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Richard Baird’s acting bucket list

Multiple Craig Noel Award-winner Richard Baird embraces "wild, mercurial characters who refuse to follow society’s norms"

Richard Baird
Richard Baird

I’m asking veteran local actors to name five dream roles and say why. The answers not only reveal aspirations, they may put an idea in the minds of artistic directors and producers – even choices that may seem outside the box.


Multiple Craig Noel Award-winner Richard Baird

Richard Baird as Krogstad in Dolls House, Old Globe

“A tough decision. Five roles? There are so many brilliant ones out there. Plus some I’d love to have another shot at. But if five it must be…”

1.) Falstaff, Henry IV, Parts I and II, by William Shakespeare. “Far too young for him now, but I certainly have my eyes on Fat Jack. There are as many books (and beers, for that matter) about Falstaff as there are on Hamlet! A great force of life, a storyteller, a boozer, and a liar, and we love him for it. ‘If I had a thousand sons…the first humane principle I would teach them would be to forswear thin potations…and…ADDICT themselves…to sack!’ Hysterical.”

2.) Dr. Astrov, Uncle Vanya, by Anton Chekhov. “I have yet to try my hand at a Chekhov and am certainly drawn to this role. A provincial doctor knocked blind by a starlet coming into his woods (and what a come on: ‘Would you like to take a look at my…artwork?’). He struggles with mendacity, guilt, and drink. I would love to play that moment when he is speaking of hope for the future, and then vodka is brought on stage. For a second he looks at that small drink and it must be like wearing one of the Rings of Power. Such a little thing with such a power over life. A fantastic role!”

Richard Baird as Henry V in Henry V, New Fortune

3.) Lenny, The Homecoming, Harold Pinter. “After Shakespeare, I’ve always been drawn to the language of Harold Pinter. He never wraps anything in a pretty package. You never know what’s coming round the corner. I love many Pinter plays but Homecoming is my favorite (I am tickled no end by the middle brother, a pimp who’s frightened by women). Lenny is in ‘jungle warfare’ with his family. Possibly one of Pinter’s darkest characters and, of course, very funny.”

4.) Austin/Lee, True West, by Sam Shepard. “Of course we’ve had many revivals of Shepard’s fantastic play, and I also hope one day to have a crack at it. I feel I have a lot to draw on from my relationship with my older brother, Bryan. We certainly beat the hell out of each other. There was a lot of violence in my life growing up and I think it taps me into a rawness that these characters have. I also love the idea of switching roles through the run: show how alike the brothers are at heart; the artist becomes the outlaw, and vice versa.”

5.) Johnny “Rooster” Byron, Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth. “I had the luck to see Mark Rylance play Rooster in London and absolutely fell in love with the play. An ex stuntman who sells drugs to kids in the woods, Rooster is fierce, funny, and ultimately incredibly moving. I enjoy embracing wild, mercurial characters who refuse to follow society’s norms. Rooster is the most ‘Shakespearean’ role I’ve seen in a modern play. Rooster refuses to do anything but crow. And who else has giants to back him up?”

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Richard Baird
Richard Baird

I’m asking veteran local actors to name five dream roles and say why. The answers not only reveal aspirations, they may put an idea in the minds of artistic directors and producers – even choices that may seem outside the box.


Multiple Craig Noel Award-winner Richard Baird

Richard Baird as Krogstad in Dolls House, Old Globe

“A tough decision. Five roles? There are so many brilliant ones out there. Plus some I’d love to have another shot at. But if five it must be…”

1.) Falstaff, Henry IV, Parts I and II, by William Shakespeare. “Far too young for him now, but I certainly have my eyes on Fat Jack. There are as many books (and beers, for that matter) about Falstaff as there are on Hamlet! A great force of life, a storyteller, a boozer, and a liar, and we love him for it. ‘If I had a thousand sons…the first humane principle I would teach them would be to forswear thin potations…and…ADDICT themselves…to sack!’ Hysterical.”

2.) Dr. Astrov, Uncle Vanya, by Anton Chekhov. “I have yet to try my hand at a Chekhov and am certainly drawn to this role. A provincial doctor knocked blind by a starlet coming into his woods (and what a come on: ‘Would you like to take a look at my…artwork?’). He struggles with mendacity, guilt, and drink. I would love to play that moment when he is speaking of hope for the future, and then vodka is brought on stage. For a second he looks at that small drink and it must be like wearing one of the Rings of Power. Such a little thing with such a power over life. A fantastic role!”

Richard Baird as Henry V in Henry V, New Fortune

3.) Lenny, The Homecoming, Harold Pinter. “After Shakespeare, I’ve always been drawn to the language of Harold Pinter. He never wraps anything in a pretty package. You never know what’s coming round the corner. I love many Pinter plays but Homecoming is my favorite (I am tickled no end by the middle brother, a pimp who’s frightened by women). Lenny is in ‘jungle warfare’ with his family. Possibly one of Pinter’s darkest characters and, of course, very funny.”

4.) Austin/Lee, True West, by Sam Shepard. “Of course we’ve had many revivals of Shepard’s fantastic play, and I also hope one day to have a crack at it. I feel I have a lot to draw on from my relationship with my older brother, Bryan. We certainly beat the hell out of each other. There was a lot of violence in my life growing up and I think it taps me into a rawness that these characters have. I also love the idea of switching roles through the run: show how alike the brothers are at heart; the artist becomes the outlaw, and vice versa.”

5.) Johnny “Rooster” Byron, Jerusalem, by Jez Butterworth. “I had the luck to see Mark Rylance play Rooster in London and absolutely fell in love with the play. An ex stuntman who sells drugs to kids in the woods, Rooster is fierce, funny, and ultimately incredibly moving. I enjoy embracing wild, mercurial characters who refuse to follow society’s norms. Rooster is the most ‘Shakespearean’ role I’ve seen in a modern play. Rooster refuses to do anything but crow. And who else has giants to back him up?”

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