The Acting Company: Where Are They Now?

Monday, March 3, 2014

By Nick Rogers

RainnWilson

Rainn Wilson in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Performed at Purdue in 1991.

Founded in 1972 as a troupe for Juilliard-trained actors, the Acting Company has since become a fertile proving ground for household names and familiar faces.

Among its Oscar®, Tony® and Golden Globe® award-winning alums are Kevin Kline, Patti LuPone, Frances Conroy, and Harriet Sansom Harris. Meanwhile, such versatile character actors as Jesse L. Martin, Keith David, and David Ogden Stiers have carved out careers of note on stage and screens large and small. But did you know two of The Acting Company’s most famous alumni appeared at Purdue on November 7, 1991?

Rainn Wilson is best known as irascible egomaniac Dwight Schrute on NBC’s sitcom The Office, which recently ended its run of nine seasons and 200-plus episodes. And Jeffrey Wright has won an Emmy®, Tony®, and Golden Globe® over a long career in which he’s played Muddy Waters, Colin Powell, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Well before they were stars, Wilson and Wright shared the stage in the Acting Company’s touring productions of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters.

In Dream, Wilson played star-crossed lover Demetrius, while, in Sisters, he played Tusenbach, a Russian army lieutenant spoken of as “not at all good-looking.” Before his three Emmy® nominations for The Office, Wilson applied his distinctive touch on inveterate crime shows (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation) and alongside fellow Acting Company alum Conroy (Six Feet Under).

Wilson has also contributed to a variety of films, encompassing offbeat independent endeavors (Super and Hesher), Oscar® winners (Almost Famous and Juno), and action blockbusters (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Monsters vs. Aliens).

Jeffrey Wright

Wright, meanwhile, played Puck, “that merry wanderer of the night” who sets Dream asunder, and Rode, a sub-lieutenant, in Sisters.

Just three years later, Wright was on Broadway in Tony Kushner’s magnum opus, Angels in America, as Belize—a role he recreated in an HBO miniseries and for which he won the three aforementioned awards.

Wright has also appeared in a plethora of prestigious films—from supporting turns in such Oscar® nominees and winners as Syriana, The Ides of March, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close to playing James Bond’s CIA counterpart, Felix Leiter, in Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace. He’ll next be seen as Beetee in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

With the Acting Company’s track record, odds are good you’ll see another star-in-the-making in Hamlet and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead—one whom you can say you saw when!

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