After 18 months on the road and nearly 600 performances, Collins said he plans to leave the production following the tour’s last performance in D.C. at the Kennedy Center on Sunday.
While the rest of the cast continues on the tour, he will cross the river into Arlington to be reunited with his family and the community he formed doing voter and Covid vaccine outreach.
“I just have to pull the plug,” he told ARLnow. “And it’s not because of the people. I love my cast, crew, and team. I’m going to miss them tremendously. But, obviously, I miss my family too.”
Collins portrays the main villain, Bob Ewell, in Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The play animates the book, which follows Scout Finch as she grows up in Alabama, observing her father, Atticus, defend a Black man who Ewell falsely accused of raping his daughter.
Collins described performing in the play as an “amazing” experience and a “privilege.” Still, he found it difficult to be away from his wife, two high school children, and their Maltese-Shih Tzu mix, Shakespeare — all of whom moved to Arlington from New York in 2019.
“I feel like I’ve missed so much by being on the road,” he said. “And so I really would love to, at least for the next four years, really strive to find work here. So, it’s more about the time and my family than it is about any other aspects of my acting career.”
Collins says he does not have any work lined up. If he returns to live, local theater, partial credit would go toward the type of vaccine outreach he did — which helped regional theaters reopen their doors during the pandemic.
Shortly after moving to Arlington, Collins said he felt a loss of “purpose.” He joined a volunteer effort to register people to vote ahead of the 2020 elections, an experience he noted that “filled my cup.”
“I didn’t really have a community here, and I love helping people,” he said. “I’ve loved volunteering my whole life, but this particular [experience] gave me something that I really needed because we were all isolated.”
Then, a colleague from the voter registration effort told him the county was looking for volunteers to help distribute vaccines in Arlington. He jumped at the chance, seeing it as a way to get theaters up and running again.
“Then I thought, ‘Okay, this is going to be the beginning of getting performative arts back to the public because once enough people are vaccinated, maybe they’ll open up the theatres,’” Collins said.
And open up, they did. Collins got word that the show he initially auditioned for in November 2019 was finally ready to hit the road.
When the tour came to the Kennedy Center last summer, Collins said several fellow vaccine workers came to one of his performances. On another occasion, a vaccine worker approached him after a show during his tour in the Midwest.
“It was a surreal experience, but it was also like a reminder of the impact one might be able to have on the world simply by donating some time,” he said.
While Collins said he is sad to be leaving the tour, he added he believes he will be ending on a fitting note. The actor has now completed a “trifecta” by performing on the Kennedy Center’s three most prominent stages: the Concert Hall, Opera House and Eisenhower Theater.
“I feel very lucky to have checked those boxes, and I hope I can go back through all of them at some point in my career,” he said.
Within the first five minutes of Netflix’s new series Partner Track, Arlington native and Yorktown High School graduate Alexandra Turshen already has her “boss” moment by telling the new paralegal to get his feet off the desk.
“I would be lying if I said that I didn’t always want to play a fierce Manhattan lawyer,” Turshen told ARLnow, laughing. “The role of Rachel is so aligned with who I am. She’s a boss.”
But before 36-year-old Turshen was starring as “Rachel,” the best friend in a romantic comedy about lawyers climbing the ladder, she was a boss in the Yorktown marching band.
“Your girl was playing cymbals with the best of them,” Turshen said. “We were absolutely the coolest kids in town. I can say with absolute certainty that the best time I had in high school was being part of the symphonic band and marching band.”
From slamming cymbals at Yorktown to being a fictional high-powered attorney on a Netflix show, it’s been a bit of a journey for the hometown actor.
Turshen grew up in the Rock Spring neighborhood of North Arlington, within walking distance of Yorktown High.
Performing arts has always been, quite literally, in her blood. Her mom, who still lives in Arlington, was a music teacher for nearly 50 years working mostly in D.C. and Fairfax County. Her dad was an Arlington attorney. The two met doing community theater at the Hexagon, a long-running political satire musical theater in D.C.
“My family has always this real appreciation and foundation in music and performance,” Turshen said.
And Turshen followed in her family’s musical footsteps, playing the string bass in Yorktown’s symphonic band and cymbals in the marching band.
