At a pre-season game in 1978, Jack Tatum, defensive back for the Oakland Raiders, made a hard, but routine tackle on New England Patriots’ wide receiver Darryl Stingley. The hit left Stingley paralyzed for life.
“Assassin,” now being staged at InterAct Theatre Company through Feb, 10, is a fictionalized “what-if“ inspired by these true people and events.
Inspired by Tatum, the play begins with a careful cat-and-mouse game between the retired football star and the now-quadriplegic’s lawyer as it quickly spirals into a volatile evening of stinging accusations and startling confessions.
New York actor Dwayne Thomas, new to Philadelphia theater-goers, plays Lewis, the smart and calculating lawyer. “I’m there to represent the injured party, protect him and seek some kind of resolution without exposing him to any further injury.” And Thomas says he can identify with this character.
“David (Robson) wrote this play and chose me, I think, because the character of Lewis is so much like me. I knew what the story was based on, and Lewis says a lot of things that I say or think about in my own life,” Thomas says.
While he never thought of himself as an actor, growing up Thomas performed in the church choir and loved to write. One day, his high school was getting ready to put on one of his plays when one of the actors fell ill.
“I thought that was the end of my play until one of my teachers told me I’d have to take the part. I did and I think that’s what started the acting process for me,” Thomas says.
Later, that one experience led to an interest in acting and a college degree in business and economics from Lafayette College in Pennsylvania.
“I got a good job in corporate America, started making good money but continued to do plays on the side,” he says. “But the days just dragged on, while the nights were so much better that I eventually realized what I had to do.”
So the young man quit his day job, started waiting tables and tending bar while trying to become a fulltime actor. It’s been a struggle, but Thomas explains that he’s been performing professionally since 2001.Recently he’s been writing and directing independent films involving the many talented people he’s come across during his artistic journey such as “Blackout” and others.
“Being on stage as an actor is very fulfilling, but so are all the people I meet and the things I go through to enjoy the life I’m now enjoying. And I’m very honored most of the time that people come to see and hear what I have to say and really enjoy it. Life is hard, and for them to take the time out to see me is very special,” Thomas insists.
Urged by his brother not to let himself be pigeonholed, Thomas says he’s finding many ways to express himself in addition to acting. “My future plans are to keep it simple and work in all aspects of the business that I can. When I was first getting involved in the business I talked to lots of the technical people behind the scenes and found them very fascinating. They make this a real team effort and are the people who virtually go unrecognized but keep everything going.” For times and ticket information, call (215) 568-8079.