By Brian Robin
Preston Maybank—Back In The Game
Preston Maybank thought the theatre life was in his rear-view mirror. The days of him gracing SCR stages as Roald Amundsen in Terra Nova, Don Pedro in Much Ado About Nothing, the Duke of Milan in Two Gentlemen of Verona or playing alongside Richard Doyle—as he did in A View from the Bridge—were relegated to pleasant memories and nice credits on his resume.
In his own words, Maybank had taken himself out of the game for the last decade. Performing eight shows a week wasn’t conducive to raising a family. His focus was raising his son and daughter, indulging his bucket-list item of making stop-action animation, and managing a wildlife preserve in James Island, S.C.
Then, as he was sitting at home one day, his phone buzzed.
It was Hisa Takakuwa, the director of SCR’s production of A Christmas Carol. She texted an offer Maybank couldn’t refuse—playing Bob Cratchit in this season’s production.
And just like that, Maybank was back in the game, back on the SCR stage and back alongside Doyle, who plays Ebenezer Scrooge.
“The timing was perfect,” he said. “I told her it was about a decade since I’ve done anything as an actor. Since then, I had a lot of other adventures and accomplished a lot of other goals. She asked if I was available and offered it to me. I’m not sure why she thought of me over the many other people she could have cast. I told her I didn’t want to know, to keep it a secret from me.”
Takakuwa doesn’t have to keep it a secret. For her, the list of Bob Cratchits began and ended with one name.
“When I knew I would need to fill this role this year, he was the first person that came to mind,” she said. “Preston and I are old friends. We worked together at A Noise Within and he was the first person who came to my mind. I’m thrilled that he was interested and available to us.
“ … He’s just a fun, creative, funny, moving actor. Plus, he’s a great dad in real life. I knew he would be great with the kids (in the cast). I knew he would be kind, generous and inspiring to them, as just a great role model for them. He takes the work very seriously, but he has a spirited, fun nature and I knew that would set a good tone for us in rehearsal.”
When you see Maybank on stage as Cratchit, you understand why Takakuwa had him on speed dial—even three time zones away. His last SCR role was Eilert Lovborg in the January 2006 production of The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler, but Maybank hasn’t lost a step while tending the South Carolina flora and fauna. He plays Cratchit with a sincere earnestness that combines a father’s love for his children and a heartfelt desire to do the right thing for everyone.
In other words, just the way Charles Dickens wrote it.
“With so many things here, I’m learning who he is now in the run,” Maybank said. “The audiences teach you so much, and in this character, they’re predisposed to love Bob Cratchit, which is a lovely thing. It’s a pleasure to play him. He’s a kind and gentle soul and he’s a family man and I relate to that more than anything else. He’s all about his family.
“It’s been a pleasure to play this character. The more I do it, the more I feel what the audience picks up on. That’s the wonderful thing about live theatre. It’s not soup until the audience is there.”
Maybank appeared in 10 SCR productions, including four Theatre for Young Audiences and Families productions. His TV credits include “Matlock,” “Suddenly Susan,” “Cybill,” “Days of Our Lives,” “Novocaine,” and “The Young and the Restless,” among others. But as his son, Holt, and daughter, Olivia, got older, Maybank reassessed his career.
As he did, he channeled his inner Cratchit.
“When my children were a certain age, I realized I couldn’t do eight-show weeks and raise a family,” he said. “I couldn’t do five-show weekends and take my son to a baseball game or my daughter to art class. … I felt at a certain point, there’s all these other things I promised myself to do and if I don’t start doing them, it will be too late.”
So Maybank went down his to-do list. Creating a homegrown stop-motion animation series was near the top of the wish list. So he dived into making “The Agitated,” a true labor of love. The show involved more than 30,000 photos featuring puppets Maybank built himself out of things in his garage.
“A little marionette gets cut loose and it becomes part daydream and part nightmare,” he said. “I wanted to make Apocalypse Now. Instead, I made this crazy little stop-motion film. It’s beautifully flawed, but I hope there will be a lot more of that to come.”
Now that he’s back in the game, Maybank hopes there’s more time left on the clock. Holt is 26 and Olivia is 23. Maybank told the story how 3-year-old Olivia waved at her dad from the audience when he was doing Much Ado About Nothing and how Holt would sit through every show of a five-show weekend at Maybank’s various theatre stops. They both want to see their dad back on stage.
They’re not alone. Maybank’s goal when he started his career at Mirror Repertory in New York was to be an actor of range. To be an actor like Doyle, Hal Landon Jr., Art Koustik and the rest of SCR’s legendary Founding Members who could take on any role and own it like their own skin.
He achieved that. Now, Maybank wants more.
“To be back is a gift. It’s a real blessing to be invited back to do this kind of work,” he said. “I’m thrilled to be back in the company. I thought it was behind me and I’d be doing other things, but it feels like I got thrown a piece of candy, so I have nothing but gratitude for it and I’m having a blast.”