“The whole band would walk uniformly out to the field to the beat of the drums with the cymbals right in front. It was such a great feeling,” she said.
But Turshen dreamed of dancing. So, she joined a program while at YHS where she left school early for lessons at the Washington Ballet Company. She would wear “leotards and tights” under her clothes at school all day and leave right after band class to make her way downtown. While she loved dancing, her body didn’t.
“As it turns out, my body just kinda gave out. I got injured… the tendons and ligaments started tearing in my feet and they just really couldn’t take the 9 to 5 job as a ballerina,” Turshen said.
So, she went to college in Massachusetts and studied international human rights. But she missed performing, so shortly after graduating she moved to New York to become an actor.
It wasn’t easy, though. There were times when she wanted to give up, but early on she got advice that “perseverance, persistence, and patience” is how one makes in the industry.
For Turshen, that’s held true. She has had plenty of roles over the years, but it’s taken time to build her career.
“It’s so heartbreaking. It’s so brutal. You get so close sometimes and then it just doesn’t go your way and then it can really get you down. After five years, after ten years, or 12 years, it wears on you,” she lamented. “You really have to have a strong sense of purpose, and you have to believe in yourself when others don’t. And that takes practice, especially as the years turn into decades.”
Cruel Summer in the Pool — “Arlington’s four summer swimming teams in the Northern Virginia Swimming League had a combined losing record of 9-11 this season. It was the first summer since the 2012 campaign that the four had a cumulative losing mark… This summer Overlee also was the only one of the four with a winning mark, at 3-2.” [Sun Gazette]
Arlington = Jersey City? — A TikTok creator, talking about her viral map comparing parts of the D.C. area with New York City area locales: “I completely understand that people are going to disagree with this, but it was Arlington and Jersey City — you know, being literally across the river from a big economic center that people commute into. I think the way people in DC talk about Arlington — it just sounded very familiar to some of the things that I’ve heard people in Manhattan saying about people who live just across the water in New Jersey.” [Washingtonian]
Another Gun Caught at DCA Checkpoint — “A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) prevented an Alexandria, Va., resident from bringing his loaded handgun onto his flight this morning, July 25. It was the 16th gun detected by TSA officers at the airport so far this year.” [Press Release]
Brittany O’Grady’s Latest Project — From actress and Arlington native Brittany O’Grady: “I’m filming an Amazon show called The Consultant, with Nat Wolff and Christoph Waltz. It’s about a man who takes over a company, and my character and others are challenged on their morality. I’m also excited to finally play women [rather than teenagers]. The storylines get deeper.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]
A Spring and Arlington’s Oldest Home — “This land was originally patented by Thomas Owsley in 1696 with the caveat that he had to build a house on the land within a year or forfeit rights to the land. It’s believed that Owsley built the stone house that sits at Dawson Terrace Recreation Center, one street west of the Spring Site. If true, it is the oldest house in Arlington County… The spring is located inside a spring house at the bottom of a stone stairway at the end of North Scott Street.” [Atlas Obscura]
It’s Tuesday — Cloudy, then rain starting in the afternoon. High of 80 and low of 73. Sunrise at 6:06 am and sunset at 8:27 pm. [Weather.gov]
Joey Collins is a Broadway actor by training and an Arlington vaccine helper by heart.
After assisting the Arlington Public Health Division with distributing Covid vaccines for most of 2021, accomplished stage actor Collins is hitting the road this year as part of the Broadway touring company of “To Kill A Mockingbird.”
He’s playing the villain Bob Ewell in the iconic story. It’s a life-altering role, one that he’s ready for after spending close to a year helping Arlingtonians get vaccinated.
“One of the things that I’m grateful that happened for me was working in the [vaccine] clinics,” Collins tells ARLnow. “I believe it’s the Dalai Lama that said that genuine compassion is unbiased.”
The longtime New Yorker moved to Arlington with his family, which includes a partner and two kids, in 2019 with his partner getting a job at a nonprofit here. He immediately began to look for his community, through local theaters, and acting groups. Then, the world shut down.
Collins was in a new place with few friends, not much of a network, and — like many — had little work. So, he turned to volunteering.
