Professionalism. It is a word that is bandied about with frequency in theater circles. When it is applied to a gaggle of pint-sized vagabonds who are rehearsing a middle school production of Oliver!, it becomes laughable. However, when its observed first-hand on one of New York's stages, it is truly appreciated. Such is the case at The Player's Theater on MacDougal Street. It is there that television actor John Driscoll has taken over two key roles in Matt Morillo's comedy Angry Young Women in Low-Rise Jeans with High-Class Issues.
After a recent Sunday matinee, Driscoll walks into a pizzeria, tosses down his knapsack and declares, "Well, I made it through my first week!" His voice is filled with a mixture of fatigue and satisfaction as he orders a sausage pizza that he'll munch on during our conversation. He's a personable young man, 26 years old and 6'2" with enormous intelligence behind his intense hazel eyes. On stage, he's perfectly at ease in a business suit in one of Angry Women's first playlets and he's equally comfortable doing the bare-chested beefcake in the final segment of the show. The fact that some of the audience members sighed in approval when they first spotted Driscoll's torso certainly gives the actor encouragement when he sheds his shirt.
The divided feelings that Driscoll experiences on this particular afternoon are justified. He joined the cast on relatively short notice. "When I took this on, I didn't have much time," he says. "I try to make it work. I rely on the director (author Morillo) to give me notes and feedback on what he sees because I'm like a ball of clay at this point. I'm still going to be molded into what's going to fit to open the show. Once I'm there, he'll give me the liberty to create and make these my own characters. So I thank God for being able to pick it up quickly."
There's no doubt that this actor is extremely driven. "I don't like to take breaks. When I start working I like to keep going right through. I work it and work it and work it until I know I have it down. I hate to live in the script. I need to get off it so I can dive right in and start acting. The great thing about this cast is that they already knew the material and were already off book, which encouraged me to learn things quicker." The actor had a mere week of rehearsals before facing an audience, yet Driscoll contributes remarkable characterizations to the production and commands virtually every scene he's in. He's certainly found a home on the New York stage.
The Virginia native comes from a military family, who lived in Woodbridge, 20 miles south of Washington, DC. Driscoll is the youngest of three children and his father is a West Point grad who spent 23 years in the military. His mother worked for the airlines, "so I got to travel on her pass privileges", the actor admits with a sheepish smile. He numbers Barcelona and Budapest as two of the most memorable places he's visited.
One might ask how someone from such a background could become interested in pursuing acting as a career. The answer is quick in coming from Driscoll: "I think every little kid who grows up going to the movies and watching television wants to become an actor. Obviously as you get older things change. In my case, I was kept in the arts by my mother. She put me in dance when I was a kid. I did ballet and jazz. She said, 'You know what? You're going to hate me. You're not going to like this but I'm going to push you into it because it's going to teach you about yourself. It'll give you self confidence and confidence around girls. When you're growing up, you'll feel awkward about yourself and around girls. I don't want that to happen. You may do your sports on the side, but you're going to do dance. Period.' Mom must have known what she was talking about because it was due to dance that I was picked out of the background of a WB show I was doing with Kate Bosworth (the aforementioned Young Americans) and given a couple of lines to say. That's what made me eligible for SAG and I literally fell up the stairs." Obviously the dance training his mother insisted upon gave him a poise that casting directors started to notice.