Jeremy Heideman: The Everyman

Jeremy Heideman: The Everyman

Jeremy Heideman is making a name for himself playing the outsider on center stage.

In Venice Theatre’s production of the Tony Award-winning I Am My Own Wife, Heideman plays the starring role of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a German transvestite who survives not only the Nazis but the following Communist regimes in East Berlin. He plays Charlotte, but also the other 30-plus characters included in the drama, based on playwright Dough Wright’s interviews with the main character.

Heideman_312601807.jpgIt was another “outsider”—Moliere’s title character “Alceste” in The Misanthrope—that started Heideman’s love affair with acting.

“I did do some acting in high school,” Heideman, 28, said. “And I did enjoy it. But it wasn’t until I did The Misanthrope at New College of Florida that I realized that acting was what I wanted to do. It was the sense of being a part of something bigger than me. Even a one-man show is so collaborative. I was never one for team sports. But when I was doing The Misanthrope, the director really pushed me to be as physically grotesque with the role as I could.

“He pushed me to be a physical actor and no one had ever done that. And I realized the papers I was writing for my theater history class were better than any of the other classes I was writing, so I understood this was something I was good at.”

Heideman would go on to receive his bachelor’s degree in theater from Florida State University in Tallahassee. He recently moved to Sarasota, but has called Bradenton home for 21 years. Sticking close to home, he has performed with the Island and Sarasota Players and the Sarasota Renaissance Fair.

“The best thing about the Renaissance Fair is it is heavy duty improv training,” Heideman said of the work he has been doing with the fair since 2006. “If a prop isn’t behaving the way it should or a sweater I’m suppose to take off a shelf suddenly unravels on the spot,  you have to incorporate into the scene like that was supposed to happen.”

If actors are really con-men, as it’s been said, there’s another skill they have to master besides convincing the audience. It’s reading them. Heideman has to work overtime in that capacity in My Own Wife as he plays more than 30 characters, and he switches from one to another, often in the same scene. His pacing can change every night depending on the audience.

“The biggest concern is you have to make sure the audience is coming with you,” he said. “I can see the logic of how the scene is set up, but the audience might not. So you have to listen to those very small sounds the audience will make. Are they with you? Are they confused? Are you putting them to sleep?”

Then of course, there are the times where opportunity strikes, and you really take them with you.

“I was doing The Misanthrope and there was the scene where my character was proposing to a character that had been after him the entire play,” Heideman said. “And I got down on one knee, and proposed and there was this very pregnant pause and someone in the audience sneezed. I said, ‘Godzundheit’ and went right back into character. The audience ate it up.”

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