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The double life of 'Show Boat' star Will Gartshore

Will Gartshore (Chris Mueller)

Devotees of the Washington theater scene may be surprised to learn that one of its busiest and most lauded actors has a day job. Or maybe not: In this market, they all have day jobs.

But while many of D.C.'s professional actors hold getting-by gigs, Will Gartshore is balancing his stage work with a high-powered career -- one that forced him to temporarily abandon his starring role in "Show Boat" for a trip to the Copenhagen climate conference.

The two-time Helen Hayes winner is a registered lobbyist, a program officer for the World Wildlife Fund focused on climate change and international species issues. It's a job that's prompted him to scale back his acting career a bit. But he never wanted to take a job simply "to sustain my theater career. ... I wanted it to be a career unto itself. And the environment has been a passion as long as acting."

Will Gartshore as Gaylord Ravenal in Signature Theatre's "Show Boat." (Scott Suchman)

Gartshore, 34, worked full time as an actor for 10 years, first in New York, before moving here seven years ago. While triumphing onstage at Arlington's Signature Theatre (he won prizes for "Urinetown" and "Assassins"), he found the Beltway mentality refreshing. "When you're at parties in New York, it's hard to get away from people talking about their auditions. The conversations here are more intellectually stimulating." He leapt at the chance to join WWF. "Wearing a suit and tie was novel," he said. "You feel like you're putting on a costume."

He was grateful that Signature let him step away from his role as the rakish Gaylord Ravenal for a week and a half to travel to Copenhagen. "It's fascinating from a theater perspective to be here," he told us over the phone. "In the convention center, there are emotional outbursts, there is conflict, there is drama -- being used strategically." And then on Saturday, he will fly back to D.C., in time for Sunday's matinee performance: "I'll see if I can remember my lines."

By The Reliable Source  |  December 18, 2009; 1:04 AM ET
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