KCAT’s “The Price” – A Role 50 Years in the Making

An interview with Victor Raider-Wexler, star of Kansas City Actors Theatre’s “The Price,” starting May 25th at the City Stage in Union Station

“The theater is so endlessly fascinating because it’s so accidental. It’s so much like life.”

Arthur Miller, Author of “The Price”

Victor Raider-Wexler’s first big break came in 1961 when he was a freshman at the University of Toledo. It was the Sunday of the week performances were scheduled to begin. Being a freshman, Victor wasn’t allowed to appear on stage, but was encouraged to work behind the scenes in the scene shop. He was up on the roof of a large, backyard set, when one of the actors in the upcoming production got into a fight with the director and was fired on the spot. The director pointed towards Victor and shouted “You! You up there! Can you act?” “Yes, ma’am.” Victor replied. “Well, get down here, you’re in the show.” With only three days to prepare, Victor made his collegiate debut in Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons.”

This foray into Miller led Victor to become a voracious reader of the playwright’s work, so when “The Price” came out in 1968 he read it right away and instantly knew it to be one of the author’s finest works. The role of Gregory Solomon appealed to him immediately, but there was one problem: Victor was in his 20s, and Gregory Solomon in his 80s. Even as a 20-year-old there was a lot about Gregory Solomon that Victor saw in himself and his family. “Gregory Solomon reminded me of my maternal grandfather,” says Victor. “Whatever it was, I recognized him. I knew I would not have to play Gregory Solomon. If all goes well I won’t have to do anything to play him. I’ll just play myself. I’ll be a medium.”

Victor knew he’d have to wait the better part of a lifetime before he could play the role, so that’s what he did. Life carried Victor from Toledo to New York City, from New York City to Los Angeles.  He made appearance on shows and movies as diverse as Seinfeld and Minority Report. In 2007, Victor moved from Los Angeles to Kansas City. A few years later, Victor was cast on KCAT’s stage, and in 2015 Victor joined KCAT’s Artistic Committee. Now in his 70s, Victor had an outlet to express his love of “The Price,” and pitched it as a selection for KCAT’s season. Over the next six years, he recommended “The Price” five times before it was selected to open KCAT’s 18th Season, and who else to play the complex, and truthful role of Gregory Solomon than Victor Raider-Wexler – fifty-four years after he fell in love with the role.

“Now I’m working on the show alone and I cry and laugh as I work. I’ve just got to make sure I don’t do that when I’m playing it in front of people.” Victor continues, “I’m in tune with Solomon. Everything he says is meaningful to me. Can I always tell you why? No. Sometimes, yeah. But often, no.” Victor relates it all back to Arthur Miller, and his ability to lead you to an inherent truth that you may not have been aware of when the play started. He shares a story about the playwright: “Miller was at the point in his career where he was trying to strip away everything that was extraneous in his work. [Miller] said his ultimate goal would be to write a play that is seven blank pages, and everyone would think it was brilliant.” Victor continues, “It reminds me of the story about a master sculptor who has sculpted this incredibly life-like elephant. One day someone approaches him and asks him how he does it, makes the sculpture so life-like.” Victor pauses: “You just continue to chip away everything that isn’t an elephant.”

See Victor Raider-Wexler in the role of a lifetime along with Jason Chanos, Mark Robbins, and Jan Rogge in Arthur Miller’s “The Price.” Starting May 25th at the City Stage in Union Station. Tickets and information are available at www.kcactors.org/shows/the-price/ or by calling 888.343.6946.

KC Studio

KC Studio covers the performing, visual, cinematic and literary arts, and the artists, organizations and patrons that make Kansas City a vibrant center for arts and culture.

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