Thoughts & Musings

2ND STORY THEATRE’S ED SHEA DOES IT ALL SO WELL

What an artful juggling act. Whew! Ed Shea, the artistic director of Warren's 2nd Story Theatre, is not only the administrator-in-chief of the company, we frequently see him among the actors on stage, and when he's not doing that he's often directing them.

by Bill Rodriguez, CoxHub
  • 21st April 201521/04/15
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Ed Shea in “The Goat” – 2012


He’s 56 now, a couple of generations past the callow-youth roles he could pull off at 19, when I first interviewed him. Then 2nd Story occupied its first space, among several subsequently, above a bar in Newport. He founded the theater in 1970 with Pat Hegnauer, mainly with her directing and him acting. In the 1990s 2nd Story took a long hiatus, and Shea became a Trinity Repertory Company member for 12 years, also teaching acting at the Trinity Rep conservatory. In 2001 2nd Story was resurrected in the second story of a former union hall in Warren.

“I never took a formal acting or theater course in my life,” he remarked, sitting on the set of one of two current productions. “It was just from sitting in a room in rehearsal and a theater for 30 years.”

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“The Misanthrope” – 2006


Not every actor wants to direct, and certainly not every director wants to act, and both would usually prefer being set on fire rather than become an administrator. So how did he get so thoroughly into all three responsibilities?

“It developed,” he explained. “I didn’t direct much back in the days when we were doing 2nd Story at School One [in Providence], but I didn’t really know what I was doing when I was doing it. I started to understand at a certain point. But then I moved into teaching around the time I mastered the craft of acting. I got it. I remember getting it. I understood that it was about the words. When I got that, I wanted to start teaching. I wanted to pass that on.”

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“I Am My Own Wife” – 2009


That said, he’s found teaching acting to be more difficult – and more frustrating – in recent years . “I’m really disillusioned with the generation of twentysomething actors. So disillusioned with their lack of discipline, their lack of education. I’m sure it’s just a product of the times. It troubles me.”

Shea has performed on stage this season, as well as directed, but he’s planning on taking a break from acting for a year or so, to charge his batteries.

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“Freud’s Last Session” – 2014


Directing calls for skills he finds right up his alley. “I’m extremely detail-oriented when it comes to the beats in a play, moving the play and blocking and making sure that everyone moves in a way that’s organic and generous. I can look at that forever. It’s like a Rubik’s cube to me. It’s like a chew toy to me.”

As far as administering the operation, he says marketing is the main task that he’s carved out for himself as “the idea guy,” since he has Lynne Collinson doing the administrative heavy lifting as executive director.

“I do like the administration [responsibility],” he said. “I enjoy the business. I enjoyed the gambling aspect of it. I enjoy the fruit cylinder spinning. I do enjoy it. I find it occasionally frustrating, but for the most part I do.”

Summing up how he copes with his trio of responsibilities, he says the jobs haven’t distracted from one another.

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“Sylvia” – 2014

“I think one invigorates the other,” he observed. “The administration, directing plays, acting, all of it. Each enhances the other. There’s a certain PT Barnum quality running this place that I like. There’s a certain magician aspect in making things happen. Alchemy, to make things happen out of nothing.”

ALL PHOTOS COURTESY RICHARD W. DIONNE, JR.


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