(Daily Herald) If you want to talk to Jack Stauffer about theater, make sure you give yourself some time.
Though the actor has a pretty impressive screen resume (Chuck Tyler of the original “All My Children” cast, Bojay in “Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming,” Scott Adams of “The Young and the Restless”) he’ll be quick to tell you that his first and real love is theater.
Stauffer is one of the dozens of top-notch celebrity guests pegged for a visit to Salt Lake Comic Con this week, and, in preparation for the event, he took some time to chat over the phone with the Daily Herald about his extensive career both on screen and on stage. Unfortunately, with only 15 minutes on the clock, time was limited, especially compared to Stauffer’s 48 years of experience in the television, film and stage industries, including a diverse array of shows, pilots and shorts, over 250 commercials and hundreds of stage productions.
“Some of us were blessed by knowing at a very early age what we needed to do,” he said, in regard to his career. “I knew from I think as little as age 5 that I was meant to be out front. It was part of my genetic package.”
Stauffer grew up in the theater before heading to Northwestern to further pursue his passion for the stage. Like all good stories, though, his path didn’t come without a fair share of hurdles.
“When I started at Northwestern, the head of the drama department said, ‘I think you ought to transfer to liberal arts,’” Stauffer said.
Undeterred, he continued in the program and starred in a show that would impact the rest of his career. The show, “Mister Roberts,” is one Stauffer has starred in multiple times, directed twice and said he never tires of.
The play is based off a collection of short stories by Thomas Heggen that includes his memories of service aboard the USS Virgo, a small U.S. cargo ship supplying troops during the end of World War II.
According to Stauffer, its Broadway debut was in 1948, starring Henry Fonda as Doug Roberts, Robert Keith as Doc, David Wayne as Ensign Pulver and William Harrigan as the Captain. It was adapted for screen in 1955 with Fonda again in the role of Roberts, James Cagney as Captain Morton, William Powell as Doc and Jack Lemmon as Ensign Pulver.
“I have loved that play since I was in college,” Stauffer said. “It was instrumental in me climbing the hurdle to where I was able to believe that I had talent, and I say this in all honesty.”
After being cast in the role of Ensign Pulver, the director leveled with Stauffer, who had been parroting the performance that Lemmon gave in the film.
“He came to me in rehearsal, looked at me, and said, ‘I’ll give you one piece of direction, and that’s all I’m ever going to give you. You need to stop being Jack Lemmon and be Jack Stauffer,’” Stauffer recalled. “That was the key to me. … That little piece of insight allowed me to be free to explore that character.”
And it’s the same insight Stauffer has passed on to the actors who work under him.
“I’ve always believed there’s nothing you can do that’s wrong in the creative arts, acting, dancing, painting, sculpting, whatever it is,” he said. “It’s interpretive. Anybody that has that part of themselves, that goes outside the box of very structured and creates something new, it’s inspirational and that person should never be denigrated or discouraged in any form. As a director, that’s very important to me. There is nothing you can do on that stage that’s wrong.”
After college, Stauffer moved to New York, where he jested that “something inexplicable happened.”(…)