PORT TOWNSEND — Aside from a 2013 reading of “Love Letters,” actor-writer John Considine hasn’t been onstage since 1989. So his appearance in “A Life in the Theater,” which opens at the Key City Public Theatre on Friday, is an auspicious occasion.
Especially since it most likely represents the 79-year-old veteran actor and writer’s final performance.
“This is my last time on stage,” Considine said in between rehearsals for the 1977 David Mamet play.
Including this week’s discounted Thursday preview, the play will be performed 12 times: Thursday through Sunday, July 3-6 and July 10-13.
All performances will begin at 7:30 p.m. at Key City Playhouse, 419 Washington St.
Tickets for the preview are $15. For subsequent performances, tickets are $20 to $24 and $10 for students.
They are available at the box office or at keycitypublictheatre.org.
The play explores the relationship between two actors, one old and one young, including scenes from the different plays the characters acted throughout their careers.
Considine, of course, plays the older one, Robert, while the part of John is portrayed by Seattle actor Erik Gratton.
Considine identifies with Robert for several reasons, including the fact that both the actor and the character are aging, although Considine is about 20 years older than the character as written.
“I am playing Robert in a different point of his life than I am, but I can relate to a lot of the health issues,” Considine said.
“Hopefully, I can work through these issues during the performance, but it will be an adventure, not only for me but for the people in their seats.
“I don’t think it’s a great play but feel it will speak to a lot of the people in the audience because they, like Robert, are in their final arc, their last sunset, so it will be very effective.”
Considine was born in Los Angeles, where he lived for nearly 60 years.
He visited Port Townsend on a whim after hearing of “a scenic place on the water that had the same amount of rain as Los Angeles” at a Hollywood party.
He and his third wife, Astrid, immediately bought a house, and he began his “retirement,” which continues to this day.
For a few years, he would visit Los Angeles, and his friends would wonder “if I still liked it up there,” Considine said.
After awhile, they stopped asking.
His periodic visits to L.A. became shorter, from months at a time to just a few days.
“I love my life now,” Considine said. “I have a great view of the water and live in a nice, protected haven.
“I don’t miss anything about Los Angeles,” he added.
“I find it to be too fast-paced, too crowded, even though I lived there nearly 60 years.
“During one trip back, I landed at the airport and was driving out of the car rental lot when someone honked at me because I wasn’t going fast enough.”
Now, “I feel like an alien down there,” he said.
He doesn’t miss the attention that an actor usually receives, noting, “I’ve had more applause than most people on Earth.”
For several years, he kept an ear to the ground about possible movie roles but has given that up as well.
If he was needed for a few weeks for a small part in the latest Martin Scorcese film, he’d fly down in a heartbeat, but it’s not something he actively pursues.
He spends his time cooking, writing and teaching tai chi.
Working on a play is a healthy distraction, but he is looking forward to going back to his real life, which is supported comfortably with a writer’s pension, of which he said, “If that ever went away, we would be in deep doo-doo.”
Considine has 110 acting credits listed on the Internet Movie Database, imdb.com, beginning with the uncredited “boy” in the 1942 film “A Yank at Eaton” to a lead role in the 2005 direct-to-video film “The Mongol King.”
In between, he acted in television shows ranging from “The Outer Limits” and “The Twilight Zone” to “My Favorite Martian” and “The Beverly Hillbillies,” to name just a few.
During his acting career, he worked as a writer — hence, the pension — for “My Three Sons,” which starred his brother, Tim Considine, for the first few seasons; “MacGyver;” “Marcus Welby, M.D.;” and the 1978 Robert Altman film, “A Wedding.”
He won the most public attention from his roles in daytime soap operas, such as playing “billionaire bastard” Reginald Love in “Another World” from 1986 to 1988.
“I was on a train when the conductor recognized me as the ‘billionaire bastard’ and told me to get off his train,” Considine said.
“The other passengers told him that it was just a character and that I was an actor, but he still kicked me off.”
Considine said he “was never a celebrity” and was amazed by what his close friend Paul Newman had to tolerate.
“We were at a restaurant, and two women followed him into the restroom with cameras,” Considine said. “When I asked, he said it happened to him all the time.”
While he was usually left alone in Los Angeles, he is almost never recognized in Port Townsend, where he appears to be just another retired guy.
Living here, he’s had the opportunity to rediscover his own past, finding that his maternal grandfather, theater magnate Alexander Pantages, actually jumped ship in Port Townsend in the early 20th century.
“I always heard that he had landed in Seattle, but when I moved here, I learned that he jumped ship right here, in Port Townsend,” he said.
Pantages was a theater impresario, opening theaters that still bear his name, while his paternal grandfather, also John Considine, was a promoter and producer in Seattle.
Both his grandparents were accused of crimes but dodged the bullet.
Pantages was arrested for investigation of rape but was not convicted after a lawyer argued that physically, he could not have done it.
The other grandfather was accused of killing a former police chief but successfully argued that it was in self-defense — even though the victim was unconscious during the shooting, Considine said.
The two didn’t care for each other.
“My grandfathers never spoke,” Considine said. “They both attended my parents’ wedding but stayed at opposite sides of the room. It was like the Montagues and the Capulets.”
Considine has never sat through a reality show but watches many modern television series, enjoying them both for their character development and the absence of the boundaries he had to deal with as both an actor and a writer.
“When I was writing for TV, there were a lot of restrictions about what you could say,” he said.
“You were only allowed a certain number of ‘hells’ and ‘damns,’ ” he said.
“Now, TV is where the money is for actors, and there are no limits as to what you can do.”
Television is preferable, he said, because of a new star system that has taken over the film world.
“Nowadays, the movies divide people into two groups: the actors and the stars,” he said.
“There are actors who have worked all their lives and are now getting less money than when they were young.
“The stars and the actors are separated. It is no longer a family when everyone was in it together.
“So it’s not nearly as much fun.”
“A Life in the Theater,” written in 1977 for a cast of two, was performed off-Broadway for years. In 1993, it was made into a made-for-television movie starring Jack Lemmon and Matthew Broderick.
During the play, Considine is in the spotlight for the duration. There is no backstop for any potential flubs.
He already has discovered that it will be a difficult feat to perform without his glasses.
“When the lights go down, I can’t see a thing, so we’ve already worked it out that I grab Erik’s arm to stay steady until they come back on,” he said.
It’s a tough task, but it is by Considine’s design. He approached director Denise Winter with a suggestion to perform the play and the desire to play Robert.
“This was a part I always wanted to play. I’m connected to it,” he said.
“It is more physical than I expected, and I’m glad I did it this year because I might not be able to do it next year.”
Winter had some reluctance about the play, but after reading it herself and watching a “magical” read-through with Considine and Gratton, she made the commitment.
Considine said that if he hasn’t rehearsed for a few days, there are aspects that he needs to learn all over again, but this hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm.
Winter has enjoyed the experience, an example of art imitating life imitating art.
“It’s different directing an older actor,” she said. “You need to go at their pace.
“But this play is about backstage stories. When we take a break, we share anecdotes, and this blends into the rehearsal.
“When we started the rehearsal, it gelled immediately,” Winter said.
“There is a chemistry, and everyone has a good time.”
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or [email protected]