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I certainly had heard of Jeff Stockberger before I met him for the first time when the cast of The Sound of Music came together for their first rehearsal. Friends of mine who had worked with him at Beef and Boards told of an amiable and talented comic actor – easy-going and fun-loving. And that is the Jeff I have gotten to know over the past 4 or 5 weeks. Though he never gets to use the full range of his talents in his role as Franz, Captain Von Trapp’s butler in this production, he has made himself invaluable as the assistant (back-stage) stage manager and often provides some interesting and hilarious diversions backstage. I was very happy when Jeff agreed to answer a few questions for me.

Actor/Director Jeff Stockberger

Actor/Director Jeff Stockberger

Q: Okay, Jeff, let’s start with where were you born and where did you grow up?

Jeff: I was born and raised in St. Louis, Mo.

Q: And was anyone else in your family a performer?

Jeff: Well, my father is a retired high school music teacher and most of my family is musical to one degree or another. He was the leader of the high school band, the pit conductor for shows there and was a part-time music minister at our church.

Q: Any musical siblings?

Jeff: My sister was a singer and also played the viola.

Q: So, do you play any instruments?

Jeff: Yeah, I can play the piano and the trombone. I played bass in a band for a while, too. Actually at one point, people thought I was going to be a musician like my dad.

Q: What was your first theatre experience?

Jeff: One of the first shows I remember seeing was A Christmas Carol at the St. Louis Rep. Chairs moved by themselves and ghosts appeared in mirrors and from out of the ground! I was hooked!

Q: What was your first on-stage experience like?

Jeff: In about the 6th grade, our class put on Snow White. I got picked to play Dopey. I didn’t have any lines, but I did some silly stuff that got a reaction. I thought – Wow! That’s pretty easy! – and it was fun to get people to laugh! So I kind of got into doing theatre stuff a lot when I got to high school.

Q: Where / how did you study theatre primarily?

Jeff: I have a BFA in acting from Baylor University in Texas.

Q: So, what was your favorite college role?

Jeff: I played The Jailer in Die Fledermaus.

Q: A part in an opera? What was that like?

Jeff: Well, the head of the music department must have seen me on stage; he asked me to take the part. It’s a non-singing role that has a featured section at the beginning of act 3 where I came out and was able to just have fun being this inept character. I just put together some bits (Ed.- “bits” are what we sometimes call stage business – usually funny little things a character does onstage) that were fun for me to do, and made the audience laugh. It kind of made the director nervous because he never knew what I was going to do, because I just kind of did improvisations as I went along. I really enjoyed it, but later in class, my acting teacher kind of used me as an example of what not to do.

Q: Did you go right into the theatre profession after college?

Jeff: Actually I started while I was still in college. I worked in shows as a summer job three out of the four summers I was in college. I worked with Eddie Curry in 1988 in Galveston TX. The first part I had was Davy Crockett – I think they gave it to me because I was tall.

Q: What about after college?

Jeff: I worked for as while in the mid-west, mostly in St. Louis. I got my Equity card doing touring children’s theatre. Eventually, I got married and we went to NYC.

Q: How long were you in New York? And what kind of stuff did you do there?

Jeff: I was in NYC for about 8 years, auditioned for a bunch of shows; and I put a comedy act together with a guy I knew – improvisation-comedy. That worked for a good while. We worked in comedy clubs.

Q: Did you work any non-theatre jobs while you were there?

Jeff: All kinds of jobs; I worked in a candy factory, a tool and die factory, I waited tables for a while, I had temp jobs. I even had a career type job at Goldman Sachs around 1996-97.

Q: So, what would you say was the biggest turning point for your career?

Jeff: Moving to Indy in 2002 sort of started the path I am on still. There was no work after 9/11 and I was heading back to St. Louis and I stopped at B&B to touch base and see some friends I had made here. I had worked on Peter Pan here in 1996. And they had a tech guy who was leaving soon and so a job was open here and I got it! So for the next 5 years or so I did a lot of backstage tech jobs and some stage managing and did some onstage work, as well. Sometimes, I had a part onstage and was working tech backstage. Eventually I decided that I didn’t want to do both anymore and I just went with the onstage work.

Q: So, what is your favorite role professionally?

Jeff: This may sound corny, but I truly enjoy them all. Big or small.

Q: Can you recall any low points in your career?

Jeff: Well, just that time in NYC when I was doing the corporate job and I kind of had an identity crisis. I was saying, “What do I call myself?” and I was kind of worried I was losing the acting part of myself.

Q: I can see that would be tough. Now, what would you give as advice to young actors who hope for a career in theatre?

Jeff: Don’t give up. Success takes time. Early success takes nurturing. Know who you are as an actor. Understand that talent is only half the job.

Q: What are some other activities you enjoy?

Jeff: I’m a big baseball fan, especially the Cardinals – and I watch way too many movies.

Jeff Stockberger as Franz in B&B's production of "The Sound of Music"

Jeff Stockberger as Franz in B&B’s production of “The Sound of Music”

Q: Let’s get back to our present show; have you been in The Sound of Music previously? What roles did you play?

Jeff: Yes. I played Franz once before at B&B in 2002.

Q: What other roles have you done at Beef and Boards?

Jeff: As I said before, my first show was Peter Pan in 1996. I played Noodler the pirate. Since then I’ve been in lots of shows here including two other productions of Peter Pan playing Captain Hook. Plus Pelinore in Camelot, Charlie in The Foreigner, Stanley Gardner in Run For Your Wife, Evelyn Oakley in Anything Goes, and Portia in Cinderella.

Q: And what’s your favorite B&B role?

Jeff: I really enjoy getting the chance to play Scrooge in A Christmas Carol which B&B does every December. I’ve played that role the last few years.

Q: Last question, what is your next project?

Jeff: Smoke on the Mountain opening on July 5th. I will be directing the show for the second time on the B&B stage.

Q: Okay – let’s talk about that a little bit. Tell me about this show.

Jeff: Well, this is the second time I will be directing it here. I directed it in 2007. I like this show a lot because it is more a play with music, than it is a musical. Music is a real part of the show in that the characters are doing a concert for the audience.

Q: What kind of characters are portrayed here?

Jeff: It’s a very funny show with rural Carolina-region type folks in it. They are a family, and the cast consists of some very talented musicians; many of them play several different instruments and they switch around all the time – it’s really some very impressive musicianship, I think. I have 3 cast members returning from the 2007 show – one is Sarah Hund, who is Elsa in The Sound of Music. Anyway, the actors are onstage the whole time and this show is just right for our stage. I’m really looking forward to getting started on this.

Q: So, you’ll be in a show at night and directing this next show in the daytime? What is that like?

Jeff: It’s not so bad. The overlapping jobs are only temporary.

Q: Well, I will look forward to seeing it. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Jeff.

Jeff: Glad to do it, Ken.

If you are interested in attending Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music OR Smoke on the Mountain at Beef and Board Dinner Theatre in Indianapolis, ticket information can be found by calling 317-872-9664. The current show runs thru Sunday June 30. The next show opens July 5. Further info about the shows can be found at http://www.beefandboards.com .

*Show pictures from The Sound of Music by Julie Curry

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