Raised in New Jersey, Edward Gero came to D.C. in 1983 to join Shakespeare Theatre Company and has been here ever since. He’s now one of the city’s leading thespians, having appeared in all the Bard’s major works and played a host of larger-than-life figures, like painter Mark Rothko in “Red” and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in “The Originalist.” But audiences may know him best as Scrooge in the beloved Ford’s Theatre production of “A Christmas Carol.”
Did you always want to be an actor?
Since I was 13 or 14 years old. There was an acting program as part of my high school curriculum, so I was able to study and get cast in plays that ranged from classic Greek tragedies and Shakespeare to musicals. I had to do a lot of convincing of some people, particularly parents, that acting would be an appropriate thing to do. So far, so good!
What do you like most about playing Scrooge?
It’s very satisfying because of the audience that Ford’s attracts. It’s a destination theater, so for many young children, this is their first time in a theater, and for some people, this is the only time they go. Everyone knows who Scrooge is. He’s so iconic, it’s like doing a Shakespearean character. And the story is so hopeful. We also have the opportunity to raise funds for local food banks. Over the last six years, we’ve raised more than $400,000.
This is your seventh year as Scrooge. How do you keep your performance fresh?
I think of a baseball metaphor: You can practice where the mitt is supposed to be, but the pitch comes in a different way each time. So, I listen to the play with fresh ears and look for the nuanced variations that the other actors give me. I like to say, “We keep it in the track but out of the rut.”
What are some of your pre-show rituals?
I like to come in early and get settled. I’ll listen to some music. Occasionally, with the technicians, I’ll fly toy helicopters, and some of the guys have remote control cars outside in the alley. It’s a way to have fun and blow off steam. On two-show days, I take a nap between performances. I try to manage my rest, eat well and get a massage once a week to keep everything loose.
Tell us about a memorable moment during a show.
In one scene, there’s a bed that spins while I’m on it. One time, it didn’t stop until I hit the emergency brake. It started to slide down the [raked] stage. That was kind of petrifying. It happened only once, but once was enough!
Do you have any D.C. holiday traditions?
My wife and I have dinner at the Old Ebbitt Grill. It’s beautifully decorated and has great food close to the White House, plus the best raw bar happy hour in town. We always visit the Capitol Christmas Tree. When we lived on Capitol Hill, we went to the practice lighting, so we’d see it quietly. The U.S. Botanic Garden also has a wonderful Christmas exhibit. And for many years, we attended midnight Mass at St. Matthew’s Cathedral.
Where do you vacation?
Every summer for the past 30 years, we’ve spent a couple weeks on Pawleys Island in South Carolina. It’s great family beach time. We’ve traveled a lot to Italy, too. I found my family there and learned the language. After “A Christmas Carol,” we’ll take a break in the Caribbean to lie on the beach and have a few margaritas.