Be supportive, be kind, be the person who is there for people, who is there to help, who is there to make it a pleasurable and joyful experience. — Peter Van Norden
I’m thrilled to welcome Peter to the show: an actor with over 45 years in the business, on both stage and screen. One of the highlights from my acting work is a staged reading of George Bernard Shaw’s Misalliance with Peter—he was wonderfully supportive (and fantastic in it) and it included many other great actors, including Armin Shimerman, from episode #2.
Just a bit of what we cover:
- the show that changed Peter’s life
- what he hopes to achieve in his acting
- what he learned from watching Meryl Streep rehearse
- how to measure your acting career
- what he wish he had focused on more
- working on a monologue from The Hothouse by Harold Pinter
What I find particularly relevant about this conversation is that you hear how Peter really struggled in his early years, dealing with the same things that many actors face: not knowing a technique, having self-doubt, questioning yourself, the rejection—it’s all there.
Peter Van Norden graduated magna cum laude from Colgate University, and studied with Sanford Meisner and many others at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York.
He’s worked both on Broadway and off and has appeared in two star-studded productions of Hamlet at the NY Shakespeare Festival, one with Sam Waterston as the lead, the other with Kevin Kline.
He has over 60 credits on IMDB and film/tv work includes the award-winning film The Accused with Jodie Foster, Stephen King’s The Stand mini-series, and opposite Steve Guttenberg in Police Academy 2.
He has done radio plays with LA Theatre Works, has worked extensively in LA theatre, and in regional theatres all over the country, doing everything from musicals, Shakespeare, and Shaw to new works.
At the time of publishing this episode, Peter is appearing in The Hothouse by Harold Pinter that is now running at the Antaeus Company in Glendale, so if it’s still open when you hear this and you can make it, check it out!
Like I mention below with the offer to grab Ray Porter’s audiobook for free, you could get one of the audiobooks Peter has done: The Maple Stories by John Updike – just visit workingactorsjourney.com/audible to download that book.
Please enjoy my chat with Peter Van Norden!
Total Running Time: 1:39:00
- Stream by clicking here.
- Download as an MP3 by right-clicking here and choosing “save as/save link as”.
Want to hear more from another classical actor who worked in New York? Check out my talk with Armin Shimerman, an actor, director, teacher, dramaturg, and Shakespeare scholar!
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QUESTION OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let us know in the comments.
Scroll below for links and show notes…
This episode is brought to you Audible. As a listener of The Working Actor’s Journey podcast, Audible is offering you a free audiobook download with a free 30-day trial to check them out. You can get a book that’s one hour long or 15 hours long—doesn’t matter. Whatever you pick, it’s free.
I do have a recommendation with a fantastic narrator—if you want to hear an actor who is exceptional at this stuff, check this book out:
Ray is one of the greats, and has been named Audible’s Narrator of the Year. Don’t get thrown by the cover, it’s not a typical zombie book, which is not my kind of genre—the reviews sold me: people really enjoyed the story, but thought Ray was the true hero of this one. They loved him so much, they wished they could give him more than 5 stars. I honestly had to remind myself several times that it’s just him reading the books, and not a dozen different actors. I’ve also been lucky to work with Ray onstage and know what a great talent he is.
Here’s a clip from this book:
So you can choose the above book—which clocks in at 14+ hrs, and for me, flew by—or choose any of the endless options they offer. That could be a book, a newspaper, a magazine, or even a class. It’s that easy.
To download your free audiobook today go to workingactorsjourney.com/audible.
Peter Van Norden around the web
- Performing A Christmas Carol amidst the Ventura fires
- What he learned in his 5th year of playing Ebenezer Scrooge
- What he looks for if he would perform a role over and over
- His father, who worked as an attorney and private investigator
- How a Broadway musical made him want to be an actor
- The root of his insecurity and the persona he developed
- Doing musical in high schools and the impact of the reactions he received
- The heartfelt letter he received from his father, who was a “tough as nails” Marine
- His modus operandi for acting – what he pursues and hopes to achieve
- Why being an English major prepared him better than if he were a theatre major
- Finding out what acting was at the Neighborhood Playhouse
- How the country was even more racially divisive in the 1960s
- Learning from the brilliant and beloved tyrant, Sanford Meisner
- How he discovered to play both his role and the role of his scene partner
- The first two (and very bizarre) professional auditions he ever had in New York
- Questioning his decision to become an actor
- How things turned around for him with the NY Shakespeare Festival
- What he learned from watching Meryl Streep and his mentor Phil Bosco rehearse
- Why he decided to check out Los Angeles
- How he and his friend met over 50 casting directors in their first 3 months
- His first gig in television and why he made the move to LA
- Working on a monologue from The Hothouse by Harold Pinter
- How you can measure the growth of your career
- Why he believes he’s worked so much
- How he started doing regional theatre after years of not doing it at all
- What he wish he had focused on more and less
- What he does to clear his mind and relax
Selected People and Items Mentioned
- A Christmas Carol at the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura
- Robert Morse in How to Succeed
- Sanford Meisner, teacher
- Neighborhood Playhouse
- Gerald Gutierrez, director
- Bill Esper, actor and teacher
- Richard Boone, actor and teacher
- Nikos Psacharopoulos, of the Williamstown Theatre Festival
- Barnett Kellman, director
- Steven Lang, actor
- Michael Rudman, director
- Hamlet with Sam Waterston, Larry Gates, Ruby Dee, Jon Lithgow, Bill Hurt, and Bruce Magill
- Joe Papp, The Public Theatre
- Phil Bosco, in Saint Joan, Circle in the Square
- Lynn Kressel, casting director
- Bert Lahr, actor
- Little Johnny Jones musical
- Fred Roos, from Zoetrope Studios
- Ernie Sabella, voice of Pumba
- Nancy Foy and Jane Jenkins, casting directors originally at Zoetrope
- Stephen Kolzak, and the GLAAD Award named for him
- The Hothouse by Pinter at Antaeus
- Tim Near, from San Jose Rep
Peter’s monologue from The Hothouse by Harold Pinter
click to view/close the monologue
Copy and share: bit.ly/waj-pvn
Photo credit: Antaeus Theatre Company