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A Chat With David Shaughnessy Star of Ronnie Brixton- The Best of British Boxing

Ronnie Brixton
By Ashley Sutherland

“Jim Henson said to me, ‘You absolutely should go to America’,” David Shaughnessy tells us. This occurred after completing his role as “Sir Didymus” in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth starring David Bowie. Henson didn’t just cut David loose to fend for himself; he sent David with a personal introduction to a top Voice-Over agent, and got him started with a queue of jobs.

Stepping back a few years to the beginnings of David’s show business arc, what did he do fresh out of drama school? “I joined Salisbury Rep, and a year out auditioned for Prospect Theatre Company which happened to be the new resident company at The Old Vic in London. For my first year, I did… yes, basically the spear carrier roles. I had a small role in the Derek Jacobi Hamlet as a character that delivered a message to the actor Timothy West. I wore these huge gloves and they were a monster to take off so I could hand over the paper. Such a production that Tim West said it was the only time he was ever upstaged by a pair of gloves!”

Photo: David Shaughnessy

“Second year they raised my roles a bit, and I played Fortinbras in the Jacobi Hamlet, and occasionally went on as Horatio. We also played Anthony and Cleopatra with Sir Alec McCowan and Dame Dorothy Tutin. We took these shows all over the world, even performing in Iran just four months prior to the revolution. But the funniest thing – we were in Egypt, and the Egyptian authorities for some reason…” here, David chuckles… “didn’t want us to perform Anthony and Cleopatra. Imagine that. So we performed Hamlet at the Theater of the Sphinx in ungodly heat while wearing costumes suitable for the Arctic. That’s not all. The theater is below ground level. Jacobi went into one of the soliloquys and bellowing from somewhere started throwing him off. Where was it coming from? It came from above. Bedouins, curious about the lights, sound, and fury rode their camels right to the rim to look down at the stage. And camels are such critics of Shakespeare.”

“Through a friend of my wife’s, I had the opportunity to get into NBC-TV’s director training program with Days of Our Lives. That meant a year of learning and following experienced directors around to learn multi-camera shooting. Now, I have over 5,000 hours of network television.” And some EMMY awards. “Yes. Those, too.”

“When you get on a career track – do you know of Gladys Nederlander? Yes, of the Nederlanders. Mid-1980’s, Gladys had really big hair. But she offered me, for A&E, director for an original play by Robert Anderson that starred Olympia Dukakis, Edward Herrmann, and Gavin McCleod. As important as this was – and I did direct it, it was called The Last Act Is A Solo – there came a dilemma: to continue directing this series, or to accept an offer that came up to produce The Young And The Restless. Regular pay, job security versus… you know. Sitting in a hotel bar having a drink with Olympia, the bar pianist struck up the theme for The Young and The Restless. I had my answer. Olympia said I went pale as a sheet.”

“You know how events in your life tie together? Back during Labyrinth, I spent hours in the recording studio with Brian Henson. Hours. Then, one day planning for upcoming episodes, we needed permission to include The Rainbow Connection. Brian, now in charge of the Henson company, who better to call? He gave us permission. Sometimes it’s good to have a way right to the top.”

David Shaughnessy’s career began with acting onstage, acting – voice acting – in films, directing for network television, and now with Ronnie Brixton – The Best of British Boxing returns to his roots. It’s a challenge, learning and retaining the script for a solo show, and stepping into the role that Byron Tidwell and Lincoln Hudson created for Lincoln Hudson to play, until he sadly passed away while rehearsing the show in 2017. So the question is, what intrigues him about this role?

“Ronnie resonated with me. The script is nothing like I’ve ever read or seen. It is a challenge, not just because of the size of memorization, but I want audiences to feel they know Ronnie and feel his joys and struggles even if they have no interest in the sport of boxing. Because the story transcends that. I always think about Lincoln and hope I’m making him pleased with my effort and I want to end this with a quotation from Ronnie Brixton, because I firmly believe this, too. ‘I think there should be more women working in all areas of professional sports, all areas of professional boxing… She goes forward! … Ring that bell!'” David shared.

David Shaughnessy plays the title role in Ronnie Brixton – The Best of British Boxing at The Space in Las Vegas,  May 2 – 13, 2018 and The Hollywood Fringe 2018 in The Ruby at The Complex Hollywood select dates June 2 – 23; A J. Francis Smith, Inc. Production, Producers Jack Smith, Sharon Monroe, Byron Tidwell. Associate Producers Asia Ray Smith, Bea Victor. Production Design, Tommy Bitcee. Lighting Design, David Schulman. Written by Lincoln Hudson and Byron Tidwell. Directed by Byron Tidwell.

Ronnie Brixton

*This article was made possible by exclusive release to TheatreArtLife by Asia Ray Smith & Byron Tidwell.

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