Get to Know... Geoff Gilbert, chief custodian at Town Hall and an actor
DARIEN — Whether shoveling snow or emptying trash, Geoff Gilbert, chief custodian at Town Hall, is always wearing earbuds.
That’s because when Gilbert isn’t maintaining town hall, he’s gracing the stages of Connecticut. In his earbuds, he’s listening to his lines, memorizing them while he performs the manual labor tasks of his day job.
“It’s been working for me for 20 years now,” Gilbert, 50, said while sitting in the auditorium of town hall.
Gilbert, a Stratford resident, describes himself as an introvert, but onstage, he comes to life. Gilbert has played roles including Hamlet, Macbeth, Richard the III and, most recently, Antonio Salieri, Mozart’s rival in the play, “Amadeus.”
Despite his experience with heavy-hitting roles, Gilbert doesn’t come from a theater background. He got into acting 35 years ago, when he was 15 and a friend brought him along to audition for the school play, “The King and I.” He has been performing ever since.
He was cast in roles in Shakespeare shows for national touring companies that allowed him to spend months traveling and seeing the United States, but took a job at Darien Town Hall after his son was born.
For more information about “Amadeus” visit http://dtcab.com/
“I always audition and for some reason, I get cast,” Gilbert said, attributing his success to his loud voice.
Since he started performing locally, Gilbert has made a name for himself in the state theater scene and is often contacted about performing roles before auditioning for them. But the role of Salieri is one Gilbert had been admiring from afar, due to its
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“The challenge of the role drew me to audition,” he said.
Gilbert was also drawn to the show for its connection to his childhood, having grown up around the movie “Amadeus” as a favorite of his parents.
“This, for me, was really a big dream role,” he said. “It left an impression on me because of the emotional connection to my parents.”
Gilbert’s father is dead and his mother is battling dementia. But these circumstances have helped Gilbert summon the emotions to play the tumultuous role of Salieri, who was thought to also have dementia. The role has scenes were Gilbert is required to cry several times as well as confess an assassination attempt on Mozart. Gilbert said his performance is dedicated to his mother and every person suffering from the memory-loss disease.
“It wasn’t hard to find the emotions because I’d think of my father and mother,” Gilbert said. “[Salieri’s dementia] in itself makes it such a rich drama. Is it insane babble or the confession of a guilty conscience?”
Gilbert looked into the background of Salieri, one of the many things he does to prepare for a role, especially when playing a historical figure. Like many other actors, Gilbert also tries to tap into the character’s emotions by thinking of his own life experiences where he may have felt what the character was feeling.
“[Performing] is a way to express myself, to get any emotions, heartache or demons out onstage,” Gilbert said. “It’s very therapeutic in a personal way.”
“I have to try to put myself in the position of the person I’m playing and try to think of a similar situation I’ve gone through,” he added.
After “Amadeus” wraps at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre on Feb. 19, Gilbert is going to take a break from performing, so it may be awhile before he’s spotted working with earbuds in.
“I like working for the town,” he said. “It can be hard taking one hat and putting on the other hat. But it’d worked for me.”
In the meantime, he’ll likely be riding the high of “Amadeus.”
“This is my favorite of all time role,” he said. “It’s been the hardest role, but this is one of the best roles.”