by Rita Charleston
Born and raised in the Germantown/Mt. Airy section of the city, Brian Anthony Wilson, 54, says he never really knew for sure what he wanted to do when he grew up. “Then, one day, I heard about Freedom Theater and decided to take some classes there just to improve myself.”
Wilson began by taking some vocal classes at the theater, but within the school’s curriculum a student had to take acting classes as well. And so began Wilson’s fascination with acting, studying with such mentors as Johnny Hobbs and others. “And by the time I was thrown into a play and getting on-the-job-training, I was totally hooked.”
Today, 30 years after those beginnings at Freedom Theatre, Wilson is appearing in the Arden Theatre Company’s production of “Beauty and the Beast” now through Feb. 1, 2015, on the Arden’s F. Otto Haas Stage at 40 N. 2nd St. Wilson plays George Godwin, father of Belle (the “Beauty”). This is his 10th show at the Arden, and Wilson is very happy and proud to be appearing there.
“The Arden is known for its non-traditional casting, and this show is no different,” Wilson points out. “Not all companies are willing to do that, but the Arden puts its money where it mouth is. In casting, they choose the actors who are best suited for the role, regardless of their color.”
In this retelling of the classic fairy tale, two sisters leave London to start a new life after the loss of their family fortune. One is eager and outgoing. The other, Belle, is afraid and shy. When Belle meets the Beast, she begins an adventure unlike any she could have imagined.
“It’s important to point out that this is not the Disney version of ‘Beauty and the Beast,’” said Terry Nolen, the Arden’s Producing Artistic Director. “What you will see on our stage is a re-imagined telling of this classic story, produced using professional designers and actors in order to give our younger audiences a world-class theatrical experience.”
This show is directed by Whit MacLaughlin. This is his 13th show for the Arden’s Children’s Theatre, and Wilson calls him “one of the best. One of the challenges in doing this show is finding the character and making him come to life. But each and every actor got great help from our director. He constantly keeps us on our toes, and that’s just what an actor needs to keep his performance fresh.”
In the years since deciding on his career goal, Wilson has amassed quite a resume. In 1997, his first on-screen role was in “The Postman” opposite Kevin Costner. Many more have followed. His first TV appearance was in the 1993 TV series “Homicide: Life On The Street” as Detective Donald Worden. He’s also been seen on the small screen in such productions as “Law & Order: SVU,” HBO’s “The Wire,” et al.
In addition, Wilson has done many theatrical roles, and, adds the former co-lead singer of “The Perfect Blend,” the stage is where his heart is. “If I could do just one thing for the rest of my life, if would be theater. Film and TV pay much better, and they all require using different muscles. I’m fortunate to have done it all, but I know which one feels the best.”
Wilson, who has been married to Greer M. Richardson since 2005 and has a young daughter, is not hesitant to give out advice to other would-be performers. “If you want to be a theater actor, go out and see lots of good theater. If you want to be a film actor, go out and see as many films as possible. And then take every opportunity that comes your way to act, whether doing a reading or working in community theater. Take any chance you get to work on your craft. You never stop learning in this business. Know that you always have room to grow.”
For more information about “Beauty and the Beast,” call 215-922-1122 or visit www.ardentheatre.org.