July 23, 2024

Curtain Call: Anthony Heald returns to Ashland stage in July with Rogue Theater Company

Anthony Heald and Amy Lizardo will appear in the two-person play "Heisenberg" presented by Rogue Theater Company at Grizzly Peak Winery July 13-30. RTC photo.
May 31, 2023

The Broadway, film and TV actor will co-star with Amy Lizardo in ‘Heisenberg’ at Grizzly Peak Winery

By Jim Flint for

Anthony Heald studied broadcast journalism at Michigan State, left two terms short of graduation in 1967 to work for a couple of years, and then went back to finish his B.A. in 1971. But a career in the field just didn’t work out.

He became an actor instead. That, you could say, worked out. To put it mildly.

Anthony Heald

He knew early on that he wanted to be an actor, but wasn’t sure it was a wise career choice. The fact that he took the break from college to get his Equity card and work in regional theater was an indicator of where his heart really lay.

Heald, 78, has enjoyed a stellar acting career. He worked extensively on Broadway and was twice nominated for a Tony Award. A highly successful film and television actor with a long list of appearances in both media, he is known for portraying Dr. Frederick Chilton, Hannibal Lector’s jailer in “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Red Dragon;” and playing assistant principal Scott Guber in David E. Kelley’s popular TV series “Boston Public.”

Heald also has recorded more than 60 audiobooks, acted in 11 seasons of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and continues to do work for a number of regional theater companies.

This summer he’ll star with fellow OSF alum Amy Lizardo in Rogue Theater Company’s production of “Heisenberg” at Grizzly Peak Winery, 1600 E. Nevada St., Ashland. Performances of the two-person play begin at 1 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, July 12-30. The July 12 performance is a preview.

Heald saw “Heisenberg” on Broadway in the fall of 2014, and then got the chance to do it in Pittsburgh in 2018.

Simon Stephen’s play about love across the generation gap takes place in London where Alex Priest (Heald), a butcher in his 70s, meets Georgie Burns (Lizardo), an American woman in her 40s living abroad. The attraction is mutual, albeit with plenty of stops and starts.

“Alex Priest is a wonderful character in a wonderful play,” Heald said. “Simon Stephens is a great writer. He just gives the actors these spectacular opportunities. And the challenges and satisfactions of working in such an intimate way, with just me and my partner and the audience — what more could you ask?”

The play’s title references Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle in physics. Heald described how the concept ties into themes explored in the play.

“I think it’s a play about staying open in life,” he said. “Sometimes we can get into these patterns based on predictability. Several times in every scene these patterns are challenged by the reality that we never really know what’s going to happen next. And, of course, that makes the play fascinating for the audience. You really can’t predict where this play’s going, and I love that about it.”

Heald did “The Elephant Man” with Bradley Cooper in 2015 in London on the West End. That experience informs his portrayal of Alex Priest in “Heisenberg.”

“During that spectacular summer, I walked all over London, every day, exploring every corner of the city,” he said. “So, I can totally identify with Alex’s walks and what he gets from them. I have a very clear picture of what he sees.”

Anthony Heald and Linda Alper perform in a scene from “Indecent” in 2019 at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Heald and fellow OSF alum Amy Lizardo team up for Rogue Theater Company’s “Heisenberg” at Grizzly Peak Winery. Jenny Graham photo.

Heald says there are perks in working with smaller companies.

“The size of the theater company is really secondary,” he said. “What led me to working with the Rogue Theater Company was Jessica Sage and her approach to the work. She’s a joy to collaborate with.
“The size of the operation makes it more nimble than the lumbering of larger theaters, and makes me feel much more involved and essential.”

Heald was born in New Rochelle, New York, and raised on Long Island. His father was English and studied Elizabethan and Jacobean literature at Cambridge. His mother was a teenager in New York City and grew up in the Broadway scene.

It was watching his parents on stage, in fact, that inspired him to aspire to a theater career.

“I saw ‘You Can’t Take It with You’ with my mother as Essie and my father as Mr. Kirby, and it was magic,” he said. “And I thought, oh, gee, I want to do this too. I want to do this for the rest of my life.”

Although very successful in film and television, he has a strong preference for the theater.

“I love the audiences. I love the rehearsal process. I love being able to apply the lessons of one day to the next day’s work,” he said.

Anthony Heald is seen as The Elder Male (Otto) in OSF’s “Indecent” in 2019. Jenny Graham photo.

“Whereas with film, you’re driving home from the studio, reflecting on a difficult scene, thinking: ‘Now, how can I make this work? What if I — Oh! Yes! That’s it! I’ll just — Oops. No, I won’t. It’s already in the can.’ We never get to revisit and perfect that moment. In live theater, we do.”

He tries to approach dramatic and comedic roles in the same basic way.

“You can be funny and truthful. Or you can be not funny and truthful. Or you can be funny and not truthful or not funny and not truthful. The latter two have no place in the theater,” he said.

“As long as you’re being truthful, you’re okay. It’s always death to be shooting for the laughs. Just play it for the truth. If you get a laugh — how wonderful!”

Heald shared a memorable moment from his time on Broadway. He was playing in the 1996 revival of “Inherit the Wind.”

“One evening in the second act, George C. Scott started to deflate onstage like a leaking balloon,” he said. “Finally, he turned to the audience and said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I’m afraid I’m going to faint.’ Garrett Dillahunt and I jumped up and led him off stage.”

The stage manager got on the PA system and announced that there would be a brief intermission.
“At which point,” Heald said, “Tony Randall, the producer, who was sitting in the audience, jumped up and said, ‘No we won’t!’ He ran down the aisle and leapt up onto the stage. ‘Let’s take it back about five lines,’ he said. Garrett and I scurried back into our places, and we finished the show with Tony playing George’s part. The audience loved it. George was fine.”

During a career of many years, it was Shakespeare that provided him probably the most rewarding roles.

“’King Lear’ is, of course, a tremendous challenge,” he said. “I got to play Lear first in 2015 at Cal Shakes (in Orinda, Calif.), and then again last summer at Utah Shakes (in Cedar City), and I was thrilled to have a second shot at it. It’s physically and emotionally terribly demanding, but it’s a glorious opportunity.”

Heald moved the family to Ashland in 1996 and he started with OSF the following season. “I was tired of the New York scene and of commuting into the city, missing my children’s childhoods,” he said.

Retirement may not be in Heald’s vocabulary. He’s currently working on his next project, a recital piece with David Leisner of “An Evening of Shakespeare and the Guitar.”

“I’ll be performing speeches by a number of Shakespeare’s characters,” he said, “along with David’s performances of selections from the classical repertory and his own original compositions. He’s a brilliant classical guitarist and composer. Our first date is this November in Philadelphia.”

For more information about this summer’s performances of “Heisenberg” at Grizzly Peak Winery and to purchase tickets, go to

Reach writer Jim Flint at

May 31 update: Days of performances corrected.

Picture of Jim


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