'Shipwrecked' Cast: All in the Webster Family
Joneal, Jared, and Jen Joplin will make their family stage debut at Insight Theatre.
When the curtains go up on Insight Theatre's production of Shipwrecked on Thursday, it will mark the debut of Joneal Joplin's family appearing together for the first time. They've worked together before in various configurations—father with son, father with daughter, son with daughter—but never before have all three of them appeared in the same show.
“This is a first for us,” Joplin said. “It's something I've always wanted.”
Joplin—the ipso facto dean of St. Louis theater who's affectionately called “Jop,”—first moved to Webster Groves in the mid-seventies to act at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. In those days, the Rep had a resident acting company that performed in every play throughout the season. After several shows, Joplin was asked to join the company.
After eight seasons, the resident company was disbanded, and Joplin and his wife were faced with a decision.
“My daughter was in school,” Joplin said. “We didn't want to uproot. We decided to see if we could make a go of it here with commercial work and theatre. It was fortuitous. St. Louis has been perfect for us.”
After last season's appearance as Don Quixote in Insight Theatre's “Man of LaMancha,” Artistic Director Maggie Ryan asked Joplin what he wanted to do next season. He told her he wanted to do a play in which he and his two children, Jared and Jen, could all perform.
After a lengthy search, Ryan suggested Shipwrecked, by Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist Donald Margulies, in which Joplin plays would-be adventurer Louis de Rougemont.
“It's the story of a man who had some remarkable experiences, but also a habit of retelling them fancifully,” Joplin said. “He tended to overstate, but there's a grain of truth in them.”
Joplin said the show has an old-fashioned quality to it. There are minimal sets with just few actors playing multiple roles. There are 30 characters in the play. Joplin plays one and his kids play the other 29.
“I've fallen in love with the show,” Joplin said. “It kind of feels like what they used to call plank theater, where an acting troupe would show up with nothing except some planks and boxes to serve as set.”
Joplin has also fallen in love with his character. He said there's a lovely moment in the show where Roughmont rides a sea turtle and guides it with his feet. At the time, naturalists came out and said that wasn't possible.
“I found a picture of him doing a show at the (London) hippodrome, sitting on a turtle in a large tank of water,” Joplin said. “So he proved you could do it. You have to respect the man. There's a fantastic life there.”
A family working together could possibly create some conflicts, but not for the Joplin's.
“The truth is, the biggest surprise was that there were no surprises,” Joplin said. “We were comfortable from the beginning and took huge chances. You know someone will catch you. Quiet honestly, they're brilliant. I feel it every single night.”
As Joplin looks back on his more than 25 years as a member of the St. Louis theatre community, he has a particular fondness for Webster Groves.
“You can't pick a more comfortable community to live in than Webster,” Joplin said. “No matter what happens in the economy, your property investment is good here. It's economy proof.”
What: Shipwrecked, by Donald Margulies, presented by Insight Theatre
Where: The Heagney Theatre, Nerinx Hall, 530 E Lockwood, Webster Groves
When: July 21-July 31; Thu, Fri, Sat, 8 p.m.; Sun, 2 p.m.
Tickets: $25 and $30. For tickets and reservations, call 314-556-1293, or visit the Insight Theatre Tickets Page.