Eric Mansfield talks theater and family
DetailsCreated on Thursday, 05 July 2012 06:00 Written by Meghan Caprez Hits: 1568
Kent State University’s executive director for university media relations performed in a white jumpsuit, sequins and sideburns on the Weathervane Playhouse stage.
Eric Mansfield has been involved with theater since he was in elementary school. “I think I was a tree in a play when I was in first grade,” he said, laughing at the memory.
After that, Mansfield typically stayed off the stage. Instead, he played in the pit orchestra in high school. He is trained on the baritone, trombone, violin and acoustic guitar, Mansfield said. His wife, Lisa, also played in the orchestra in high school, where the two first started dating.
Having recently celebrated their 21st wedding anniversary, the Mansfields have three sons: 17-year-old Josh, 14-year-old Jake and 11-year-old Teddy.
After the boys were born, Lisa served as a stay-at-home mom for 12 years before returning to work. September 2006, when Teddy was at school full-time, Lisa began working at Weathervane Playhouse as the Patron Services Manager, Lisa said.
That winter, Josh auditioned for the playhouse’s annual Young Actors Series production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
“One of our kids has been in ‘Joseph’ ever since,” Mansfield said. “For seven years running, you couldn’t have gone to see ‘Joseph’ without seeing one of our kids up there.”
The kids weren’t the only ones on the stage, though. Mansfield himself auditioned and won the role of Jacob, Joseph’s father, in 2007. In 2008, Mansfield received both adult roles in the show: Jacob and the pharaoh.
“He loved the pharaoh,” said Sarah Bailey, director of “Joseph” at Weathervane. “I think it was fun. He got to come out of his shell. Jacob is fun because he gets to walk around [and] stuff, but he doesn’t get to perform as much as Pharaoh.”
Mansfield said it wasn’t difficult to act, since he’d been used to being on camera as a news anchor for Channel 3 News.
“I’ve been on network television doing reports in front of a million people, but you don’t see any of them,” Mansfield said. “They’re just looking at you through TV. Going up there live in front of maybe 250 people is a great rush.”
Mansfield only returned to the stage to experience acting with his children, though. In 2007, Josh returned to “Joseph,” and in 2008, Jake received the role as the youngest brother in the show.
Mansfield and Jake weren’t the only two of their family involved in the show that year, though.
“Everybody was involved,” Bailey said. “Jake was in the show, Josh was working backstage, Lisa was working in the box office, Teddy was in the children’s choir. I think every single person in that family was here doing ‘Joseph.’”
Jake said he found it a little odd seeing his dad on stage with him, but he enjoyed the experience.
“It was weird to see him at home, being a dad and cooking dinner and playing with us, to being in a white jumpsuit with sequins and singing with an Elvis impression,” Jake said. “It’s quite a shift, but it was cool. He got to look out for me while I was in the show.”
While looking out for his son, Mansfield said he tried not to be too overbearing.
“When I was in ‘Joseph’ and I was the only adult in the cast, I knew my role,” Mansfield said. “In the dressing room, the boys are talking like a bunch of teenage boys, so I just kind of went up there, changed clothes and got out of there to let them be boys. At the same time, it’s very cool to interact with them.”
Even though Jake never returned to the Weathervane stage in a musical, both he and Josh continue to help backstage. Jake said he is currently helping design the light and sound for the theater’s production of “Annie.”
While his brothers have focused their talents backstage, Teddy continues to thrive in the spotlight, Mansfield said. Teddy most recently performed in the ensemble of “Hairspray” at the Akron Civic Theatre and as Edgar in Kent State’s production of “Ragtime.”
“At 11 years of age, he’s already performed at the Civic Theatre, Weathervane, Kent State,” Mansfield said. “He performed with Hal Linden — he guy from Barney Miller — a guy who won a Tony on Broadway. Because he did a good job, because he’s dedicated and of course because he’s got some talent, he’s already been cast in all these different shows in all these different theaters.”
It is because of Teddy’s interest and dedication to theater that Mansfield believes he’ll be able to perform again. He said if Teddy were to try out for a role as one of the 12 brothers in “Joseph,” he’d definitely consider auditioning again.
“He’ll have to battle it out with our current Jacob, but I think Pharaoh’s probably his if he wants it,” Bailey said.
Mansfield said he would also be interested in joining the pit orchestra, and he’d like to try his hand at writing for the stage.
“Being a journalist for 20 years, I’ve come across so many story lines,” Mansfield said. “I’ve interviewed people at their high and at their low. I’ve interviewed people who have been through unbelievable journeys. Some of that lends itself to real creativity for stage productions.”
Whether he auditions for another show or not, theater will always be a Mansfield family affair, Lisa said.
“When someone’s in a show, people work backstage to help out, especially with the youth shows,” Lisa said. “There were shows when Teddy was in the audience, I was in the box office, both big boys were working backstage or onstage and Eric was backstage or onstage. It’s a fun way to spend time together, that’s for sure.”