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Scott Wichmann

Creation Story

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Birthplace: Pittsfield, Mass., 1973
Education: B.A. in Theater from Wagner College in Staten Island, N.Y., 1995
Where you can see his work: Wichmann is currently performing in Barksdale Theatre's one-man show, "Fully Committed," through Dec. 30, in which he brings to life 41 characters. (Call 282-2620 for details.)

Why he's back in Richmond: Those who have followed Wichmann's acclaimed Richmond theater career may remember that he left town in March to test Washington's theatrical waters. Just as he signed with a D.C. casting agency he received a call from Barksdale asking him if he was interested in returning to star in "Fully Committed," directed by Theatre IV and Barksdale Associate Artistic Director Steve Perigard.

It was a script he couldn't pass up, and Barksdale offered him the chance to earn his Equity card with the show. "It means you are a legitimate professional with a union behind you that is there for your benefit and protection," Wichmann explains. It means he will earn more money, will receive fringe benefits and that he is only allowed to act in Equity productions. "The fact that I'm getting the card and that this is a great show is a culmination of everything I have been working for."

What it's like to star in a one-man show: No different from performing in any other play, he says. "You can't really put added pressure on yourself. ... You have to take it one step at a time."

"Fully Committed" is Wichmann's second one-man show. In 2000, he starred in "Jails, Hospitals and Hip-Hop" a Theatre Gym production. In that show, he performed consecutive monologues as 10 different characters. In "Fully Committed," in which the main character, Sam Peliczowski, is an unemployed actor who takes reservations for a trendy New York restaurant, Wichmann often has to play the part of more than one character at a time.

"There are sections where I am three characters at once," he explains. "Sam, with two people on the phone. I am putting people on hold, then I have to buzz the chef." The show's characters include a mercurial French restaurant host, a self-obsessed celebrity chef, a laid-back Lebanese business manager, a cute young hostess and a host of name-dropping customers and kooky kitchen staff.

There are no costume or scenery changes. Wichmann, whose Silly Putty face and knack for physical comedy make Jim Carrey look reserved, simply changes his voice and mannerisms.

Where he finds inspiration for 41 characters: "Various characters are amalgams of people I have known," Wichmann says. The character of Sam's dad is a "blatant rip-off" of his own father. A six-month stint as a busboy in a New York restaurant also has given him plenty to work with.

Wichmann, who says he "tends to be big and broad," credits director Perigard for toning down his characterizations. "You have to trust the honesty of every single character," he says.

How he prepares for a show: First, he familiarizes himself with the script as much as possible. "Then you allow yourself to use the rehearsal process to make mistakes, to play around for a while," he says. "You find out what works and jettison the rest."

To memorize his lines, Wichmann goes home at night after a rehearsal, pulls out a page of the script and covers all but the first line with a sheet of paper. He reads the line then tries to say what goes next. He continues down the page, revealing a line at a time.

"With other shows I have tried to tape record lines and listen to them but that doesn't work because you end up delivering them the same way every time — in-a-mo-no-tone," he says, in monotone.

Does he get stage fright: Not this natural-born ham. But he does get anxious before opening night. "Not nervous anxiety like I'm going to fail," he says. "You pump yourself up and are really excited to show everyone what you've been working on."

Why he is an actor: Besides the fact that it's fun, Wichmann enjoys the feeling he gets when he has mastered a character - or 41 characters. "It is like your body is a big robot, and in your head you have all the gears and you can make the robot do whatever you want," he says. "You can actually see the script in your mind, see the pages.

"I just like that feeling you get when everybody in the room is on the same page. Whether they're riding a crest of anticipation and are sitting on the edge of their seats, or if everybody is laughing at the same time … to get a whole room of people on the same wavelength is the best feeling in the world."



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