charm is for, I'll break my staff,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
And deeper than did ever plummet sound
I'll drown my book. . . .

Prospero, inThe Tempest, V,1

It’s not hard to imagine Peter Galman as Prospero, The Tempest’s brilliant seer who orchestrates a hurricane and then pacifies the world with a tribute to love and a paean to The Theater.

Peter Galman’s eyes twinkle merrily or burn with introspection when he talks about his epiphanies, and you can see the magician rising from deep within him as his ardor bubbles forth. There’s a touch of the poet in him when he talks about how he found himself preparing to bring Prospero to the New Jersey stage.

As he will readily tell you, the years have been punctuated by many realizations, beginning most saliently in his youth at Purdue University, when he realized that as an engineer, he made a pretty good actor. Nowadays, he finds himself at full circle, a middle-aged man engineering deals to keep William Shakespeare alive and well and thriving in Jersey City.

Peter Galman, actor, philosopher, raconteur and advertising salesman, is a member of the Actors Shakespeare Company of New Jersey, and, in true Shakespearean tradition, serves both as actor and as Marketing Coordinator. His relationship with the company is, he says, quoting the bard, “. . . a marriage of true minds,” and he intends to see that the confluence of art and business will be good for both him and the company he loves so much.

The journey to Jersey City began when Galman, having left his home in Chicago to study engineering at Purdue, found that he lacked motivation for applied physics, materials or thermodynamics. Like so many youngsters who discover their creativity after high school, he drifted inevitably into theater, enrolling in available acting classes, starring in various university productions.

Galman’s mother, recognizing the pulse of a real passion, enrolled her son in a nationwide competition for a scholarship to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. “Mom told me to go to Chicago – that there was this opportunity there – but she was pretty nonchalant about it. So I thought it’d be kind of a lark. She’d sent my name in, and one of my fraternity brothers was going to Chicago anyway, so I figured what the hell.”

Much to his delight, Peter was granted tuition at the acclaimed theater school, and the next thing he knew he was twenty years old, still (technically) a virgin, sitting on a park bench in Washington Square Park, reading the Village Voice classified ads, trying to decide whether to spend the $50 he had in his pocket on housing or on food.

He lived a hand-to-mouth existence for two years – studying at AADA, learning how to breathe life into characters by making use of his sensory experiences, being cast in showcases, going to watch actors craft their art.

From 1969-73, Galman inhabited the role of Tom Hughes, the onscreen love child of Bob and Lisa Hughes, a pivotal couple in the ongoing television drama As the World Turns. During Peter’s tenure in the role, Tom Hughes grew from a petulant teenager to a draft-dodging accidental murderer to law student, attorney, loving husband and father. At first the trite writing, banal scripts and repetitive plots were fun for the young actor. He was making money, had a devoted bevy of fans.

However, he didn’t really appreciate what the true value of the work was, which, in the end, proved to be a rigorous training in diligence and perseverance. The soap forced him to prepare a performance in little time under strenuous pressures; no one ever let him forget how much depended on his remaining popular, maintaining ratings, and no one ever offered him shortcuts to learning vast numbers of lines every single day. The lessons were invaluable.

Eventually, the character continued to evolve, but Peter left in 1973, when his demand for better pay won him some dollars but lost him the role. Freed from the soap’s golden leash, Peter Galman began to explore new territories.

He studied with Stella Adler, who taught him to dwell and grow in his own imagination, to see the big picture and envision big ideas. She told him he could build on his television experience by incorporating her theater of realism, and he blossomed under her direction. “Lots of people were withered by Stella’s criticism,” Peter considers. “But not me. My critiques were more like ego-builds than the shakedowns most of my peers got. I was lucky. She really liked me.”

Stella also encouraged Galman to exercise his innate resourcefulness.

With a growing family (Peter has two daughters and a son, now grown), Peter had to make a living, and he applied his skills of diligence and perseverance and became a Product Placement representative, creating partnerships between filmmakers and advertisers for mutual benefit.

Peter had always admired Shakespeare, had been smitten by Laurence Olivier’s clipped, impeccable recordings, productions at the University of Chicago, the work of Michael Mac Liammoir and others; he learned whole sonnets, digested monologues, committed roles to memory for future work. And then, while studying with Acting Coach Elizabeth Browning, he discovered the First Folio. And suddenly he knew that this was the work he had been born to channel.

In 2002, while performing in his own one-man show off-Broadway, Peter met Colette Rice, Artistic Director and Play Master for the Actors Shakespeare Company, who was auditioning actors to add to the Actors Shakespeare Company, then located in Hoboken. Peter read Shylock for her, and she said it was the best Shylock she had ever seen. “It was easy to make her feel that way,” Peter demurs, his blue eyes flickering with momentary shyness. “What she was seeing was an actor in his passion. She hired me on the spot.”

Since then, he has created memorable performances for the ASCNJ, including Cardinals Pandulph (King John) and Richelieu (Three Musketeers), Ancient Pistol (Henry V), Bottom (Midsummer Night’s Dream) and Claudius (Hamlet). Then, in 2009, he finally got the opportunity to play The Merchant of Venice’s Shylock, the role that brought him to the company in the first place.

And now, if Peter’s engineering skills come to full fruition, he will set about to manufacture such stuff as (his and company’s) dreams are made on. His efforts will create funding to produce a fabulous 400th Anniversary celebration production of The Tempest, in which Peter will also play the part of Prospero.

For the celebration, the company seeks to pull out all the stops, to create a production that dazzles its audiences in every way. And that takes a budget.

To date, money still needs to be raised to create a show that matches Artistic Director Collette Rice’s vision, and Peter has initiated programs to create a tempest of activities that will drive the company into the public's attention.

A new website with an interactive blog, community outreach programs, school visits will be some of the ways the Company will go to the public for support. They will seek sponsors and friends, and they will tap into whatever resources are available to them as they concurrently seek to build new ones.

On the afternoon of Sunday, September 18, they will host their first ever Shakespeare festival in Bayonne. “It’ll be at the beautiful 16th Street DiDominico Park, on the stage of the bandshell on lovely Newark Bay, overlooking the gantries of Elizabeth.” The day will be a kind of miniature Renaissance Faire, featuring dancing, sword fighting displays, vendors, singing, etc. Mark Smith, Mayor of Bayonne, will introduce the theater company at the event.

“We all recognize how lucky we are to be part of this company,” Peter says. “And we want to spread the word that what we have is very special, we’re worth the trip to Jersey City. So it’s my mission to make sure we tell the world, raise awareness of who we are and what we do and how much we love this work!”

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