Rising through a fallen faction

Surprising others can certainly prove an enticing endeavor, but what about the satisfaction that comes from astonishing oneself? Having primarily decided to audition for “The Plough and the Stars” to acquire more practice for the furthering of his professional journey, Harry Watermeier found himself cast as Jack Clitheroe, the protagonist in playwright Seán O’Casey’s account of Ireland’s Easter Rising.

“My wheelhouse is the sensitive, somewhat nervous type, so this is far different,” the 29-year-old resident of the 1100 block of Tasker Street said from Plays & Players Theatre, which is staging the work through June 11 in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the six-day-long insurrection to establish an Irish Republic free of British rule. “He’s definitely one of the more masculine characters I have played, and that comes with challenges, especially since he does some things that I just don’t like.”

The Passyunk Square denizen is handling the role through the Irish Heritage Theatre, which has also staged “The Shadow of a Gunman” and “Juno and the Paycock,” the other elements of O’Casey’s Dublin Trilogy. Not incredibly familiar with the work before his audition, Watermeier, with all due respect to the historic richness, feels that regardless of the covered content, the piece, and any other stage-based effort, should aim for emotional integrity, which counts as the crux of his involvement.

“Jack has considerable import to the action though he has limited stage time,” he said of the bricklayer and former Irish Citizen Army member who leaps at the chance to challenge England’s stronghold over the Emerald Isle. “What’s key for me is not to be too self-aware. I have to know what to communicate to my scene partner to give a wholly spontaneous yet elegantly prepared explanation of the text.”

With major investment in evoking the turmoil felt within Clitheroe and the conflict’s effects on the other characters, Watermeier stated he is “running with faster runners,” meaning he must mind his portrayal as another component of his maturation.

“There are successes and failures in this field, like with any other,” the thespian said of valuing theater’s contributions to developing and retaining perspective. “As I said, I realize I need to audition more to have a better comprehension of my place in this vocation, and having this responsibility, where the history is secondary to the humanity for me, I feel I’m on the precipice of really improving. I might be right on the edge of getting better. This run will definitely give me some priceless lessons.”

Acquiring knowledge has always registered as a passion for the Indianapolis product. With social immersion at its highest through his participation in theater, Watermeier made that his major at Indiana University, with film studies as his minor.

“I find that I light up when theater is the topic,” the performer said of the discipline. “It’s highly transformational to see yourself as one person in what I hope will be an endless line of people who are looking to strengthen lives through powerful stories.”

Following his Midwest formation, Watermeier ventured to Philadelphia to join the Arden Theater Co.’s Professional Apprenticeship program. Exposure to the Old City-situated venue’s intense attention to producing riveting works and additional exploration of the city as a whole made making Philadelphia his enduring abode an easy selection.

“You want to stick around because there’s just so much life here, especially where I am,” Watermeier said of his block’s proximity to the ever-bustling East Passyunk Avenue restaurant scene and his expanse’s “great cluster of folks.” “I’ve been in South Philly for a little more than a year, and there’s definitely an admirable feel to what’s occurring there.”

The blunt identity that our environs possess definitely appeals to the actor thanks, in part, to the influence that junior year collegiate studies of realism, including the works of Anton Chekhov and Henrik Ibsen, bred. Armed with that affinity for integrity and possessing tireless curiosity, he set out to hit his mark as a hire and an educator, deeply aware of his need to nurture practicality no matter the task.

“There have had to be some modifications of my goals,” Watermeier noted. “No matter any setback, though, it’s still all about communication and the preservation of this art form.”

His burgeoning resumé includes teaching duties for the Arden, Lantern Theater Co., and St. Peter’s School, a comedic turn for Philly Improv Theatre, and acting opportunities through the SoLow and FringeArts festivals, with “Dear Diary, Bye” by former Point Breeze resident Ellie Brown accounting for the former and “Fando y Lis,” staged at The Shubin Theater, 407 Bainbridge St., the latter; Simpatico Theatre Project; Tiny Dynamite; and Lantern, with his role as Ray Gosling in last year’s “Photograph 51” marking the first time he feels he sat at “the adults’ table.”

“I think it’s great to examine how influenced and influential we can be,” Watermeier said, noting how his adoration of films helps him to become an even better student of human exchanges and aspirations. “Especially here in Philadelphia, which I’d say is a great place for people with an interest in producing their own work, your opportunities to give and receive insights are never-ending.”

The actor noted that Genevieve Perrier, the Barrymore Award-winning, Dickinson Square West-based lead in “Photograph 51,” and Victoria Bonito, who portrays his wife, Nora, in “The Plough and the Stars,” which also features South Philadelphians Ian Agnew, Dexter Anderson, and David Kuong, have served as great tutors as he has honed his acting maturation, which the ever-South-Philly-heavy Commonwealth Classic Theater will play its part in strengthening, too, come August when he performs in “The Lion in Winter.” Also set to pen a play concerning Scientology with sketch comedy pioneers House of Solitude, Watermeier figures to continue, like Clitheroe, although one hopes minus any major missteps, to pursue his convictions and reject the “It is what it is” notion.

“I’m at a great age to do some introspection and evolve,” Watermeier said. “There’s little to gain if you don’t take a risk or two.” ■

Visit irishheritagetheatre.org.

Contact Editor Joseph Myers at jmyers@southphillyreview.com or ext. 124.

PRODUCTION PHOTO BY: Jim Guckin Harry Watermeier as Jack Clitheroe and Victoria Bonito as Nora Clitheroe

Portrait Photo by Tina Garceau