by Len Lear
Brandon Drummond, 30, who plays Puck in “Murder Mystery; Who Killed Shakespeare?,” which will be performed numerous times on the last two weekends in October at Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion, the stunning Victorian mansion at 200 W . Tulpehocken St. in Germantown, has one of the all-time great stories about how he got into show business.
“I was 26 and working at Marathon Grill at 16th and Sansom Streets,” he told us last week. “Forrest McClendon, a Tonynominated actor, sat at my table from time to time. I had no idea at the time who he was, but I always enjoyed his conversation. I remember finding his profile on Facebook and discovering he was an actor. He was doing something I always wanted to do but never was brave enough to do. I shared this with Forrest the next time I saw him.
“As a result, he introduced me to Lee Edward Colston II. Lee taught an acting intensive for the summer of 2015. It changed my life. I decided to audition for theater undergraduate programs and took training from Amina Robinson for monologues. I didn’t get into any of the schools I auditioned for, but I enjoyed it and walked away stronger. Those monologues have helped me book some pretty cool shows in Philly including ‘Running Numbers’ by Cheyenne Barboza presented by Theater in the X. I try to give a mysterious aura to all my performances, if possible. It’s fun to play head games with the audience.”
The 2008 West Philadelphia High School graduate is under no illusion about the difficulty of earning any kind of a living as an actor, which is why he has worked as a janitor in his father’s janitorial business, and he currently works as a food expediter at Green Eggs Café, 719 2nd St. in Queen Village.
But once the acting bug bites, there is no cure, according to Drummond.
“I feel I have no other options. I have to act for a living. I feel it in my bones, even though I have only been doing this for four years now. I just feel right in a creative environment. I am inspired by Phylicia Rashad (Bill Cosby’s wife on ‘The Cosby Show’) … Even with fear, doubt and my inner demons, I know I can act for a living, despite getting rejected by all the schools I auditioned for. I can give up old habits and make sacrifices. ‘No’ is the name of the game. If you can’t handle rejection, this line of work isn’t for you. Period!”
Austin Stanton also 30, who plays Ophelia in “Who Killed Shakespeare,” has a “day job” as a digital campaign programmer (she writes and edits code for email marketing campaigns) and an equally powerful passion to perform on stage, although she may have “drifted too far into the corporate world to handle the uncertainty of being a full-time artist.
“I don’t remember ever not being called to act,” she said. “As a kid, I was always making up characters and performing nonsensical plays in my living room.”
Stanton grew up in a small mining town in Utah, but she also lived in Massachusetts, Iowa and Missouri before ending up in Philly. The 2010 B.F .A. graduate in Theatre Arts from Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, once understudied in the musical ‘Once’ and had five total rehearsals to learn the show.
“I also had to sing, dance and play the violin at the same time. It was the ultimate test of my imposter syndrome.”
What is the best advice Stanton ever received?
“Honest answer: that I am not responsible for other people’s feelings. Alternate answer: Life is an open-book test.”
Audience members who come to the mansion to see Drummond, Stanton and their castmates will have a chance to unravel a mystery similar to the game of “Clue.” This interactive play, “Who Killed Shakespeare?,” was written and directed by Josh Hitchens, with special effects by Jay Efran.
In the play, William Shakespeare is dead. A character from one of his plays committed this dastardly deed. Upon entering the mansion, audience members receive a clipboard with a list of suspects. As you move from room to room inside the mansion, you will be greeted in each room by an actor portraying a suspect. Could the murderer be the witch from “Macbeth,” Juliet’s nurse, Puck, Hamlet’s ghost or Lady Macbeth? You get to help solve the mystery!
“Shakespeare” can be experienced on Saturday, Oct. 19, with the first group of eight at 5:30 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 20, with the first group of eight at 2:30 p.m. Also on Saturday, Oct. 26, with the first group of eight at 5:30 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 27, with the first group of eight at 2:30 p.m. The entire experience takes 45 minutes to one hour. Reservations are required and can be made online or by calling 215-438-1861.