Skip Corris returns to Herb Strauss Theater
A crowd favorite from last year’s production is returning to the stage this weekend portraying the great Thomas Edison.
The next production, “Camping with Henry & Tom,” will take the stage at BIG ARTS Herb Strauss Theater this weekend, Friday, Jan. 15. It will run through Saturday, Feb. 6. Tickets are $42 for adults and $5 for children and students, which can be purchased by visiting www.bigarts.org, or by calling the box office at (239) 472-6862.
The play, set in 1921, is set around a time when Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and President Warren G. Harding took an excursion to escape civilization by going on a camping trip.
“The play of course is imagined, but President Harding did take a camping trip with Henry Ford and Thomas Edison,” returning actor Skip Corris said. “The brilliance of Mark. St. Germain, who is the writer. . . he doesn’t let anything come out of the actors mouths that he can’t back up with the historical people. Everything we are saying is pretty realistic, even though it’s fiction.”
The Ohio resident made his first trip to Sanibel last year to perform the part of Sigmund Freud in “Freud’s Last Session,” which was directed by Rachael Endrizzi. He said he had a great time acting alongside the marvelous Cape Coral actor Victor Legarreta.
“Rachael grew up with my children and went to school with my children,” Corris said. “I got a call on a Friday. ‘Can you come down and play Sigmund Freud, starting rehearsal on Monday.’ I said ‘Yeah, in January, and to be out of Ohio.’ And it was a brutal Ohio winter.”
When he received a phone call to return this year to play Thomas Edison it became a no brainer, especially when he had the opportunity to work with Endrizzi again. He said the amount of detail that she brings to every moment is great.
“It’s exciting to inhabit this man that I have admired for so long,” Corris said. “Playing a person that ultimately existed and learning so much about their history and what made them tick . . . it’s incredible.”
The other actors in the play include Robert Summers as Henry Ford, Galloway Stevens as President Harding and Aaron Jackson as Secret Service Agent Sterling.
As part of Corris’ research, he began doing tours at the Thomas Edison Birthplace Museum in Milan, Ohio.
“I started connecting with people at the Thomas Edison Birthplace Museum and learned so much about Thomas Edison,” Corris said. “I got to be friends with some of Edison’s descendants that are still in the area.”
One of the interesting facts about Edison that Corris shared was he only had three months of formal schooling before his teacher told his mother that he would not amount to anything. Corris said his mother, who had been a teacher, took over his education.
“He became widely read,” Corris said of Edison. “He could read in several languages. He got up in the morning and he would read not just technical, but he could also read and reflect on literature and poetry.”
He said he finds it fascinating that Edison saw a need for invention and then was able to come up with all of the steps leading to that invention.
“He didn’t invent the lightbulb by himself. He had teams of people coming up with thousands of different ways to make it,” Corris said.
Copies of a book that was put together by a conservation writer, John Burroughs, who took camping trips with Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Harvey Firestone, will be on display during the performances. Corris said the Thomas Edison Birthplace Museum allowed him to scan the book, so he could bring it to Sanibel with him.
“I have that piece of history with me and I want to make it available for people to see,” he said of the 1916 camping trip.
Corris began acting in college after leaving the Catholic seminary and spotting “these talented, smart, funny women.” When his three children were born, he became an academic teacher in the Ohio prison system, which he retired from three years ago. Throughout those years he continued acting and directing when the time made its presence.
Corris said he did many performances at a professional dinner theater in Akron, Ohio.
“My first show after retirement I got to play my daughter’s father in a play about the Hollywood Blacklist,” he said. “I’m still hoping that two out of my three are in the business – I am hoping that three of us get on stage.”
The process is what has kept Corris excited about acting over the years.
“The research, discovering things in the script that our great writers have researched and put into the script. Making all of these discoveries by ourselves, so we can embody the people that we are playing,” he said he thoroughly enjoys.
Last year Corris was in three major plays, as well as did several stage readings and interactive events. The interactive event revolved around groups of people, both children and adults, who reenacted the life of the underground railroad.
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