Francis Guinan has been an ensemble member since 1979. He most recently appeared in Fake, Art, The Seafarer, Kafka on the Shore and August: Osage County (also Broadway). Other Steppenwolf appearances include The Crucible, The Diary of Anne Frank, Love Song, Cherry Orchard, Mizlansky/Zilinsky or Schmucks, The Libertine, Skylight, The Grapes of Wrath (also Broadway) and many others. He is the inventor of overlapping dialogue. For Kate, always.
Watch & Listen
Q & A With Francis Guinan
Q. Who is your favorite playwright?
A. Tracy Letts. God, his scripts are so much fun! And oddly enough, you don't get the sense (as you do with playwrights like Tennessee Williams) that there are major characters and minor characters. For example, in Superior Donuts everything had a direct effect on the semi-homeless character, Lady. In a very odd sort of way, the play ends up being about her, as well. And I think that's true of all of Tracy's characters. In August, the play actually is about anybody you care to pick. Everyone has a beginning, middle and an end to their story. That's one of the things I most admire about his writing, besides being heartbreakingly funny.
Q. Which ensemble member do you most enjoying watching as an audience member?
A. Oh, God. Boy, that'd be hard to say. Wow. It's difficult to pick anybody out specifically. If you were to hold me hostage and make me pick somebody it would have to be Laurie Metcalf.
We would sit in rehearsals for The Seafarer and exchange stories about Laurie for half an hour. I saw her in a production years ago of And A Nightingale Sang where she played en-semble member Joan Allen's mother. Joanie gives her the news that she's been shacking up with this British solider (played ensemble member by Tom Irwin), and, the night that I saw the show, Laurie tenuously felt her way downstage right until she could grab hold of a chair to sit down. (Tom Irwin said that they used to dare her to do things in that moment. One night they dared her to pretend like her left foot was nailed to the floor, and she spun in a circle).
She is absolutely convincing. The truth of her performance is absolutely undeniable. Darlene in Balm in Gilead. That 25-minute monologue! The intricacies of her mental process would jump from subject to subject. She has that instinctive sense of what's right in a char-acter or what works in a scene, which is coupled with an innate theatricality that goes for the maximum effect. Emotions appear to creep up on her and take her by surprise. And so they take us by surprise as well.
I'd have to say Laurie. But, you know, I could tell stories about every member of the company. I could watch Al Wilder, John Mahoney and Tom Irwin in The Seafarer. They tease things out of the script that are revelatory of the character's interior life and not always things the character would consciously share. It's as if it escapes. That, I would say, is a consistent trait that I find fascinating about every actor in the company: emotions seem to escape. You get a glimpse. There's this glimmer that you might see from a piece of glass shining from the sunlight and it just happens to take place in front of you.
That is consistent with all the actors in the company. They're really quite wonderful.
Credits & Awards
Hannibal; Guinevere; Apartment Complex; Speed II; Shining Through.
Northlight Theatre: Inherit the Wind
Geffen Playhouse: God's Man in Texas; The Weir
Off-Broadway: As Is
Mark Taper Forum: Space; Stuff Happens
Royal George Theatre: The Nerd; National Tour of Mass Appeal
Ivoryton Playhouse: Sleuth
Tamarind Theatre: Black and Blue
LA Theatre Works: Oedipus the King
Grey's Anatomy(ABC); CSI: NY(CBS); 3rd Rock From the Sun (NBC); Frasier (NBC); 7 Days (UPN); The Path to War (HBO); Star Trek:Voyager (UPN); The Practice (ABC); Profiler (NBC); Nash Bridges (CBS); That 70's Show (FOX); It's Like
You Know (ABC); Law and Order (NBC); Eerie, Indiana (Scifi Channel); The Mighty Jungle (ABC Family); Murder One (Court TV); George Wallace (TNT); Lansky (HBO); Any Day Now (Lifetime).
2008 Lunt-Fontanne Fellow