Stories & Cast Interviews
What A TEVYE!!! MEET BILL NOLTE!
I grew up in rural Northeastern Ohio. Genoa, OH is a small farm town about 60 miles Southwest of Toledo. My parents owned and ran a SOHIO service station. I have one older brother who is a chemical engineer that lives in my home town with his wife.
I always had a talent for art and discovered in 4th grade that watercolors were my passion. It's really the only medium that inspires me to this day. I was in the band and my band director was a major influence on my early musical talents. No one in my family was artistic. For 7 years, while growing up, I was driven up to the TOLEDO MUSEUM OF ART for Saturday morning art lessons. All my friends were sleeping in and having lives but I had to go into the big city to study ART. I loved it! I bowled in high school and got my Varsity letter doing that. Not really into playing sports, but like to watch. Sort of.
I never really sang until I went to college. I started at Bowling Green State University in ART then transferred to The Cincinnati College Consevatory of Music with a Major in VOCAL PERFORMANCE and a Minor in MUSICAL THEATRE. I was able to both during my time there and did not decide to only pursue Musical theatre until I came to NYC in 1976 and found out that I was getting nowhere fast trying to pursue both. In college I did non-Equity summer stock at the WAGONWHEEL PLAYHOUSE in Warsaw, Indiana, which is where I met my Golde, Emily Zacharias 39 years ago. We have remained close friends since then and even belonged to a cooking club called the NEW YORK GOURMETS during the 70's and 80's.
I got my Equity card the summer I graduated from CCM doing SHOWBOAT with Shirley Jones and Gayle Gordon at Indianapolis' STARLIGHT THEATRE which is where I first met Michael Bottari and Ronald Case, our costume designers. We also worked together on ROAD TO QATAR at the Lyric Stage in Dallas and at the YORK.
I made my Broadway debut in CATS in 1985 which is where I met our director, RICHARD STAFFORD who was the dance supervisor for the production. We also worked together on JOSEPH..DREAMCOAT and he cast me as Juan Peron in his production of EVITA at CENTRE STAGE in State College,PA in 1994. I still remember watching the O.J. chase on TV that summer.
I have always been a watercolorist. I left show business in 1979 thru 1981, because I felt I needed to learn how to sing and act. I was able to use my artistic talents to land a job as a Textile Designer for Concord Fabrics. I won a TOMMIE AWARD in 1981 for a floral I did for them. I've had solo shows in Pittsburgh, PA at the Watercolor Gallery, which is no longer there while I was doing THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE for the Pittsburgh Public Theatre. I am currently re-designing my website and will feature a link to my paintings on that site, which should be up and running during the run of FIDDLER.
For those 3 years that I got out of SHOWBIZ, I did keep my dream of being an actor on Broadway alive by studying acting every week with Stephen Strimpell at HB STUDIOS in Greenwich Village and voice with Gene Bullard. One year, I studied every weekday morning from 9-9:30 so that I could get to my design job by 10 am. I consider this period my GRADUATE STUDIES. I never gave up the dream. I also was a professional makeup designer during those 3 years off! I did makeup for Juilliard, Atlanta Opera, Lake George Opera, Canadian Opera, Philadelphia Opera to name a few.
My mentors have been Italo Tajo from Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and Maurice Levine from the 92nd St. Y's Lyrics and Lyricists series. I was directed by Italo at CCM. He was a famous Italian Opera Star and really gave me my technique for character work and passion for the theatre. He continued to do comprimario roles at the MET well into his 80s. We did Albert Herring together; He cast me my first year at CCM as Albert. It was my first leading role and the first time someone trusted me to take on that responsibility. It was a major turning point for me. We also did MARRIAGE OF FIGARO (with Kathleen Battle as Susannah) I was Don Basilio, THE CONSUL, I was the Magician and in THE POOR SAILOR, I played the Sailor. At that time, I also did Musical theatre at the conservatory with Worth Gardner, another director and influence at CCM. I did WONDERFUL TOWN, WIZARD OF OZ (theLION), 1776 (Ben Franklin) and THREEPENNY OPERA (Peachum) for him. Maurice Levine was a lovely, passionate man/musician who was responsible for creating the 92nd St. Y's LYRICS and LYRICISTS series. In 1990 he was looking for someone to sing TONY in THE MOST HAPPY FELLA in his FRANK LOESSER evening. He cast me and continued to cast me each year at the Y in this series. I got to salute COLE PORTER, HAROLD ARLEN, STEPHEN SONDHEIM (on his 60th Birthday), and many others. His belief in me was intrumental in my being able to hang in there in this odd business. I just had a major triumph as TONY in THE MOST HAPPY FELLA at the LYRIC STAGE inIrving,TX last month. That role that has always been a dream of mine.
I first heard of FIDDLER when, in Toledo, Ohio, there was a community theatre called the TOLEDO REP. They did TEYVYE AND HIS DAUGHTERS in 1965. It was the first show I saw. I also saw Leonard Nimoy as Tevye in 1972 in Toledo, Ohio. OY ... I briefly did a National Tour of the show about 4 years ago that I'd like to forget. The tour was a Farewell Tour for an iconic TEVYE who will remain namelss. My favorite memory of him is when I asked him for insight into the Sabbath Prayer/Act ONE. His response, and I quote "GO WATCH THE MOVIE." I played LAZAR WOLF and covered TEVYE for about 3 months and was fired. A lovely company of actors but management left a lot to be desired!
When I'm not on stage I enjoy Watercolor painting, traveling, gardening, and teaching! I teach voice. I did not know I could teach until I joined the First National Tour of CATS. The actress playing Silibub was having problems with the song, MEMORY and they were threatening to fire her. She asked me to help and with a week of working together, she had figured out how to breathe and use her instrument the way it was meant to be used. The cast heard the difference in that week and my teaching career began. I immediately had 15 students. I teach on and off now. It is a lengthy process and anyone that wants to learn how to sing by the weekend, should save their money. PASSION AND PERSEVERANCE PAYS OFF.