Photo by Erik Stuhaug, 2009, Courtesy Taproot Theatre Company
West Seattle resident Nolan Palmer stars in Taproot Theatre's lates production, "Charley's Aunt May 12 - June 12. He is pictured here as Morrie from "Tuesday's With Morrie" in that theater's 2009 production.

Longtime Westwood actor appears in Taproot Theatre's "Charley's Aunt"

Westwood resident Nolan Palmer calls himself a character actor. Well, he may be a bit of a character on stage, but he can also carry the lead when asked. Palmer, who resembles Jack Lemmon but thinks his raised eyebrows give him a Jack Nicholson look, said, “I am not a method actor” with his quiet but commanding voice, adding, “I don’t need to feel it. I just need to do it.”

And he’s been doing it for 42 years. Palmer was born in Pocatello, Idaho, and grew up in Salt Lake City, where he started performing.

“I wanted to move to the West Coast and drove to San Diego,” said Palmer. “I kept driving north until I found a place I wanted to stop, and Seattle was it. There is a lot of theater here and I love the climate. ‘The gray, that’s OK.’”

Palmer has performed at the Village Theatre, the Book-It Repertory Theatre at the Seattle Center in a production of “Giant,” the now-closed Empty Space Theatre, and for 29 years at the Taproot Theatre Company in downtown Greenwood.

“They’re a great group, and, so far, they always come back to me,” he said with an appreciative tone. “One day Scott Nolte, Taproot’s artistic director and founder, just called me and offered me the lead role in ‘Arms and the Man’ by George Bernard Shaw. Taproot is not an ensemble but they do have people who work there a lot. They also are always looking for new people at the mass auditions at TPS.” (Theatre Puget Sound near the Seattle Center.)

Palmer will appear in Taproot Theatre’s latest production, “Charley’s Aunt” May 12 to June 12. The play first opened in London in 1892 at the Royalty Theatre, then continued for 1,466 performances at the Globe Theatre. The play is a Victorian-era farce involving mistaken identity.

Taproot’s press release says of the play, “A quiet afternoon luncheon turns into a hilarious masquerade when college chums attempt to woo a pair of charming young ladies. After persuading a classmate to impersonate their missing aunt (and chaperone), mischief, high jinks and shenanigans ensue.”

“I laughed out loud reading the script,” said Palmer, who pointed out that the poignant “Tuesday’s With Morrie” production he starred in last year at Taproot also had some laughter, as well as tears.

“I was too old to play Mitch Album,” he said. “I played Morrie. Aaron Lamb was Mitch. It was so relaxing and so much fun. Morrie was not bitter and wasn’t going to let this get him down. He had Lou Gehrig’s Disease. (ALS) It’s a nasty thing. There’s no cure. His mind was still there while his body deteriorated.

“There were a lot of tears in the audience,” Palmer recalled. “I think it had a strong effect if you’d lost someone close in your family. Mitch was the tough guy. In the play, Morrie is crying and Mitch is uncomfortable. Morrie tells Mitch, ‘Some day I’m going to show you how good it is to cry. Mitch breaks down at the end, and as he leaves Morrie tells him, ‘See Mitch. I made you cry.’”

“Charley’s Aunt is Taproot’s third production since the devastating Oct. 23 arson fire.

“It was huge, traumatic,” Palmer recalled of the fire. “They got a contractor who worked night and day. It took just 90 days to put that theater back together. The whole community stepped up. I think that for the theater it’s not all about making money. It’s about being of service to the community. We have a very long term, core audience. They tend to be older, but since we moved into this space in 1996 our subscription base has gone up each year and each year has attracted a younger group.”

Taproot Theatre Company is a professional, non-profit theatre. Founded in 1976, it serves the Pacific Northwest with Mainstage Productions, Touring Productions and Acting Studio. and is a member of Theatre Communications Group (TCG), Theatre Puget Sound (TPS), and the Greenwood-Phinney Chamber of Commerce.

Taproot Theatre, 204 N. 85th St. For tickets call (206) 781-9707, and check out www.taproottheatre.org

Opening Night with Reception: Friday, May 14. Pay what you can (PWYC) performance on Wednesday, May 19. Wednesday and Thursday, 7:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 8:00 p.m. Saturday matinee, 2:00 p.m.Ticket prices are $20-$35. Ages 25 and under, $10. Senior matinee performance on May 26, $20. Student/senior discount, $3 off regular priced tickets (excludes previews). Group rates are available.

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