He first began by helping with voter protection but with vaccines becoming available in December 2020, Collins reached out to Arlington Public Health to see if the department needed help.
Public Health accepted and, with his gregarious nature, Collins was first asked to greet people as they came to the Arlington County Department of Human Services at Sequoia Plaza on Washington Blvd. Those lines were often long with many residents over the age of 75.
“You’re the first voice… and first eyes that people saw when they came,” Collins says. “I really enjoyed that.”
His acting training kicked in too, helping him to figure out how to best greet those coming for their vaccines.
“You’re always reading the other person. Sometimes that person is nervous, sometimes they are excited or grumpy,” Collins says. “I just tried to be a positive person in their life for those few minutes that I had contact with them.”
Particularly those early days, when it was older residents who were getting vaccinated, the experience was incredibly rewarding for Collins. He even gets a bit emotional talking about it, remembering that for some, he may have been the first person that they had talked to face-to-face in months.
“Sometimes they just wanted to talk and it was great,” he says. “We were hopefully giving them the opportunity to not be so isolated. My heart is full and my eyes are teary… just thinking about it.”
Maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are similarities between being a judge in a courtroom and an actor on stage.
“It’s all really about trying to understand that all human beings are complex,” Judge William T. Newman, Jr. tells ARLnow. “They are not all good and they are not all bad.”
Newman is a judge, an actor, and one half of a legit Washington power couple. He’s the long-time Chief Judge of Arlington County Circuit Court who’s presided over some of Arlington’s most well-known cases — as well as a veteran stage actor who’s appeared in several local productions over the years. In his dual roles, he’s known for his authoritativeness, clarity, and booming voice.
But this month the multifaceted Newman is doing something he’s never done before: starring in a one-man show.
The judge is portraying the legendary playwright August Wilson in the autobiographical How I Learned What I Learned. Produced by Arlington’s Avant Bard Theatre and staged at Gunston Arts Center, performances will be running through Dec. 19.
“It’s quite a challenge,” Newman says about being the solo performer on stage. “It’s you just there. It’s the raw essence of who you are up there.”
He notes the difficulty in holding the audience’s attention, avoiding becoming one-dimensional, and being able to shift tone on a dime.
“It’s trying to set different levels. Some of it is funny, some of it is sad,” he says. “You have to be ready to do the next thing, which may be totally the opposite.”
How I Learned What I Learned, published shortly before Wilson’s death in 2005, is an autobiographical look into the writer’s life and what it meant to be a Black artist in the 20th century. Wilson wrote the lead role for himself, which provides another unique challenge for Newman.
“August wasn’t an actor. He was a writer. So, in a sense, it’s trying to do this without overdoing it,” he says. “He’s a story teller and I’m trying to tell his story.”
Despite much of the play taking place in the mid-20th century, there’s plenty in the material that remains very relevant today. Citing the Black Lives Matter movement and last year’s protests over the killing of George Floyd, Newman calls Wilson’s work “prophetic” in that it deals with inequality and the country’s inability to cope with its history.
“August was really talking about how we need to come together as a community, as both Black and white,” he says. “To look at each other and not be as wary of each other.”
Newman notes that he completely agrees with Wilson’s assessment that we are “victims of our history.”
This isn’t Newman’s first show with the three-decade-old Avant Bard Theater (it was previously known as the Washington Shakespeare Company). In 2017, he starred as Oedipus in the theater’s production of The Gospel at Colonus.
This is his first time back on stage in about two years, however. Like it is for many local performing arts organizations, this holiday season is a greatly-anticipated return to performing in front of live audiences.
While Newman is very much looking forward to it, he admits he forgot how much it can take out of him both in terms of time, focus, and energy. Acting is about bringing life experiences to a role, he says, which can be exhausting.
For Newman, some of those life experiences come from the courtroom, where he hears cases and listens to people profess their innocence all day long. He says his acting and engaging in the arts brings “a sense of humanity” to his day job.
In Wilson’s writings, there are plenty of “shady” characters, but Newman knows those characters come from real life.
“There’s a human element to everything that they do… It’s part of what goes on in life,” says Newman. “These are real people, who do these real things, and say these real things.”
