Columbus Makes Art Presents: Local Actor David Vargo on Acting, Theater and Evolution Theatre Company
Mark Phillips Schwamberger, Managing Artistic Director of Evolution Theatre Company, caught up with David Vargo, an actor appearing in the company’s upcoming productions of Corpus Christi this spring and in Traveling this fall.
Mark: Tell us a little about your background and what drew you to a life in the theater?
David: It all started when I was in the first grade. One of the Sisters at the Catholic school I went to told my parents, “You really must enroll this child in acting school. He’s a born actor.” And that was all it took. My parents enrolled me in acting school and by the age of six I was on the boards, under the gels and in my element. The first play I was in, I made headlines in the Fort Lauderdale News for my performance and Noel Coward happened to be in the audience. Of course, I had no idea who he was at the time. He came up to me afterwards and shook my hand and said, “Young man, you’re a ham. Just like me.”
Mark: What brought you to Columbus and what makes you stay here?
David: I moved here three years ago because I fell in love twice. First, I fell in love with a gentleman who was to become my future husband, who was vacationing in Fort Lauderdale for the winter, and then when I came up here to visit, I fell in love with Columbus. I’m a native Floridian, born in Miami, but my mother was originally from the Midwest. When I was growing up she would tell me stories about her childhood in Ohio and she would describe Columbus’ Ohio Theatre to me, in detail, as the most beautiful, palatial theater she had ever been in in her life. Every time I go in there now, the memory of my mother telling me the stories of her childhood in Ohio comes floating back.
Mark: What’s been your favorite role with Evolution and why?
David: By and large, the roles I’ve had at Evolution have been very enjoyable and fulfilling experiences. Some favorites that come to mind are Will (William Shakespeare) in Elizabeth Rex. In that I got to play Shakespeare at the end of his life, and since I had been a student at the National Shakespeare Conservatory in New York back when the earth was cooling, in the 1970s, and since I was an actor and director for the New River Shakespeare Festival in Fort Lauderdale back in the 1990s, it meant a lot to me to play the Bard. I also loved playing the role of Mr. President in a beautifully written one-act play called Shall I Run Again by one of our Columbus playwrights, Jack Petersen. And of course there are the multiple characters I played in The Temperamentals directed by my husband and for which I won a Performer of the Year Award.
Mark: Name two roles that are on your bucket list and why?
David: I’d like to try my hand at Sheridan Whiteside in The Man Who Came To Dinner and Tevye in Fiddler On The Roof. To me they’re flipsides of the same bombastic male personality, one being born into privilege and the other being born into restriction. I have one politically incorrect role though that I would love to play, and that I’m really ripe for, and that’s the role of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. I know a lot of people think the play is anti-Semitic but I think that’s true only if one plays into the stereotypes. I believe Shakespeare was trying to send a profound message to the world. He holds up a mirror for the world to see itself and pleads with us to have empathy for a man and a race that is unjustly maligned and suffers tragically.
Mark: Not to put you on the spot, but what is the best thing about the local theater community and, of course the next logical question, what needs improvement?
David: I’ve been very impressed. There’s a lot of talent in Ohio compared to other places I’ve lived. The community is cordial, warm-hearted and supportive of one another. We’re like a big family tree with many branches. It’s a beautiful, sturdy tree that welcomes you, embraces you and shares its life with you.
What needs improvement? I guess getting the word out to the public about the tremendous variety of theatrical offerings which Columbus provides on an ongoing basis. I don’t think enough people know just what they’re missing and how accessible it all is and how lucky they are to have so much live theater available right here in their own backyard.
Mark: Where do you see yourself in the coming years?
David: In general, I want to keep acting, perhaps begin directing again and remain an active participant in the theatrical community in Columbus. By trade, for many years in Florida, I had a very successful career as a marketing communications director and a graphic designer. So I’m looking around and hoping to get hooked up with a nice advertising or marketing communications firm here in Columbus. In the meantime, I freelance in graphic design and marketing communications. Currently, I provide the graphic design and a good deal of the marketing collateral design for Evolution Theatre.
Mark: Is there anything else you would like to add about acting, theater, Evolution Theatre Company or life?
David: I have never once regretted picking up and moving to Columbus from Fort Lauderdale. It’s been the best decision of my life. Columbus has been good to me. In addition to a wonderful husband and a brand new wonderfully warm-hearted chosen family, it’s given me a fresh outlook on life, a new beginning, academic achievements, an opportunity to return to my roots in the theater and a plethora of kind, intelligent and talented friends. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, Columbus is the nation’s best kept secret.
David can next be seen in Evolution Theatre Company’s productions of Corpus Christi by Terrence McNally, April 28 – May 13 and in the world premiere production of Traveling by Kenneth Talberth, Sept. 22 – Oct. 7. Find tickets and more information at evolutiontheatre.org or by calling or texting (614) 233-1124.
Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting art and advancing culture in Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art. Each column will be written by a different local arts organization to give you an insiders look at how #artmakescbus.