Boll also had a recent important role - acting as one of the narrators for Weehawken's re-enactment of the famed Hamilton-Burr duel during the bicentennial commemoration in the township last month.
But none of Boll's acting roles can compare to the one he is currently tackling, doing Shakespeare's famed "Richard II" for the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (formerly known as the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival) at Drew University. In its 41st season, the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is the longest running Shakespeare theater company on the East Coast.
"It's been a while since I've done Shakespeare," said Boll, who has called Weehawken home for the last decade. "It's been about seven years or so, since I did 'King Lear' with the Whole Theater in Montclair (run by Oscar-winning actress Olympia Dukakis). There's almost an element where you're speaking a foreign language when you do Shakespeare. The language is so rich and so different. It's a different challenge, but it's a great challenge."
Boll grew up in Michigan in a Detroit suburb and caught the acting bug when he was in high school. He first went to the University of Michigan to "make a go of it in the business world," but found out that he craved the stage more than the almighty dollar.
"I really wanted to do theater, so I went to NYU to study acting," Boll said.
In the late 1980s, after trying to break into acting while waiting tables and doing odd jobs, Boll received a break as a non-Equity actor to do summer theater work in Williamstown, Mass.
"My first professional acting job was in 'Death Takes a Holiday,' in Williamstown, where I got to meet and work with Christopher Reeve, Blythe Danner and Anthony Edwards," Boll said. "I got to know Gwyneth Paltrow (Danner's daughter) when she was a child. I was able to work there a couple of years."
Boll also traveled wherever the work was.
"I worked in Utah, Alabama and Texas," Boll said. "Probably my most memorable job was as a ringmaster for Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus in Dallas. I never worked with baboons before."
Better than baboons
But the work as a ringmaster led to better acting roles, like supporting roles in a handful of "Law and Order" episodes and roles in two feature films, "Love Walks In," starring Denis Leary, and "Somewhere in the City."
However, with all the roles in television and movies that Boll has enjoyed, his true love is theater.
"It's what I've always wanted to do most," Boll said.
But doing Shakespeare isn't just theater. It's elite theater, the crème de la crème.
"I can't lie," Boll said. "It's a lot of work. It's an incredible challenge. It's not just about remembering the lines, but it's interpreting the play. It's fascinating to pull the lines apart, realize what he's trying to say in those words. It's an interesting story, a fascinating part of history, great history."
The play is set in England in 1398, in the court of Richard II. It remains one of Shakespeare's most rarely performed works. It is the first installment in Shakespeare's royal trilogy about the fall of the Plantagenet Dynasty and the rise of the House of Lancaster. Richard's detachment from the common people, combined with his flagrant spending habits, shady funding sources, reliance on ill-chosen counselors and penchant for war, ultimately leads to his epic downfall.
"It's totally fun in a different way," explains Boll, who portrays Henry Bollingbrook in the play (a man who later in life becomes King Henry IV). "Every actor dreams of doing Shakespeare. It's a great opportunity for me."
Boll also likes the fact that he's commuting to Madison for a change and doesn't have to handle the hustle and bustle of making his way into Manhattan for work.
"It's been a wonderful experience," said Boll, who lives in Weehawken with his wife, Therese Bruck, a professional costume designer, and their two children, daughter Brigid (age 9) and son Eamon (age 20 months). "This is a fantastic theater right here in New Jersey, a great facility that is very intimate. I didn't realize how close it is to Weehawken. Madison is a great little town that has a center of town. It has wonderful people. I've really enjoyed this."
"Richard II" begins its run at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey Tuesday and runs through Aug. 29.
After Boll's performance with "Richard II" is completed at the end of the month, he will focus his attentions on an original musical that he has written, called "Dream Street," using the music of popular folk singer John Gorka.
"It's about an actor from New York who goes to Los Angeles to shoot a television show," Boll said. "And it becomes a total story of mayhem. I call it a story of a man on the verge of keeping it all together. The play takes place in a three-hour span in one day. I just want to see where it goes."
In the meantime, Boll will remain in his adopted hometown. He might be Michigan-bred, but he's a Weehawken boy now.
"I love this town," Boll said. "It's a great place. It's home. It's a fantastic community. I don't think I want to be anywhere else."
"Richard II," directed by Paul Mullins and starring Patrick Boll of Weehawken, is being performed by the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, located on the campus of Drew University in Madison, from Aug. 10 through 29. Tuesday night shows are at 7:30 p.m., with Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night shows at 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday shows are at both 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., with a special matinee Wednesday, August 25 at 2 p.m. For more information about tickets, call (973) 408-5800 or log on to www.njshakespeare.org.