Visiting Mr. Wingert on Visiting Mr. Green

By Anne E. O’Keefe
Contributor

I recently had the chance to visit with Gary Wingert, perhaps best known here for his role at Artists’ Ensemble, as Jeeves, in the series by Margaret Raether.

His current role is Mr. Green in Visiting Mr. Green, by Jeff Baron. The show that opened off Broadway in 1998 and ran for more than a year at the Union Square Theatre in Greenwich Village is now translated into 23 languages and has played in 46 countries. When asked about why he feels there is universal appeal of the play, Wingert said, “Because it is a world-wide condition, the isolation of old age.” The play uses humor to engage the audience.

Josh Krause, a Milwaukee actor, plays Ross and both appeared in Jeeves at Sea at the beginning of the season. Between AE’s season opener and this production, Wingert was in Agamemnon, at the Court Theatre in Chicago.

“It was an amazing experience, doing one of the oldest existing plays in history,” said Wingert. In addition to playing several theaters in Chicago, Wingert has performed in San Diego at the Old Globe and at theaters in New Jersey and Seattle.

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Gary Wingert left, Josh Krause, right. | Photo by John Cobb

“I love what I do,” he went on to say.

Wingert taught high school English for 30 years and says teaching is similar to acting. “You have your objective for the day, which is getting from point A to point B and how you’re going to get there is dependent on what you get from your class when teaching and from your audience when you are on stage,” Wingert explained.

He is also an accomplished piano player.

The Rockford Area Arts Council is happy to support AE’s efforts in a collaboration with Temple Beth-El.

“Today social reform is colliding with what is called religious freedom, or traditional beliefs. Religion is complicated. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about Christianity, Islam or Judaism. There are conservative and liberal groups in each. And where does religious doctrine end and tradition begin? Rabbi Wing was a great resource as we worked on a play that wrestles with these issues,” said Director, Richard Raether. Rabbi Wing will be hosting a discussion on the issues brought up in the play at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 22 at Temple Beth-El, 1203 Comanche Dr., in Rockford.

AE concludes the season with Carter W. Lewis’s Women Who Steal, June 10-26. Susan Gosdick, Betsy Baker, and Scott Chachula present what is described as, “Gal pals out for night of vengeance.”

Visiting Mr. Green, sponsored by BMO Harris Bank, runs through May 22, and is performed on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Thursday tickets are just $19. All other performances are $30, $28 for seniors, and $10 for students. Purchase tickets at artistsensemble.org or call the box office at 815-394-5004. AE is in residence at the Cheek Theatre at Rockford University, 5050 East State Street.

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