Nearly every public official in Hudson County knows Richard Dwyer, a man who served as the public face for PSEG for many years. Most people still call him on matters of power, even though his job title has changed.
Dwyer is also a well-known advocate for the local environment, an instrumental figure behind everything from the building of osprey platforms to establishing oyster beds.
But many people in Hudson County don’t know much about yet another side of Dwyer, unless they’ve been lucky enough to catch him on stage, and even then, most of his roles have been minor. But he’s appeared in plays many times.
Echoing real life
Some of the roles he’s played over the last several decades have echoed real life roles he’s played, such as public announcers, since he is very active doing public announcing announcing for local sports.
This is a role he will revive in performances at the West Hudson Arts & Theater company’s production of “Bleacher Bums” on April 5 and 6 at 131 Midland Ave. in Kearny.
Dwyer will portray the announcer, the voice of Wrigley Field.
The show, often called “nine-inning comedy,” is set in 1997 as a group of fans watch their beloved Chicago Cubs play their dreaded arch rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. As these “Bums” watch the game, they reveal themselves in both their feelings toward the team and in their relationships to each other. Bleacher Bums reminds us that it’s never too late to have faith, nor too soon to start over.
“I like learning about characters and how they interplay.” – Richard Dwyer
“I have also been the public address announcer for the Jersey City Saint Patrick’s Day Parade for about 20 years, and I have been the announcer for the Hudson County Special Olympics Track & Field Championships for about two decades also,” Dwyer said. “Other venues have included Newark Bears Stadium, Yogi Berra Stadium, Yankee Stadium. This year, I was the announcer for the New Jersey Special Olympics Winter and Summer Games, and was a longtime announcer for the Marist High School basketball and football programs and was the announcer during the most recent national championship season of the Saint Anthony Friars -- which can be seen/heard in the movie The Street Stops Here.”
Dwyer played a racetrack announcer in “The Pitts,” and a TV News anchor in “For Old Times Sake.” Other roles over the year include a vice principal in the “Putnam County Spelling Bee,” a counselor, police officer, and businessman in “Rent,” the character Riff Raff in “The Rocky Horror Show,” Ghost of Christmas Present in “A Christmas Carol,” and other roles including a judge, and FBI agent.
Dwyer said liked plays when he was a young man and tried out for a few when he was at St. Peters College.
“I’ve always been inspired by entertainers like Dean Martin, Carol Burnett, Jackie Gleason,” he said. “Back then, the programming was all live and the actors were often laughing at their own jokes. I kept thinking `This is their job?’”
Dwyer said he is intrigued by the whole idea of live theater, even as his own career veered in a different direction. He became an aide to State Sen. Tom Cowen, and eventually got involved with the environment. He was also deeply involved in sports in high school, and until injured, in college.
“Yet I always fit it in where I could,” he said. “And I still do.”
He said he’s always taught his son that life is a journey and doesn’t want to discount anything. So he’s brought his son along at times for shared experiences.
“I can’t take on a big role,” he said, “I have too many family and work obligations. But I like being a part of the creative process.”
During his mid-20s and early 30s, Dwyer took several acting courses at HB Studios, New York City, founded by Herbert Berghof; the Whole Theater Company of Montclair, founded by Olympia Dukakis; and three theater courses at Jersey City State College, now NJCU, and other acting workshops along the way.
“For several years of my utility career, I conducted energy and the environment educational programs for audiences that ranged in age from early elementary school to senior citizens, and I included many of the skills and techniques that I learned in the theatrical courses – including the use of props such as a Jacobs Ladder,” he said.
When he could fit something in his schedule, he would, such as the role of a bad dancer, similar to one played by Elaine in a Seinfeld episode. Although she was acting, and Dwyer was not.
From time to time, his college professor Dominic Buccafusco asked him if he was ready to get more involved in acting. His answer would always be “not yet,” because he had so many commitments with his job. Yet as a public announcer at sporting events he kept his hand in the acting game.
Then a few years ago, a window of opportunity opened and he began to take roles in local plays.
Most of the roles he plays are based on his own experiences, although sometimes, he is part of an ensemble.
“I couldn’t play a leading character,” he said. “But I like learning about characters and how they interplay. What’s important in life is how people work with the people around them.”
He said life really is a kind of live theater, and that he loves bloopers he sees from movies and TV. “Mistakes encourage us to be a big as possible in our lives,” he said, teaching not only lessons, but giving people experiences they could not otherwise get. “This life is a great journey.”
He said he remembered going to see Mets baseball games when the team was really bad, bringing lunch and getting entertained by what he saw in the crowd around him.
One of the funnier moments for him was when his son – then 5 or 6 – came to see him playing the role of Christmas Present, and called out from the audience, “Hey, that’s my dad!”
For those who wish to see him in his latest role, tickets are $12 general admission; $10 for seniors (65+) and students with valid identification. Tickets can be purchased online at www.whatco.org by calling 201-467-8624, or at the theater box office 30 minutes before curtain.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.