Academics Research Offices Sports Arts Map & Tour
ArchiveAssessing the FutureBookmark the BicentennialThe Reviews are InTonight's the NightPanoramic Ohio
Ohio in Focus
Honing their Craft
< Back to Outook

< Back to Front Door

Related Links/Info Giving to Ohio

Over the Phone:
1-800-592-FUND (3863)


On the Web:
Campaign Giving

By Mail:
The Ohio University Foundation
P.O Box 869
Athens, OH 45701-0869


March 5, 2004
Houston, Fleming bring Smith's words to life
By George Mauzy

Gary Houston and Anthony Fleming are extremely different if you compare them by experience, but onstage they have at least one thing in common: They are passionate about maximizing the characters they portray.

Houston has worked Chicago stages for more than 30 years, playing a variety of roles. He says his current role as Ohio University President Robert Wilson in University playwright Charles Smith's "Free Man of Color" is one that he calls "delightfully challenging."


"This character is not even close to being like me, but that's what makes it fun," Houston says. "If the character you are playing is too similar to who you are, it can affect your performance. You want a role that makes you think, one that you can grow into and appreciate more over time."

Fleming is a talented up-and-comer who is enjoying his first leading role. Despite the pressure that high expectations bring, he's enjoying the opportunity.

"Charles Smith has written a great play, so my job is to make the words come alive by delivering them with freshness," Fleming says. "As an actor, I must make sure that I don't reveal my whole character too early."

Early in his career, Houston performed in the 1971 world premiere of "Grease" in Chicago. He played Roger in a cast that included a soon-to-be-famous Marilu Henner of "Taxi" fame.

Another highlight of his career was when he twice replaced NYPD star Dennis Franz in the stage production of "Bleacher Bums."

"The first time I filled in for Dennis was in the late '70s when he left the play to act in a movie," Houston says. "The next year, he had to leave again and I was called to fill in for the second straight year. The play was written by Joe Mantegna, who also went on to stardom."

Fleming, a Chicago native, joins a veteran cast that includes Houston and Ohio University Assistant Professor of Theater Shelley Delaney, who plays President Wilson's wife, Jane, and has more than 20 years of acting experience.

"I learn from watching their work ethic," Fleming says. "Shelley and Gary bring great energy and focus every night. Charles has helped me because he trusted me with the words on his script from the very beginning. That's tough to do for a playwright, because the words are his baby - they're everything."

Houston recently acted in a soon-to-be-released movie called "Uncle Nino," which stars Mantegna and Anne Archer. He plays the grumpy neighbor of a family that is falling apart emotionally. With numerous credits in both film and stage productions, Houston makes it clear that acting in the two forms is very different.

"Actors have to work whenever they can, so I don't have a preference of one over the other," Houston admits. "In stage acting, you have a long time to learn a role in its entirety, but film acting sometimes requires an actor to learn a scene in a few minutes and after it's done you can forget about it and focus on the next scene. They present very different challenges."

Fleming says a movie career has crossed his mind, but for now he enjoys theater because of the energy he receives from a live audience.

"I've never been in a movie, but I believe it would be more difficult for me to act in one because it would be harder to get in a flow," he says. "Many times the scenes of a movie are shot out of order, which would make it tough for me to feel the progression of my character like I do on stage."

The trip to Ohio will be sort of a homecoming for Houston, since he earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy from the College of Wooster. As an undergraduate, he served as editor of the student newspaper "The Thistle," before going on to earn a master's degree in philosophy from the University of Chicago.

Fleming, who will be performing for the first time outside of Chicago, says "Free Man of Color" has real educational value.

"I've never been to Ohio University, but I can't wait to get there because of what Charles and Shelley have told me about it," Fleming says. "Charles has written a powerful piece that is an important part of history. It will create awareness of John Newton Templeton's importance to the University as its first black graduate."

Tickets for the 8 p.m., March 11, 12 and 13 performances of "Free Man of Color" are available by calling the College of Fine Arts box office at (740) 593-4800.

George Mauzy is a media specialist for University Communications and Marketing


  Ohio University - Athens, Ohio 45701 - Tel: (740) 593-1000


Please send your questions or comments about this Web site by going to

Copyright © 2008 Ohio University. All Rights Reserved.