Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Spotlight on Greg Violand

Profile: Greg Violand…a working actor who is staying local!

Most native North Coasters who are interested in being in the theatre flee the area as soon as they are old enough or feel they have gained the ability to make it “big.” They migrate to New York, LA, or Chicago—the meccas of the entertainment industry. “There is just not enough work here to financial sustain me,” one such transient said.

Not so with Westlake resident Greg Violand. Violand, along with Maryann Nagel, his wife of 22 years, have remained in the area and are prospering, at least by “artist” standards. They are two of the few local theatre performance regulars who don’t teach, direct, “have real jobs” or do temping to pay their way. They are performers. They act, they model, they do industrial films, occasionally getting work away from here, but return to this area and make it their home.

Violand, a graduate of Elyria Catholic High School, is now appearing in ‘FORBIDDEN BROADWAY, SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT,’ at the Hanna Theatre, where he gets to sing, dance and act, and do takeoffs of ‘FIDDLER ON THE ROOF,’ ‘SPAMALOT,’ and ‘THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.’ The show is scheduled to run through December 2.

Violand has been acting professionally for over twenty years. He has been seen on stage at such venues as Beck Center, Cain Park, Dobama, Actors’ Summit, Cleveland Play House, Great Lakes Theater Festival, Lakeland Theatre and Elyria Summer Theatre. He is a multi Times Theatre Tribute award winner.

It was through Elyria Summer theatre that I first met Greg when he played Fagin in ‘OLIVER.’ My son, Eric, was Artful Dodger in that production. Shortly after that meeting, I hired Greg to teach at Lorain County Community College. He much preferred performing to teaching, so he morphed into his role as “freelance actor.” “Versatility and availability are the keys”, he says, “ you have to have as many skills as possible to get a job and be willing to go anywhere at anytime to do them.” Last year found him in Hawaii for a job and he’s booked in Orlando in February. Most recently he was in ‘BECOMING GEORGE,’ a musical which received its world premiere at MetroStage in Alexandria, Virginia.

Other credits include the movies ‘FALLING IN LOVE,’ with Robert DeNiro and Meryl Streep and ‘MIRACLE DOG,’ which was shot in Chagrin Falls with Rue McClanahan, Kate Jackson and Stacy Keach. Greg recounted, during a recent interview, that he sometimes gets stopped at super markets when people recognize him as “that guy in the movie about the three-legged dog,” which gets regular play time on late night TV.

Why does he stay in the Cleveland area? His family is here, he prefers bringing up his tween-aged daughter in this area rather than in NY or LA. That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be interested in going somewhere else if the opportunity was right, but he considers himself a “working actor, not a star .”

He finds his latest assignment, working with the four-person cast of ‘FORBIDDEN BROADWAY,’ to be fun. It gives him an opportunity to run in a show for four months rather than the usual two or three weeks. He recounts that the director, Bill Selby, is “a good guy,” who has done the show a long time. As for the cast, Greg smiles as he says, “I’m old enough to be their father.”

What happens from here? As is the case when you are in an industry where there is no security, no certainty of a tomorrow, he isn’t sure. He’ll continue to try out for shows that recognize his status in Actor’s Equity, the national actor’s union, do industrial films and commercials and voice-overs, and maybe, if the opportunity is right, venture off to other horizons. In the meantime, six times a week on the stage of the Hanna Theatre, among other characterizations, he puts on a dress and wig and mimics Harvey Firestone as a cross-dressing Tevya, in ‘FIDDLER ON THE ROOF’ meets ‘HAIRSPRAY.’