When it comes to bringing iconic or unknown characters to the stage, veteran actor Rick Foucheux begins by posing some simple questions: Who is your character? What has been the defining moment in his life? How has that moment made him into the individual he is now?
“The great playwrights bring these questions to the floor with bright shining light and they make you ask the most basic questions and that’s where you start with any part you are asked to play,” he said. “I try to approach even a Shakespeare script as if it is a new play and that I am playing this character for the first time.”
Foucheux is one of the most recognizable names on the D.C. stage scene; he has won four and received nominations for multiple Helen Hayes Awards, which recognize excellence in the region’s professional theater performances. He will reprise one of his nominated roles—in a Washington Stage Guild production of Eugene O’Neill’s “Hughie” in 2000—as part of an Oct. 30 fundraiser for the Quotidian Theatre Company (QTC) at The Writer’s Center.
Stepping back into the shoes of hustler Erie Smith, Foucheux, along with QTC regulars David Dubov and Steve LaRocque, will perform a one-night only reading of “Hughie.” The two-character play takes place in the lobby of a small New York hotel in 1928 with Erie talking at length to Charlie Hughes (Dubov), the new night clerk.
QTC board member and event organizer Alyssa Sanders said the evening will offer an opportunity for people to support and learn about a local theater company. “We would love to have more folks come out and see what Quotidian has to offer,” she said.
Sanders and Foucheux have been friends for years. While having dinner one evening, Sanders suggested the idea of doing “Hughie” as a reading and fundraiser. Foucheux did not need to be convinced. “I was thrilled,” he said. “I had been looking for an opportunity to revisit that script. It’s a heck of a script for line running. This guy, Erie Smith, he talks and talks and talks. …It’s one of O’Neill’s greatest and, of course, he wrote a lot of great ones.”
One difference in this production is that LaRocque will read the stage directions. “The text is like poetry,” Sanders said. “…It is some of the most beautiful text ever and I’m really excited. Rick felt it was mandatory to have those read because often times they do productions and they don’t have those read. He’s like ‘It’s the third character in the play!'”
Reading the stage directions will enable the audience to experience what an actor or director undergoes when beginning to work on a play, Foucheux said. “It’s almost as if O’Neill wrote it to be a reading experience rather than a play experience.”
Born in Houma, La., Foucheux began acting in his backyard–cops and robbers, and U.S. Army soldiers, for example. “I always had a real rich imagination as a child,” he recalled. “I think I’ve been acting since I was old enough to walk.” Later, he became involved in community theater. “I was one of those people for whom the bug bit and bit hard.”
After earning a bachelor of arts degree, with a major in speech and minor in theater, from Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La., Foucheux was ready to for a career in broadcasting. He would earn on-air television jobs in Huntington, W.Va., Phoenix and Nashville before coming to Washington in 1982 to host “Good Morning Washington.” The show lasted one year. “Rather than stay in television, my wife suggested that I pursue what she recognized was always my first love, and that was the theater,” he said. “Washington was in a place where it was really beginning to explode as a theater town. I joined it just at the right time.”
Foucheux spent the next decade honing his craft and auditioning for roles. But the theater life took its toll and he decided to quit acting in 1992. “As a young leading man, I wasn’t standing out,” he said. “I had a lot of personal growing up (to do). I’m not shy about talking about this. I went through a really tough and deep clinical depression. The theater business was not good for that. It was making me hard to live with, so I left the theater.”
With his broadcasting experience, he decided to do industrial films. “I thought the theater was behind me,” he said. “I really did. I thought ‘Well, OK. That was that chapter.’ It was just too emotionally upsetting for me to be constantly auditioning and constantly being rejected for the roles I thought I deserved.”
Foucheux became involved in psychotherapy and dealt with his depression. Four years later, Washington Stage Guild director John MacDonald invited him to come back for a part in Oscar Wilde’s “An Ideal Husband.” “I didn’t think I would come back full force, but what happened was I came with a much more relaxed view of it,” he said. “I decided that I wasn’t going to let it mess me up any more. I was going to come back and do it for the love of it, the joy of it …and that made all the difference. I think it made me a better actor. It made me more relaxed on stage. It made me able to do the work.”
The result was a revival of his acting career. Foucheux has brought his take to some of the stage’s most iconic characters–Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman” and Big Daddy in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”–and earned rave reviews and awards for leading parts in “Freud’s Last Session” and “Glengarry Glen Ross.”
Although directors are booking him up to a year in advance on average, Foucheux said he is winding down his acting career. “I’m 62 now and I have decided I want to spend a little more time with my family,” he said. “They’ve made great sacrifices for my career over the years. There have been many family parities and holidays I haven’t been able to be a part of because I was at the theater. Now that I’ve got grandchildren and my wife is retired, I want to be around for them.”
But for now, he is preparing to take a trip back into the world of Erie Smith for Quotidian. “It’s a character that requires one to really go deep inside and with another 16 years of experience, I’ve got a lot more stuff to explore there,” he said.
QTC’s staged reading of “Hughie” will begin at 7 p.m. Oct. 30 at The Writer’s Center, 4508 Walsh St., Bethesda. A silent auction and a meet-and-greet with the cast will follow. For tickets and more information, visit www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2589641. View this event on CultureSpotMC here.