- John English
‘Between Riverside and Crazy' starring Tyrees Allen closes Sunday
For Tyrees Allen, the most rewarding and most difficult parts of being an actor are actually one and the same—getting new work.
A veteran of the stage, small screen and big screen, Allen said he likes to offer a bit of advice to aspiring thespians.
“I always tell young actors, ‘You have to develop rhinoceros skin,’” Allen said. “You have to learn to not take things personally. You will be unemployed more than you will be employed...and you have to know that unemployment is not a reflection on you personally; it’s a numbers game. You have to keep your mind right and your body right, and when the opportunity comes, be ready for it.”
The North Texas resident, who has more than 55 television and film credits to his name, is currently performing in “Between Riverside and Crazy” at the Stage West Theatre in August and September.
Allen, 68, received the Elliot Norton Award for outstanding actor in Boston in 2018 for his role as Walter “Pops” Washington in the play, and said he was drawn to the role for a couple of reasons.
“It’s a terrific play,” Allen said. “It’s one of the best plays of the last 20 years, I think. It’s a really wonderfully adventurous, well-thought out and innovative play.”
According to www.stagewest.org, “Between Riverside and Crazy” tells the story of an ex-NYPD cop and recent widower named Walter “Pops” Washington who is stubbornly pursuing a lawsuit over an officer-involved shooting.
Barely holding on to the rent-controlled apartment he shares with his newly paroled son and motley surrogate family, he is ready to accept neither payout nor surrender.
But as tensions come to a head in a swirl of demands from family and friends, a final ultimatum from former colleagues causes Pops to draw the line and make some demands of his own.
Allen said the role is one of his favorites to play, and added that he does see a few similarities between himself and Pops.
“We’re both men of a certain age, although Pops is a little bit older than I am,” Allen said. “I feel like I understand him because I grew up with older guys like him; guys who, there is something very noble about them, but also very flawed about them, like most human beings.”
The play runs through Sept. 11 at the theatre located at 821/823 Vickery Road in Fort Worth.
“I would just say strap in and enjoy the ride,” Allen said about the play. “The playwright (Stephen Adly Guirgis) is wonderful with language, and some of it is tough language, but it’s real. It’s just a heck of a ride.”
“Between Riverside and Crazy” received the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Allen’s passion for his craft goes back nearly 50 years.
He grew up in Salina, Kansas, and was a part of a thriving community theatre scene during his early teen years.
A graduate of Marymount College in Salina with a degree in Theater Arts, Allen said he credits those early experiences as the reason he decided to become an actor.
“I started acting at the age of 14, and I learned from people who believed that there was value in acting for the art itself,” Allen said. “Nobody was making money or getting rich and famous. They were just doing it because they loved to do it, and that was what inspired me. From the moment I walked into that theater at the age of 14, I knew that was what I was going to do.”
Allen first moved to the Dallas/Fort Worth area in 1980 and has spent time in Los Angeles and New York doing television and film work as well.
With roles in such films as “Robocop” and “The Perfect Host,” Allen said that one of the things that first drew him to North Texas was the thriving theater scene in the Metroplex.
“When I first moved here in the 1980s, there was so much going on in Dallas and Fort Worth,” Allen said. “Stage West was sort of right in the middle of that. I did four or five plays at Stage West back in the 80s. It was always one of my favorites. I’ve always have a good time there.”
The Kansas native has extensive work in film, television and theatre, and said he does not really have a preference when it comes to acting.
“It really depends on the project,” Allen said. “I think plays are a little more difficult to execute at this stage of my life, because if I flub a line, I can’t just say ‘cut’ and do it over. But they all have great things about them. Now out of television and film, I personally prefer television, but artistically, the theatre is where I am at right now. That is my home.”
Allen said his favorite television roles were as Warren Jacobi on “Women’s Murder Club” and Gordan Dean on “Alias,” a villainous character whom Allen said he had no problems playing whatsoever.
“It’s great,” Allen said. “That’s the most fun. Playing a villain is the most fun.”
For the last 30 years, Allen has gone back to Salina every few years to direct a play as a way of giving back to his hometown, but still makes his home in the DFW area.
Allen describes himself as “semi-retired.” and said he is not sure if he will act in any television or films in the future, but said he likes to direct, teach and mentor these days.
“It would take something really special for me to come back,” Allen said jokingly. “It’s a lot of damn work!”