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Double duty on stage; Hopedale actor has hand in 2 productions.

Byline: Jules Becker

Christopher Tarjan has had to teach himself about the theater, but his career has never suffered for it.

"I think I would have been more well-rounded if I had studied," said the 50-year-old Hopedale actor, who admits to barely studying at Dean Community College. Still, by watching other actors and paying attention to all facets of production, he has learned a lot.

Early on, he worked in community theater with the Franklin Singers and later in a variety of plays at such venues as the now defunct New Ehrlich Theatre and the Triangle Theatre. Over the years that attentiveness has helped him gain significant work at a variety of regional theaters, including the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre and the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, also in Milwaukee.

Recently Tarjan played all of the male roles in the Charles Playhouse hit "Shear Madness." Now he is actually the resident director of the long-running show. Alerted by premier Hub actress Paula Plum to auditions for the Huntington Theatre Company premiere of the acclaimed Off-Broadway revival of "Our Town," Tarjan landed the plum role of Mr. Webb, the savvy editor of the Grover's Corners newspaper and the father of Emily, who marries George Gibbs in the second act of the play.

While responsible for the Charles Playhouse favorite - "I'm still technically in charge of making sure `Shear Madness' is working" - he has also been able to really delve into his character in the Huntington edition of Thornton Wilder's modern classic.

Tarjan quickly warmed to his role. "Editor Webb has a young spirit," he noted. "I found him to be joyful and playful. He's not a stick in the mud. He's a little bit of a Renaissance guy and he's pretty cool."

David Cromer, who has directed the Boston run as well as the Off-Broadway one, advised the entire cast to "find your voice and follow the script." Tarjan is enjoying doing just that.

"Webb's kind of a conduit," he reflected. "He's been to college. He's left Grover's Corners (at times), but he's not throwing Grover's Corners under the bus. He feels they have a real life up there."

Director Cromer has focused on the play's universal insights about life, family, love, marriage and death in the Huntington production. With the help of Stephen Dobay's trim scenic design, possible distractions are eliminated. By having the Calderwood Pavilion seating surround the stage area and having actors move through the audience, Cromer's conception of the play has audience members identifying with the Webb and Gibbs families and their everyday experiences. The most moving part of this tour-de-force revival is a third act epiphany involving Emily Webb's return to a special day in her past - an evocation so sublime in its execution (one that cannot be revealed here) that it will redefine the way audiences see and think of the play's distinctive third act.

Poets and saints, the play intimates, are the people most aware of the simple, often under-appreciated beauties of nature and the universe. Cromer and the exquisite Huntington Theatre Company staging bring equal appreciation and attention to Wilder's masterpiece.

Going forward, Tarjan will continue attending to the special combination of facets that make "Shear Madness" a Boston favorite. To that end, he gives the following advice to the ensemble (no matter who is in the constantly changing cast) that performs the play: "I said it's OK to act, the story is important, and the audience matters more than anything in the world. You've got to honor the relationship with the audience."


CUTLINE: (1) Christopher Tarjan portrays Mr. Webb in the Huntington Theatre Company's revival of "Our Town." Tarjan is also resident director of "Shear Madness" at the Charles Playhouse. (2) Therese Plaehn and Christopher Tarjan in a scene from "Our Town." It's presented by the Huntington Theatre Company at Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont St., Boston, through Jan. 27. Tickets start at $25. Call (617) 266-0800 or go to

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Title Annotation:LIVING
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jan 8, 2013
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