Talented newcomer makes a hit in La Canada
By Laurel Hewett
In “‘How are we going to pull this off in La Canada?’ We kept asking each other,” said Stephen Nichols, the young actor who knocked ’em dead as Jerry in “The Zoo Story.”
Nichols was referring to the La Canada Players’ recent version of Edward Albee’s “The American Dream” and “The Zoo Story.” The Players hadn’t staged anything as controversial as an Albee play until July of ‘81.
“I really admire Jim Nasella, our director,” continued Nichols. “He kept us on the right track. We only had three weeks of rehearsal time and it was rough. I stepped in at the last moment when another guy was scheduled to play Jerry, had to leave the show.
“When I was asked if I’d ever done “Zoo Story” before I lied and said I had. I was sure of the play, and I’d been looking for a part like that for a long time. It was something I felt a need to do.”
“I still feel that I’m not finished with Jerry,” he said. “I don’t think I could catch everything that’s written into that character no matter how many times I played him. As it was, we only did six performances.”
The New York City accent which sounded so authentic in the play was absent. “A lot of people assumed I was a New Yorker,” said Nichols. “But I’m from Ohio – born in Cincinnati. I’ve always had an ear for dialog, and I studied the speech patterns of a friend who’s from New York.”
When asked his age Nichols answered, “I range from 20 to 28. It’s not too good for an actor to be stuck in one category.”
He looks younger and gentler than he did on stage as the world-weary Jerry. The blonde hair and gray-blue eyes make for a boyish, vulnerable look.
“On closing night an elderly woman in the audience yelled ‘Shut up!’ at me just as I was about to go into a monolog. I guess she’d never heard so much talk coming from one character before. I stumbled over my next line as I tried to hold my concentration. During another performance some woman talked all through the play. But for the most part audiences responded well to “Zoo Story.” I had a great time.
“During the first two performances there were no laughs at all,” said Nichols. “Then one night a girl laughed uproariously all through the show. We picked up on the audiences’ moods somehow – I don’t know quite how but that does happen – so each performance was different.”