How I Learned What I Learned runs Thursdays through Sundays, from Dec. 1-19 at Gunston Arts Center, Theatre Two (2700 S. Lang Street). This article was funded by the ARLnow Press Club and first appeared in Saturday’s club newsletter.
Arlington will celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. with a free annual event featuring local performers this Sunday (Jan 20).
“Supernatural” actor Christian Keyes is set to host Arlington’s MLK Tribute, which is now in its 50th year. The event will run from 5-6:30 p.m. at Wakefield High School.
Community members and county staff created the annual tribute one year after King’s assassination in 1968 as a way to bring the community together around King’s vision for social equality.
“Arlington’s beloved MLK tribute event is a joyful celebration of Dr. King and his powerful advocacy for social and economic justice, non-violence and empowerment that continues to serve as a beacon for our nation more than a half-century after his assassination,” Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said in a press release.
The program features music, dance and spoken word roles.
The lineup includes:
- Spoken word artist Outspoken Poetress (Audrey Perkins)
- Inspire Arts Collective
- Soloist Jackie Pate
- Soloist James Gibson
- Arlington resident Joy Gardner
- The Hoffman-Boston All Star Chorus led by Molly Haines
- Teen Network boardmembers
- Winners of the Arlington Public Schools’ MLK Literary and Visual Arts Contest
Guests will be seated on a first-come, first-served basis, and overflow space with a live stream of the program will be available if the auditorium reaches capacity. Anyone attending is encouraged to bring non-perishable goods to donate to Arlington Food Assistance Center.
Photo via Arlington County
A Washington-Lee High School graduate is one of the main characters on the new Fox television series Star.
O’Grady graduated from W-L in 2013 but has been performing and modeling professionally since the age of 4,
Up until now O’Grady’s most prominent TV appearance was a guest role on the ABC show Trophy Wife. She has also been active in the local theater scene, performing at Arlington’s Signature Theatre, Synetic Theater and Encore Stage & Studio, as well as D.C. venues like the Kennedy Center, Ford’s Theatre and even the White House.
“I was always encouraged to pursue my dreams because I’ve worked all my life to achieve them,” O’Grady said in an interview published on the Encore Stage & Studio website.
She gave the following advice to aspiring young actors: “Never EVER give up. No matter how discouraged you get and how many times you get rejected. Work hard, train hard, and know your stuff. If you are always working on improving yourself, you will get better. You will become the versatile actor you want to be. The roles will come with time.”
The Dec. 14 premiere of Star is billed as a “special early preview.” The series will air in its regular timeslot on Wednesday, Jan. 4.
A variety of volunteer opportunities exist throughout the county, but a few might be considered plain fun instead of work. One of them involves being an actor and another involves gardening. Check out the details below. More information about these opportunities and others can be found on the Volunteer Arlington website.
- Arlington’s Medical Reserve Corps seeks volunteers to be actors in an emergency response drill on Saturday, April 28. The drill will test the current point of dispensing plans for oral antibiotics given to the public in case of an aerosolized anthrax attack. No experience is necessary. Volunteers will receive an hour of training, then participate in the drill as actors for one hour. Contact Grelia Soliz at (703) 228-0711.
- Clarendon Presbyterian Church is looking for volunteers to be gardeners for its Plot Against Hunger program. Two plant beds are being built along the Jackson St side of the building to grow vegetables, which will be donated to the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC). Help is needed for a variety of responsibilities that include set up, gardening and delivery of the food to AFAC. Volunteers will complete a short training session. Contact Gillian Burgess at (646) 284-8894.
- The USO of Metropolitan Washington seeks helpers at Ft. Myer. Volunteers will assist military service members, military dependents, military reservists, National Guard and military retirees who use the USO Lounge at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. Volunteers will provide courteous service to guests while answering questions, managing DVD and video game check out, keeping the lounge neat, brewing coffee and replenishing snacks. Occasionally, volunteers will help with USO events in the Lounge. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old and have a valid U.S. identification. Access to a computer is preferred. Volunteers are required to attend an orientation. Contact Emily Urban at (703) 696-0958.