On a visit to his father's house recently, Scott Wichmann rifled through the artifacts of his boyhood and found an essay he'd written in high school titled, "Why Do I Act?"
The Richmond actor, who has delighted (if not amazed) local audiences perennially with his dramatic range, hyperkinetic energy and humanity, says he reread the adolescent piece and laughed at the similarities between then and now.
"Acting is all about a relationship and shared communication with a group of people you've never met before," he says. "As an actor you take a story of what an author experienced or imagined and interpret it for a group of people who don't know anything about it. The experience creates a kinship for the human race."
While Wichmann, 34, says that although some people see acting as being "gimmicky and hiding your true self, it's really about being vulnerable and being honest."
Wichmann first acted professionally at age 13 when Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Jason Miller ("That Championship Season") cast him in a production of "A Thousand Clowns" in Scranton, Pa.
"All of a sudden I was in an environment of people who had a sense of play humor, but it was also an environment with structure and a work ethic," he says of the experience.
Of life in the theater, Wichmann says, "The more you do, the more you want to do." At times it seems he couldn't do much more, at least within a given production. In respective local productions of "Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop" he played 10 parts; in "I Am My Own Wife," 36; and in "Fully Committed," 41.
Few actors can, or are even willing to, transform themselves so radically, yet seamlessly. Whether playing the title role in "Bat Boy" in diapers or "Charley's Aunt" in drag, Wichmann raises the intellectual bar in Richmond theater by proving that little should be off-limits.
Wichmann, who has directed a number of plays for Theatre IV, makes his directorial debut at Barksdale when "A Member of the Wedding" opens Sept. 20.
"People sometimes ask me, 'What do you do?'" he says. "When I tell them I'm an actor and a director they persist, 'No, what else do you do?'"
"I'm an actor," he tells them. "I'm proud of it."