Instead of saying “I love you” to sign off from emails, local actor Jay Lusteck and his wife, Shevan used to write “pins” and “saltpeter.”
They later had those words inscribed on their wedding bands.
The words “pins” and “saltpeter” come from the historic snail-mail exchange between John and Abigail Adams; John was in need of saltpeter, and Abigail of straight pins. They vowed to help each other fulfill their needs, and the characters from the Tony-Award winning musical “1776” sing about it in “Yours, Yours, Yours.”
It’s a detail that garners “awws” from Lusteck’s fellow local castmates, Cliff Roles and Don Walker. The three actors auditioned for the Asolo Repertory’s production of “1776” together on the same day, and each was cast. They are the only local actors among the cast of 20.
“We have chemistry,” Roles says of the trio.
It’s true — they finish each other’s sentences and are constantly laughing — it’s clear they have a lot of fun together. And, if it’s any indication of what can be expected on stage from the cast, it’s going to be a good performance.
Roles, Walker and Lusteck became well-versed in the history behind each role.
Each actor was required to research their character, then teach his fellow castmates the delegate’s history. The cast explored “The American Character” — the theme of the Asolo Rep’s season.
“It’s a very interesting piece now, because, suddenly, we are able to breathe a truer life into these people we are embodying,” says Lusteck.
Forty-five-year-old Lusteck plays Richard Henry Lee, the most prominent role of the trio. He is the only professional actor of the three men and has 20 years of experience, including three national tours, Broadway and off-Broadway productions. And having grown up in Jackson, Miss., “surrounded by the best of rednecks,” he’s got the Southern cockiness the script calls for of his character down pat.
“I’m a good mimic,” he says, “So, I’m channeling my inner ‘Jimbo.’”
Roles is a good mimic, too — for a turncoat. The 59-year-old is originally from Croydon, London; but after 11 years of living in the States, Roles has perfected his American accent for his “lovely little role” as Lewis Morris.
Roles auditioned and was cast in The Players’ “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” in 2004. It was his first time acting, and he’s been doing it ever since. Roles met Walker in that production.
Sixty-nine-year-old Walker embodies the character he plays with his delegate-like, peppered, curly shoulder-length hair. He majored in theater in college but opted not to pursue it professionally. When he moved 22 years ago to Sarasota, he realized the ample opportunity for thespians. He was cast as a lead at Venice Theatre, where he fell in love with his leading lady and now wife, Jenny. The couple was doing a lot of acting for Golden Apple Dinner Theatre, when, in 2010, someone suggested he audition for a Frank Galati-directed production at the Asolo. He was cast in “12 Angry Men.”
Walker says when he heard about “1776,” he sent Galati an email saying, “I’d love to be a delegate in your Congress.” Galatie sent a note back saying, ‘I’ll keep you in mind.’” Walker was cast as delegate Dr. Lyman Hall.
All three men have previously acted in a Galati production. The conversation keeps circling back to how great they think the Tony-winning director is.
“We have a director who sits there in front of us and cries at it,” Roles said. “He’s moved, he laughs, he reacts to everything we do. I’ve never known a man like him.”
The other men nod their heads in agreement.
Straying from most musical productions, there’s no final musical number in “1776.” Instead, it ends with a historical moment — 20 squabbling delegates with opposing viewpoints uniting to sign the Declaration of Independence. It’s represents a poignant and emotional scene for any patriot.
“It’s hard not to sound over-enthusiastic about this show,” Walker says. “The show itself, the book, the music — is so moving.”
IF YOU GO
When: Opens 8 p.m. Nov. 16. Runs through Dec. 22
Where: Mertz Theatre at FSU Center for Performing Arts, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail
Cost: $29 to $77
Info: asolorep.org; 351-8000
Character’s name: Richard Henry Lee
Describe your character in three words: Bombastic, innocent, patriotic
Describe yourself in three words: Quiet, loyal, friendly
Day job: Professional actor
If you could pick an emblem for our country, what would it be? An oak tree
What do you think the weirdest American tradition is? Texting. That is a weird one.
Character’s name: Lewis Morris
Describe your character in three words: Frustrated, fearless, handcuffed
Describe yourself in three words: Extroverted, pedantic, people-person
Day job: Retired radio promoter and now a freelance photographer
If you could pick an emblem for our country, what would it be? A wildcat
What do you think the weirdest American tradition is? Sweet potatoes and American football
Character’s name: Dr. Lyman Hall
Describe your character in three words: Conflicted, thoughtful, courageous
Describe yourself in three words: Considerate, charming, loving
Day job: Advertising manager at a manufacturing company
If you could pick an emblem for our country, what would it be? A star
What do you think the weirdest American tradition is? Neckties
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