When Rick Foucheux, the award-winning actor whose work has dazzled DC audiences for 35 years, decided to retire last year, it wasn’t because he was tired of the stage. He just wanted to focus on other activities.
“What activities?” I asked, as we settled in for coffee and questions at a local cafe.
“Writing, art, and dinner with my wife,” he replied. “Though not in that order.”
Now, notwithstanding those priorities, he’s back. The occasion is a benefit for Quotidian Theatre, where—on Saturday, November 3—he’ll be unveiling Parts of a Night, a tell-all comedy that condenses 30 years of backstage memories into 80 minutes of dramatic reading.
The cast includes Kim Schraf (seen most recently in Death of a Salesman at Ford’s and The Apple Family Plays at the Kennedy Center), Matthew Vaky (The Night Alive at Quotidian), Chelsea Thaler (The Wolves at Studio Theatre) and Foucheux himself, doubling as playwright and pivotal character.
Writing is not a new occupation for this actor, who often wrote his own material in the early days of his career. However, this script began more recently.
“It was a few years ago,” he said. “I was doing Cabaret (click here for DCMTA’s review) with Naomi Jacobson at Signature. I would come home late at night, exhausted, but unable to sleep.”
So—as an antidote to insomnia—he started writing short plays, four or five pages each, commemorating moments of his life on the stage. Once retired, he set out to turn the sketches into a finished play.
Billed as a dark comedy, Parts of a Night is set backstage late at night. Two middle-aged actors, worried about the opening of a new play they’re in, are joined by an angry house manager and a drunk ingenue. Gossip and booze prevail. In short, it’s life in the theater, off stage.
The fundraiser will open with Foucheux’s reading of Anton Chekhov’s famous—and famously funny—monologue On the Harmfulness of Tobacco.
In between the two readings, patrons will be treated to food, drink and a silent auction in which they can bid on tickets to shows at many of Washington’s leading theaters. (Other auction items include props—such as the donkey head worn by Bottom in Midsummer Night’s Dream—and dinner with both Foucheux and his wife).
“Why Quotidian?” I asked, puzzled at the choice of a tiny-but-prestigious theater hidden behind the Writer’s Center on a side street in Bethesda. “Why not one of the posh theaters downtown?”
Simple, he explained. “Quotidian reminds me of the theaters in DC 35 years ago, when I was just starting out. It was 1983, and DC was on the cusp of becoming the great theater town it is now. The scene was bubbling, and there was plenty of opportunity for a young actor.”
At the time, most of those theaters operated on shoestring budgets. But they nurtured talent and managed to generate a lot of support. “Like Quotidian,” he added, “they attracted audiences who were smart and appreciative, people who actually went to the theater a lot.”
“How did you get started?” I asked. The answer, as is often the case, was a combination of accident and ambition.
“I grew up in a small town in Louisiana called Houma,” he said. The town, which is 50 miles southwest of New Orleans, was occupied by French Arcadians, Foucheux’s family among them, who came from Canada following the French and Indian War.
“Houma was a great place to live. People swam in the bayous—happily there were no alligators then—and there was a community theater, Le Petit Theatre de Terrebonne, where I got my first role.” He was 12 years old and the show was The Boy Friend.
Later on, he majored in speech and drama at Nicholls State University in Louisiana. Drawn to broadcasting, he went straight from college into television news and talk shows.
In fact, the move to Washington came about because of a double job offer from the D.C. affiliate of ABC News in 1982. Rick was named host of Good Morning Washington, while his wife, MJ (for Mary Jean) Jacobsen, was hired simultaneously as an on-air news reporter.
Both were 29. But while they were thrilled to have big-time jobs in a major media town, neither slot was a good fit. “Maybe we weren’t serious enough,” he mused. Within a year, both had moved on. MJ went into public relations at National Geographic, and Rick switched to acting.
At first, like many other young D.C. actors, he appeared in training films for the government. (One of his favorites was a U.S. Navy film on how to do laundry on board ship). He also wrote and starred in a lot of films for the U.S. Postal Service and the Department of Agriculture.
At the same time, the professional theater scene was exploding, with jobs everywhere. And though the jobs didn’t pay much, they offered an education in theater that was beyond most people’s dreams.
“I was very lucky,” he said. “I was becoming schooled in theater and my laboratory was the professional stage. I literally learned the trade at places like the Folger and Shakespeare, Arena, Studio, Woolly Mammoth, Stage Guild, Source and Theater J.”
It was possible, he added, to work professionally every night of the week.
In a career that spanned the years from 1983 to 2017, he was nominated for 13 Helen Hayes Awards—actually winning five of them—and performed on virtually every professional stage in DC, running the gamut from Shakespeare to Mamet, and from musicals to serious drama.
“Of course, I was very ambitious. I wanted success. And I’ve been very lucky,” he admitted.
“But I swore back then when I was starting out, that if ever I could give back, I would. That’s why this benefit is so important.”
“Important enough to lure you back for a full run?” I asked.
“Absolutely not,” he laughed. “I love retirement! And I love going to matinees and sitting in the audience!”
Part of the joy of retirement for Foucheux is spending time with his grandchildren, who all live nearby. They are Timmy III (called ‘Trip’), age 3, Leah, 2, and Patrick, 18 months. And while they’re too young now to join him in the audience, he and his wife are looking forward to introducing them to the theater quite soon.
Who knows? Maybe we’ll see them at Quotidian…
Running Time: Approximately two hours and 20 minutes, including one 30-minute intermission, and followed by a meet-the-cast reception and silent auction.
Rick Foucheux Returns to Quotidian plays one night only on November 3, 2018, at Quotidian Theatre Company, located inside The Writer’s Center at 4508 Walsh Street, in Bethesda, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 816-1023, or purchase them online.