The former “class clown” brings laughter to the stage of Mt. Airy

by Rita Charleston

Quintessence Theater Group in Mt. Airy continues its “Season XII: Breaking the Cycle” series with repertoire productions of William Shakespeare’s contradictory romance “The Winter’s Tale” and Ben Johnson’s satirical farce “The Alchymist” from Friday, March 25 to Sunday, April 17.

The first offer, “Winter’s Tale”, begins when the Sicilian king, blinded by irrational jealousy, accuses his wife of infidelity to his best friend, who happens to be the Czech king. The national dispute will soon become political, triggering a chaotic chain of events lasting 16 years. In this game, John Zak, a resident of Mt. Airy, debuts in quintessence as Camillo. “These two kings were raised together, so Camillo is shocked when the Sicilian king asks him to assassinate the Czech king,” Zak explained. Camillo rejects this and instead enters the service of the Czech king.

The second play, Johnson’s lesson in comedy chemistry, is “The Alchemist.” When their master is gone, the three servants play as they rob a gallery of ridiculous characters of money and dignity by offering pseudo-scientific services that range from turning metal to gold to summoning fairies. Zak plays the lead role of Face along with other impostors Subtle and Dol Common.

“These are great jobs and I’m happy to have them,” said Zak, who admits he is 50 and growing up as a class clown in Collegeville. “I went to high school in Methacton and I was elected a class clown and I think I really enjoyed entertaining people and making them laugh. And even then, people told me that I should consider acting. ”

Zak accepted the advice, but went to Indiana University in Bloomington, where he earned a degree in political science. “Then I lived in Washington, DC for a while, came home and then decided to go to Villanova University to get a master’s degree in theater.”

After graduating in 1994, Zak embarked on a long and difficult path to success, which is much more difficult than it seems for those who are struggling in the theatrical world. Over the years, he has appeared in many local productions, including “The Tempest” at the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theater, where he won the Barrymore Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Zak and his wife, who work for the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, got married six years ago and decided to leave their home in South Philadelphia and move to Mt. Airy.

“First of all, it’s much closer to my wife’s work, so she doesn’t have to go that far,” Zak said. “We also have a 5-year-old son and Mt. Airy is an ideal place to raise a child. Mt. Airy acts as a neighborhood. There are trees all around, a playground nearby, great schools and much more. It’s the perfect place for a family. ”

When not on stage, Zak, like many other actors, works as a standardized patient who pretends to be a disease that medical students try to diagnose by asking the “patient” about his / her symptoms. (There was a famous episode, “Seinfeld,” in which both standardized patients struggled to “have gonorrhea.” In fact, until 2019, he spent a lot of time at the Conshohocken Test Center. That was until COVID intervened and the center closed its gates.

“It was an unexpected blow, but I started to focus more on my stage skills,” Zak said, “the kind of skills and the kind of work that really brings me joy. I’ve been looking at the world with other Tennessee Williams and I’ve found that it’s very interesting and enjoyable.

“Putting the character in front of people creates a new kind of community,” Zak continued. “I like to take the words of a playwright and revive people and give the audience something that they can be attacked, something that they can be influenced by. It’s an excitement for me and something I’m really looking forward to. “

Quintessence is located at Germantown Ave 7137. For ticket information, call 215-987-4450.

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