Richard Doyle: My Favorite Roles

SCR Staff
 | Jun 11, 2020
Richard Doyle
Scott Ferrara and Richard Doyle in Outside Mullingar (2020).

Actor Richard Doyle is a founding member of South Coast Repertory—one of six original actors who signed on in the early 1960s to make a go of what would become the Tony Award-winning, nationally renowned regional theatre. He was 19 when he joined the company.

Over the course of 56 years—as of 2020—Doyle has been in more than 200 productions at SCR. At first, when you ask him about his favorite plays, he’ll smile broadly and say, “My next one!”

He explains: “In my mind, it was not appropriate to look for or designate a ‘favorite’, because in many productions, the reason for the experience being significant or memorable may have had little to do with the play itself. Sometimes, these SCR experiences came along at significant moments in my life.”

All that said, if you give him some time to reflect, he does admit to having some as he puts it, plays that were “memorable influences on me and my craft.”

Candida by George Bernard Shaw (1965)
Role: Marchbanks
“I played opposite Founding Artistic Director Martin Benson’s Reverend Morrell. This was my “first big role,” when SCR was located at its Second Step location on Newport Beach Boulevard.

Doyle in The Tavern.
Leo Greene and Richard Doyle in Godspell.

The Tavern by George M. Cohan (1973)
Role: The Vagabond
“It was my first chance at SCR to carry a show and learn what that meant to inhabit a role.”

The National Health by Peter Nichols (1976)
Role: Barnet, an Orderly
“I learned what it meant to inhabit a character that spoke directly and, somewhat uncomfortably, to the audience. I learned a lot. Fun, hard work. Scary, but fun.”

Godspell by John-Michael Tebelak and Stephen Schwartz (1974)
Role: Judas / John the Baptist
“This was the first show where I became aware of the concept of doing a show as a gift to the audience. It grew our audience in ways that made it exciting. Some saw theatre for the first time at SCR and some stayed as patrons. Godspell was like being a rock star in ‘70s Costa Mesa!” SCR went on to produce this musical the next season as well because, as Doyle remembers, “we could not do enough shows!”

Wild Oats by John O’Keeffe (1979)
Role: Rover
“This was my first big part in the theatre ‘new’ (current) location. I played a romantic, high energy, kaleidoscopic character. I was actually a last-minute choice for the role and was under the gun, but I was able to do it.”

Men’s Singles by D.B. Gilles (1983)
Role: Larry
“In this story about three guys in a tennis club in New York City, we dressed and undressed onstage and discussed our love lives, or lack thereof. I was the  kind of actor who was always  “all in” leaving little to the imagination, but this was my first all off kind of role. I learned to focus on the story.”

Unsuitable for Adults by Terry Johnson (1986)
Role: Nick, a British stand-up comic / impressionist.
“This experience taught me that, on my worst day as an actor, I never wanted to be a stand-up comic! The theatre put me with a real impressionist/comic and my counterpart, actor Karen Hensel, and I worked very hard. The result was that she came to the same conclusion I did: we loved being actors … it was exciting and memorable.

Karen Hensel and Doyle in Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune.
Jeanne Paulsen and Doyle in Holy Days.

Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune by Terrence McNally (1989)
Role: Johnny
“Karen Hensel (as Frankie) and I teamed up again for a rough-edged love story about a waitress and fry cook. We took the show to the Singapore Centennial Arts Festival. This one stands out because of my respect and love for Karen and for the power of language to tell a story with very little manipulation and some disrobing!”

Holy Days by Sally Nemeth (1990)
Role: Gant
“This story about a farm family in the dust bowl is a masterpiece, and there wasn’t a dry eye in house on our dust-filled stage.”

Hospitality Suite by Roger Rueff (1992)
Role: Larry
“What I remember is the earthquake that stopped the show! But our audience wouldn't leave, so we went on.”

Doyle and Don Took in Hospitality Suite.
Kene Holliday and Doyle in Playland.

Playland by Athol Fugard (1994)
Role: Gideon La Roux
“I played white, South African mercenary soldier who meets up with Martinus Zoeloe, a black South African (played by Kene Holliday, who nightly got to kick dirt on people in the front row!). Our characters worked behind-the-scenes of an amusement park to try to solve Apartheid. Tough love and some amazing text and emotional revelations made for a particularly memorable show."

Proof by David Auburn (2003)
Role: Robert
“This play has stayed with me because it touched so many people, who expressed to me the degree to which I had spoken to them through this portrayal.”

In addition, Doyle has fond memories of performing in Wit by Margaret Edson (1995), which went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama; The Weir by Conor McPherson (2011); and Outside Mulligar by John Patrick Shanley (2020).

Doyle says, “Have I loved every minute of it? Every role? Well suffice to say, some nights it could have been just a job were it not my SCR colleagues and our SCR audience. We have worked very hard to let our work speak for itself. Favorite or not, each play got the full measure of our commitment to SCR and the audience who had come to see and hear the story.”