All the World’s A Stage: Jeff Ware ’74

They say practice makes perfect, but Jeff Ware might beg to differ.

After more than 30 years of practice as a working actor – all the years on stage, the bit parts in television shows, the movie roles – Ware is well aware of the reality of his craft. He knows the learning never really ends.

“Acting is really like plumbing or like woodcutting,” said Ware ’74, theatre, who is appearing this month and next in CenterStage’s production of Motti Lerner’s The Murder of Isaac. “It’s a craft. You have to practice it.”

Given the challenge of his current role as Eliahu – an Orthodox Israeli ex-soldier hospitalized with post-traumatic stress disorder, for which he studied endlessly the history of fundamentalism in Israel – it’s a good thing Ware has never been one to rest on his laurels.

The son of two actors, Ware didn’t actually realize his interest in the “family business” until he was 19. As a freshman at Ohio University, it took getting incredibly sick at a rock festival – and a semester of recovery and deep reflection – for him to discover his love for theatre.

“I’d always been around (acting), but I was a wise guy. I thought I was going to be a lawyer,” he said. “When I decided to act, I knew I needed to change schools.”

Ware’s father, whose family was from Baltimore, pointed him in the direction of UMBC. As a transfer student, Ware immediately took to the close-knit theatre department, learning as much about the technical aspect of the stage as acting itself.

In his senior year, Ware competed for acting scholarships at the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival, earning regional “best actor” accolades for his performances from Hatful of Rain and Constantinople Smith. He later competed nationally, winning enough scholarship money to study at the Webber Douglas Academy for Dramatic Art in London for three years.

As much as he loved London, however, Ware had already set his sights on New York.

“I came back to New York and I just started acting,” he said. “New York is a tremendous town, a big town. Everyone comes in thinking they’re a big shot. And then you get beat up for a little while.”

Over the years, Ware has appeared in a little bit of everything, from Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, to episodes of “Law & Order,” to movies such as Stephen King’s Thinner and Teachers with Nick Nolte.

In The Murder of Isaac, which Ware describes as “a brilliant political expose” of politics in Israel, Ware’s character Eliahu participates in a “play within a play” about the actual assassination of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. To prepare for the role, Ware researched not only the current political climate of Israel, but post-traumatic stress disorder and fundamentalist cliques within the orthodox Jew community.

Though he admits the show may seem heavy, Ware encourages viewers to come to it with open minds. As in all good theatre, he said, the audience must allow itself to be overcome by the story, the characters.

“It asks people to think a little bit. It asks them to use their imaginations,” he said. “But if we do our job, the audience should have a wonderful time.”

– Jenny O’Grady
Originally published February 2006

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