Fairfield actor to perform at Grand Central
A Fairfield man has been cast to act in a play at an unlikely location – Grand Central Station in New York City.
Grand Central Station, also referred to as Grand Central Terminal, is the largest train station in the world, not typically the site of a theatrical production. The busy rail yard will host performances of the musical “The Orphan Train,” featuring local thespian Lou Bolster. The play will be performed five times from Oct. 11-12 and is free to the public.
Bolster was able to secure a part in the play through his relationship to Emmy-winning New York director Patricia Birch. The two met when Birch came to Fairfield in 2012 to direct this very play, “The Orphan Train,” at the Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts.
Bolster portrayed two characters in the Fairfield iteration of the musical, and will portray two characters once again, albeit different characters, when he performs in New York City. His performance at the Sondheim impressed Birch so thoroughly she invited him to participate in the production in Grand Central Station, which is celebrating its 100th birthday this year.
Birch informed Bolster last year that Grand Central Station had agreed to host a musical. Bolster asked her if he should pack his bags for New York City, since Birch told him she wanted to work with him again.
“She said, ‘Are you serious? Do you want to be a part of this production?’ And I said, ‘yes,’” Bolster said. “This is very exciting. Part of me feels like I’ve been discovered. It would be like if a local musician were asked to open for an act in Nashville. It’s a big leap for me to step on stage at such a high-profile venue.”
“The Orphan Train” is based on real events that occurred in the late 19th century. An early foster care organization, the Children’s Aid Society, was formed to find homes for orphans. The musical tells the story of six children in New York who embark on new lives in the heart of America, all thanks to the Children’s Aid Society and the “orphan trains” started by the reverend Charles Loring Brace.
When the musical was in Fairfield, Bolster played a couple of villains: a pedophile who adopts a child and an unsavory vagabond. This time around, he will play a different but equally unsavory vagabond and a good-hearted blacksmith.
The two vagabond characters are quite similar, which will make it easy for Bolster to get into that character since he’s done it once before. He said he will enjoy playing a blacksmith because his grandfather was a blacksmith.
“I’ve played good guys and bad guys, and the blacksmith is a combination of the two,” he said.
Bolster is a nice and mild-mannered man in real life, but he’s often cast as the villain on stage. In fact, it’s a role he has gravitated toward on his own accord.
“It feels good to be able, in a safe venue, not to be so nice,” he said. “On stage, I like to be able to set those duties of societal behavior aside and not worry about the consequences.”
Bolster played Charlie Cowell, the antagonist in “The Music Man.” Directors have found that Bolster plays a villain so well they’ve often cast him as the devil.
“People have come up to my wife and asked, ‘Is he really like that?’ and she says, ‘No, he’s really a nice guy,’” he said.
Bolster found out in mid-September what roles he would portray. While he practiced his lines here in Fairfield, the other actors had already begun rehearsing in New York. Bolster left for New York on Sept. 25 so he could spend two weeks rehearsing with the cast.
Bolster’s acting days date all the way back to third grade. He was born and raised near Boston and lived in New England through college. In high school, Bolster worked on both sides of the curtain. When he wasn’t entertaining the audience on stage, he was behind the scenes manning the lights or designing and building the sets.
“That’s what makes the theater look great, but you never see who’s behind it,” he said.
Bolster attended Keene State College in Keene, N.H., where he obtained a bachelor of science degree in industrial arts education. Performing remained one of Bolster’s favorite hobbies, although in college he focused more on singing and playing instruments than acting. Bolster played a wide variety of instruments such as the saxophone, clarinet and flute. Tragically, an accident in 1980 severed a finger on Bolster’s right hand and forced him to give up instruments.
With his attention now fixed on singing and acting, Bolster returned to the Boston area to perform in musicals. Just a few years later in 1982, he moved to Fairfield. The acting bug followed Bolster to his new home in southeast Iowa, where he continued his career in drama at Spade Theatre in the library at what is now Maharishi University of Management.
Spade Theatre was a Parsons College creation that continued through the early years of MIU, but by the time Bolster arrived, the theater had closed up shop. The 250-seat auditorium had been turned into a lecture hall and many of the theater-specific elements had been removed.
Bolster rebooted the theater program by starting the Fairfield Repertory Theater Company. Unfortunately for Bolster, all good things must come to an end. The Fairfield Repertory Theater Company is now defunct. However, Bolster is now involved with Fairfield Area Community Theater. He also has performed in FACT’s production of “Oliver” in the role of Fagan.
He has been in a number of television commercials and had a part in the award-winning feature film “Splatter: Love, Honor and Paintball.” Bolster also is in the short “Bring Me a Dream,” now playing at film festivals around the country.