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KEN COUGHLIN: Theatre Dignitary

Ken Coughliin Interview by Jen Bush

Ken Coughlin is an award-winning actor/director.  He is an artist in every sense of the word.  He is a talented performer and a skilled artisan behind the scenes.  Mr. Coughlin got his start at the tender age of 5.  When most Kindergarteners are singing the ABC song, Mr. Coughlin was crooning a Nat King Cole tune.  Mr. Coughlin is a mainstay at The American Theatre of Actors where he has performed in and directed numerous productions.  I had the pleasure of witnessing his talent firsthand both on stage and through seeing shows he directed.  He knows his craft well.  You’ll be able to catch him at the ATA in November in WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT WALTER?.  Mr. Coughlin was gracious enough to take the time to answer some questions about his life and his work.

“I have been performing for much of my life, appearing on stage the first time at 5 years old, singing When I Fall In Love, a capella. In my teens I started playing guitar, after I was gifted one for Christmas. In my 20s I started playing in clubs around New York, both as a soloist and as a member of several different bands. My entry into the world of theater didn’t come until the early 1990s. From acting came the opportunity to Direct and from Directing, I got into the other design aspects of theater. I have been able to use other of my artistic talents on stage. In a production of “The Tale Of Patrick Bannister” by Irving A. Leitner, who passed away during the lockdown, I added a hand drawing I did of my wife Phyliss, to the set. I have performed several original songs I’ve written as well.”

 This play and the playwright hold a very special place in the hearts of the artists.  Irving A. Greenfield is no longer with us and his memory will be honored by this theatre community.  “This play has been in the works since before the lockdown in 2020. Our playwright, Irving A. Greenfield (One More Time, Family Matters, P.O.W. and Banned In Bisbee) was looking forward to seeing this production. Unfortunately, Irving passed away before theaters reopened. There will be a special tribute to Irving after each performance.”

This piece is about rivalry in academia.  Mr. Coughlin has some thoughts on the current state of education in this country.  “My personal opinion is that education is under attack in this country, by people who despise unions, those who want to turn education into a For Profit model and others who don’t want inconvenient truths taught to our children.”

Mr. Coughlin has a wonderful and productive history with The American Theatre of Actors.  It even became a family affair for him.  “My very first play at ATA was in February 1994. We had only one performance, before the production was shut down. Since that time I have performed in well over 100 productions at ATA, directed over 20 plays, including 10 – 10 minute One act plays written by another friend/playwright who passed away during the lockdown, James Crafford. I have had the wonderful opportunity to perform on the Sargent stage with my daughter Krista.”

 Laurie Waugh is also a staple at the ATA.  Mr. Coughlin and Ms. Waugh share a wonderful long standing collaborative working relationship.   “Laurie and I first crossed paths when we were on the same bill, her with 2 plays she had directed, and I was there performing a one man one act, which I also directed. I also assisted with the lighting, set and sound design for all three shows, so we collaborated quite a bit on that production. We have collaborated, directing each other, on more than 15 occasions, since then, and never a harsh word between us. Laurie is wonderful to work with, and we have a great deal of trust and respect for each other.”

“On a side note, this is not the first time working with the rest of the cast, Alan Charney, Amanda Cannon, Ben Guralnik, Mike Bordwell, Manny Rey, Rooki Tiwari and Vicky Gitre. I have acted with and/or directed everyone in the cast, and I’m looking forward to being onstage with each of them.”

 Several of Irving A. Greenfield’s plays have been performed at ATA leading to a friendship and a mutual appreciation society between Mr. Greenfield, Mr. Coughlin and Ms. Waugh.  “ Laurie and I were introduced to Irving and his work with the play One More Time. The three of us quickly developed a friendship and respect for each other’s work. Since then we put up Family Matters, P.O.W. and Banned In Bisbee.  We have some other projects of Irving’s that we would like to tackle, but speaking for myself, I’m thrilled for the work that we’ve been able to do, and saddened that we won’t see any new work by this amazing playwright, who led such an interesting life that gave him some of the inspiration to write these plays. Laurie and I have also read the Depth Force series of action novels, written by Irving, which led to the play Banned In Bisbee. Irving inadvertently gave me a great compliment after one rehearsal. During the rehearsal process for Family Matters, my character was supposed to walk with a shillelagh. Irving came to a rehearsal on an evening when I had left my shillelagh home. When I took him down to put him into a cab to go home, he asked me how I hurt my leg. I thanked him very much for the compliment, explaining that I was acting.”

Mr. Coughlin is thrilled that Indie Theatre is thriving once again.  “I have to believe that Indie Theatre is alive and well, since I have been running non-stop since restrictions started lifting in September 2021.”

There is much more to come from Ken Coughlin.  “I have several things on my plate, but I’m waiting for schedules to be solidified.”  In the meantime, check out WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT WALTER?  You won’t be disappointed.

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