Emmy-award-winning actor Gordon Clapp is returning to the Eastern Slope Inn Playhouse, the stage that first gave him work, 33 years after he last graced it for “This Verse Business” a one-man show about Robert Frost by A.M. Dolan.
“'78 was the last season I had there,” Clapp said. “Which was right around the time that I became obsessed with doing a one-man Robert Frost [show]”
“This Verse Business” will be at the Eastern Slope Inn Playhouse in North Conway, N.H. Saturday, June 18, with a reception at 7 p.m. and the show at 8:30 p.m. Clapp will also be performing the show at The Barnstormers Theatre in Tamworth, N.H. Sunday, June 19, at 7:30 p.m.
Doing a show about Frost, the poet who so often employed vivid imagery from rural New England, has been a passion project for Clapp that has been percolating for decades.
“I started reading Frost when I was back in high school,” Clapp said. “When I went a way to school in Connecticut he was sort of my way of coming home.”
It was more than 30 years ago that Clapp first started researching Frost with the intention of putting on a one-man show. He read biographies and listened to audio from speaking engagements. In spite of his growing obsession he wanted to wait for the right time to do it.
“I just really thought this is something I'll do when I'm older as I get closer to his age, at the age at which he was better known,” Clapp said.
That time has finally come and a couple years ago he decided it was time to once again address this passion when the “This Verse Business” script fell into his hands.
“An old friend of mine came across the script and put me together with the playwright,” Clapp said. “The playwright and I have spent the last two and a half years honing it and trying to figure out how it works best.”
“This Verse Business” turned out to be an ideal fit for Clapp and was exactly what he was hoping for.
“It was the perfect script for my purposes,” Clapp said. “It was an evening with Frost that was cobbled together from these various events and audio tapes, a little bit of stuff from the letters and prose, but it is 90 percent Frost in his own words.”
Normally running about an hour and 20 minutes, the show at the Eastern Slope Inn Playhouse is a revised version that runs about an hour.
Clapp is excited to return to the stage that helped give him his start working a long aside the likes of David Strathairn, Geena Davis, Chris Elliot and John Sayles.
“That was a great company,” Clapp said. “We did unusual stuff for summer stock. We did original stuff, we did classics. A lot of summer stock theaters are just doing musicals now.”
Clapp has a lot of fond memories from that time, but says his favorite production was “Our Town” “because I was doing it in my hometown.” He hopes to that show again next summer at The New London Barn.
Getting to perform at the Barnstormers is also a long time coming and something Clapp is looking forward to.
“I've always wanted to do something at Barnstormers because I grew up in North Conway.”
Ironically, in spite of his local ties, it was working in a show in New York that brought about this performance at Barnstormers.
“I was doing a play in New York the past year,” Clapp said. “The director at the theater had a couple friends at Barnstormers and they were asking about it ['This Verse Business'], they had heard about it, so he put me in touch with them.”
Tickets for the Eastern Slope Inn Playhouse show are $25, which will benefit the Mount Washington Valley Theatre Company, may be reserved by calling 356-5776 or by visiting at www.mwvtheatre.org. Come meet Gordon and the summer company. Tickets for the Barnstormers show are $20 or $35 including reception at the Remick Museum in Tamworth at 6 p.m. For tickets call 323-8500.
For those who need more of a Clapp fix, he will also be appearing in an episode of “In Plain Sight” on the USA Network Sunday at 10 p.m.
Clapp has performed “This Verse Business” at the Hanover Inn, the Williams College, poetry societies and last summer had the first official run at the Peterborough Players. In the fall he's taking it to the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. and doing a longer run at the Merrimack Theatre in Lowell, Mass. Hopefully, this is the just the beginning though.
“I want a touring version and then another longer version that would be able to do runs at regional theaters and maybe even a commercial run in New York, LA or Boston,” Clapp said. “My hope is this will be my Hal Holbrook vehicle and that I'll be able to ride it into the sunset.”