For each Goodman production we’ll feature one “Backstage”—an informal Q & A designed to help us better know a cast member. Check back often to learn more about your favorite Goodman actors!
Howard Witt, a Chicago native, returns to the Goodman as Adam Kirchbaum (AKA Ninety-Two) in the Teatro Vista production of Cándido Tirado’s Fish Men, currently playing in the Owen. Howard most recently appeared as The Fool in Robert Falls’ King Lear, and previously as Charley in both the Broadway and London productions of the Goodman’s Death of a Salesman, for which he earned Tony, Drama Desk and Ovation Award nominations. Other credits include Shelly in the original production of Glengarry Glen Ross and 10 years as a company member at Arena Stage where he played more than 50 roles, including Gogo in Waiting for Godot, Walter Burns in The Front Page and Leopold in Forever Yours, Marie-Lou. Mr. Witt is a two-time Jeff Award nominee for Best Actor and an alumnus of the Goodman School of Drama, now The Theatre School at DePaul University.
Place of birth/hometown: Chicago, Illinois.
First professional role or production: I got my [Actors’] Equity card doing it—it was Separate Tables by Sir Terence Rattigan at Woodstock, New York.
Favorite professional role or production you were in: Usually I say the one I’m doing now and it’s fairly true. I have a couple—the most important role for me was Death of a Salesman as Charley—I mean, that did the most for me professionally. The Ascent of Mount Fuji which I did it at the Arena Stage; we found that play in the Soviet Union and brought it back with us. And Waiting for Godot that I did with Max Wright at the Arena Stage. I also did it with Alan Schneider at the International Beckett Festival at Stanford University and that could be it, it just was a terrific experience with Alan. And you know, I’ve done a lot of work.
Dream role or production you hope to be in in the future: I hope to be alive in the future. Look, three years ago, I never thought I’d be on the stage again. So I’m not going to grab the next thing that comes along just to work. This production has meant a great deal to me because I’m on the stage and it’s a great role for me. But it’s going to be difficult to be hired in anything, I know that. So I’m grateful for this and what happens next will happen, if I’m offered something, if I choose to do it.
If sex, age, race wasn’t an issue, if you could play any role, what would your dream role be: I think Rosalind in As You Like It.
Production or performance you’ve experienced as an audience member that left you speechless: I think Paul Scofield in a production of Lear in London when I was a kid—great performance, great performance. I think that more than any other production I ever saw. And I think [Laurence] Olivier in The Entertainer. Scofield was a magnificent, magnificent actor. If you see the movie A Man for All Seasons, he’s brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. Also, an American actor, in The Music Man, the guy who did it originally, terrific actor, Robert Preston, he was wonderful. What a performance! Wow! And I’m not a musical guy so…
Biggest onstage flub and how you handled it: There have been many! As a matter of fact there was one in this show. At the very end, when I’m supposed to say “Jerome, you wanna play a game?” I said “Adam…Adam…wants to play a game with Jerome.”
Pre- or post-show rituals: I’m always early. Always, always early. I have to be early. I don’t warm up because—I always tell people—I ain’t never cooled off. So I don’t do any kind of warm-ups. But I have to get to church early, that’s how I look at it.
Favorite thing about working in Chicago: Being in Chicago. I was away for a long time. But both the Shakespeare here and Bob [Falls] brought me back. Because I thought I was going to retire when I moved back here—but Chicago. I am in love with Chicago. I’m a Chicagoan. I was born here, I went to school here, I was raised here. When I moved back I thought I wasn’t going to do anything but then everything happened. And the Goodman is the most actor-friendly theater I’ve ever worked in and I’m grateful to be here.