You are here
Home > Arts > INTERVIEW: Gary Briggle on G&S, Interim Leadership, and Murder

INTERVIEW: Gary Briggle on G&S, Interim Leadership, and Murder

Some of the many faces of singer, actor, director, playwright, and arts leader Gary Briggle.

Except for a penchant for murder (on-stage, that is), Gary Briggle keeps reinventing himself. Glance at his resume, though, and a few trends emerge. Opera director and principal tenor in Ohio. Television actor in the 1980s. Long-time specialist in Gilbert & Sullivan roles. Occasional on-stage grandfather. Adapter of operas and plays in recent years. These days, he’s delving into homicide in Duluth (in the cast of the murder musical Glensheen), while simultaneously steering Skylark Opera Theatre as its interim artistic director. And directing a sold-out engagement or three.

Gary Briggle spoke with the Arts Reader’s Basil Considine about some of the varied stops in his performing arts career.

A promotional poster for Rogue Prince, Gary Briggle (right)’s adaptation of elements from William Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2 plays into a new work with a different throughline and focus. The adaptation was staged by Theatre Coup d’État in 2019.

You’re currently the Interim Artistic Director of Skylark Opera Theatre, filling the shoes left by Bob Neu after his departure to head artistic planning at the Utah Symphony and Utah Opera. Besides directing and adapting the late winter production of Eugene Onegin, what does being interim artistic director entail? Are you engaged in planning the next season?

I am part of the Search Committee for Stage Directors. We have various performance opportunities coming up, and want to the inclusive and diverse in whom we select to serve as stage directors for each of those performances – including the remount of Amahl and the Night Visitors in December. I will serve in an advisory capacity to those stage directors.

I have also proposed two productions for the 2023 season – but the Board will soon engage in another search to fill that leadership position. I would continue in an advisory capacity during the transition, as needed.

Actor-director Gary Briggle (left) with his offstage (and frequent on-stage) partner, the actor Wendy Lehr, in a promotional photo for a 2017 reading of A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters, mounted by Cannery Works and the Plymouth Arts Council.

Skylark Opera Theatre’s Eugene Onegin was not business as usual – you wrote a new adaptation that stripped it down to an intimate chamber piece unfolding in 90 minutes. Clearly, audiences were receptive, with performances selling out – what are some of the things that you think made this resonate so strongly with audiences?

Tchaikovsky’s opera is a great favorite, and even in our chamber adaptation, audiences were eager to experience the unique musical setting of Pushkin’s poem. There seemed to be genuine curiosity about “how are they going to do it at TMORA [The Museum of Russian Art]” and I think that the opportunity to have that story told in English, by age-appropriate singer-actors, in less than 2 hours (!) was enticing.

Speaking of audience hits, as a performer, you’re also returning in Chan Poling and Jeffrey Hatcher’s Glensheen, in its current remount with Duluth Playhouse at NorShor Theatre. What are some of your favorite moments in this murder musical?

I’m so grateful to have been in the original cast, and experienced the unique collaboration of Chan, Jeffrey and Ron in this “unlikely” murder-mystery-cabaret, as it was first described. I’m always thrilled by Roger’s intoxicated “tarantella” (Simple little murder plot) and moved by Wendy’s poignant “Don’t go tonight”, the nurse’s song. And I enjoy all the tricky ensemble writing, for its similarities to Sondheim.

The stylistic range of the score is challenging and never ceases to amaze me!

Gary Briggle (left) in a History Theater production of Glensheen in 2017, in one of several numbers poking fun at musical theatre tropes. L-R: Gary Briggle, Dane Stauffer (as Roger), and Adam Qualls. Photo by Scott Pakudaitis.

What’s next for you as a director?

I’m staging GSVLOC’s November production of The Pirates of Penzance, my 21st production of that delightful opera. [Editor’s note: GSVLOC will also give two free outdoor concerts of The Pirates of Penzance at the Lake Harriet Bandshell on July 23 and 24.] Prior to that I’m teaching in the SCVO Summer Vocal Institute, and directing their Opera on the River Concert on July 30. In September, I’ll direct their educational show, Figaro for Kids.

What are two shows by other companies that you are looking forward to seeing this year?

Merrily We Roll Along at Theatre Latte Da and The Defeat of Jesse James at the History Theatre…among numerous others!

I’m also very eager to see Austene Van as Josephine Baker in Once upon a Time with New Dawn Theatre.


A Cincinnati Daily Enquirer write-up of the attempted robbery of a bank in Northfield, MN in 1876 by Jesse James’ gang. This seminal event serves as the basis for the History Theatre’s upcoming production The Defeat of Jesse James.
Basil Considine