Catching Up With Armin Shimerman & Kitty Swink
By StarTrek.com Staff - August 21, 2012
Armin Shimerman and Kitty Swink sit side by side, separated by a Quark head. It's appopriate, somehow. The two actors -- and the head; a vestige of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine -- were together for several days in Las Vegas, as Shimerman and Swink relaxed at their tables signing autographs and greeting fans in attendance at the recent Creation Entertainment Official Star Trek Convention. Shimerman, of course, is a Star Trek stalwart, having guest starred on TNG three times (twiced credited) before landing the role of Quark on Deep Space Nine. Swink guest starred twice on DS9, first as Minister Rozahn in "Sanctuary" and then as the Vorta, Luaran, in "Tacking into the Wind." Shimerman and Swink actually have been married for more than 30 years and both are longtime ensemble members of The Antaeus Company, a theater group in North Hollywood, California. Shimerman and Swink are acting in the current Antaeus production of Macbeth, and StarTrek.com took advantage of the opportunity to -- for the first time on this site -- chat with them together.
We caught up with the two of you in Vegas. How did you enjoy meeting the fans as a tandem? Do most fans realize at this point that you're married?
Armin: I loved the new situation that I have in Las Vegas, where I meet people on my and their own time. Four days instead of one. No long lines, time to talk. Time to hear stories. A lot of fans don't know Kitty and I are married. It's 31 years. But if they do they mostly want to talk to us individually. Very little tandem going on.
Armin, how big a kick did you get out of your sessions on stage: the Shakespeare event (with Jeff Combs and Casey Biggs) and also the Ferengi reunion (with Max Grodenchik and Aron Eisenberg)?
Armin: A big kick, a big kick indeed. Stage is my medium. I never quite understood TV. So being there on stage comes as natural to me as breathing. But, it's a grand delight to have people tell me that they liked the Shakespeare. As you know, it's my passion in life and it's nice to share one's passion. As to the Ferengi reunion, I love my co-actors. It's always a great time. Let me point out that there are no Klingon, or Bajoran, or Vulcan or even Human reunions. Because people do think of us as family and that's a credit to this bunch of wonderful guys who love each other like family.
Our guess is you'll be a busy man next year, Armin, with events celebrating the 20th anniversary of DS9. How amazing/scary is it that it's just about 20 years since the show debuted and how eager are you to reunite with the whole DS9 cast to celebrate the occasion, as the TNG folks are doing this year to celebrate their 25th anniversary?
Armin: I am indeed looking forward to it, especially if I get to spend more time with guys I haven't seen for a while, like Colm (Meaney), Sid (Alexander Siddig), Terry (Farrell) and Cirroc (Lofton). As for time, I've always been haunted by its passing. I have just to look in the mirror or see an old photograph to be reminded of its signature. The great thing about TV is you never age. Your life at 40 is captured forever.
Kitty, we've never interviewed you before for StarTrek.com. How and when did you and Armin meet?
Kitty: We met a bazillion years ago in a New York theater bar called Barrymore's. Pretty romantic, really. My old boyfriend was in New York for a visit and I told him to walk down to Barrymore's and introduce himself to a guy sitting at the bar with red hair. It was George Hearn, one of the real stars of the Broadway stage. And my best friend Julie came by the theater I was working in and she decided to go down to Barrymore's with me when I got done. When we walked in, Mark, my old boyfriend, George and his dressing roommate in I Remember Mama, the lovely and talented Armin Shimerman, were sitting at the bar talking about long distance romances. Armin and I met and fell in love, Julie and Mark met and fell in love. It was a magical night -- two long, loving marriages from one night at Barrymore's.
Kitty, how did you land your first appearance on DS9, in "Sanctuary"?
Kitty: I went in and auditioned like everybody else. I guess I did a good job, so they hired me.
What do you remember of the shoot and what intrigued you most about the character? And how disappointed were you that you did not have any scenes with Armin?
Kitty: Mostly I remember how lovely Avery (Brooks) was to me and that it was a nice day. I am always disappointed when I don't have scenes with Armin. We have a lovely scene together in Macbeth. That makes me happy.
Kitty, you returned to play a Vorta in "Tacking into the Wind." How did that second gig come along, and what do you recall most vividly about the experience?
Kitty: Again, I went in and auditioned. I had run in to Jeff Combs that morning and he gave me the secret handshake. Be obsequious and flare your eyes. It was a terrific day. I was working with many old and dear friends. And how often to you get killed by a pal like Andy Robinson?
Let's talk about The Antaeus Company. How long have you both been involved with the company? And give readers a feeling for the troupe's mission statement.
Kitty: I have been a member for about 7 years and Armin, you... about 8?
Armin: Yes, I think so. It is a group of actors, lots of them you know. Greg Itzin, Harry Groener, Linda Park, Kurtwood Smith and a bunch of others. The theater is devoted to classical theater, although our definition of that is fairly loose. These plays are timeless and in a world full of downloads and apps we think that this visceral, immediate, sometimes even gut-wrenching or side-splitting work is important. And we have a real commitment to education. Our own. We are always studying plays and history and language. But also we have an academy that trains young actors and an arts ed outreach (program).
Kitty: Yeah, Armin teaches Shakespeare in the Academy. He's fantastic. And I am really proud of what we do in arts ed. There is a school for boys in the juvenile justice system and the work we do with these kids is so thrilling to me. They really open up, because like all teenagers they feel like they are alone in the world and they get to see that the stuff they deal with, kids were dealing with back when Shakespeare was writing. So cool.
The company's current production is Macbeth, which will run until August 26. What excites you most about this production? Also, it's been double cast. The two of you will be acting together on August 24 and Armin and Tessa Auberjonois, Rene's daughter, will share the stage on the 25th.
Armin: What excites me most is the exhilaration the audience feels during and after the show. There's a lot of bad Shakespeare out there, but our members are trained to do it right. Make it understandable, make it clear. We've individually trained for years. I love hearing the comment over and over again, "I've never seen a production this clear. I understood every word." No playwright ever wrote to be obscure. Not even Willy. And the old canard that Shakespeare is old English, the meanings have changed, is mostly hooey. The reason an audience doesn't understand is because the actors don't understand. At Antaeus, we understand. We make sure it's clear. In fact, that was my job on the production -- clarity. Besides just my acting.
What other shows are in the works at Antaeus?
Kitty: Next up is You Can't Take It With You. It's a wonderful Depression-era American comedy. Joe Ruskin, one of the original Klingons, is Grandpa. We should be announcing our next season in October. And then we do these things called Classicsfests. So great. Over a six-week period, three times this year, you could see rehearsed readings of six different plays with terrific actors for a suggested donation of ten bucks.
Beyond your theater work, what else are both of you up to on screen, on stage, and/or away from the stage or screen?
Kitty: Looking for a job. No, I have a couple of little movies hitting the festival circuit. One I am really excited about called I AM I, written directed and starring Simon Helberg's wife, Jocelyn Towne. Simon is in it. Jason Ritter, and a ton of Antaeans. Andy Robinson and I did a reading of a thrilling new play last Wednesday. We're hoping some theater will pick it up soon. Armin, you have a ton of stuff coming up...
Armin: Yeah, I'm off to do a reading of a Kerouac in Lowell, Mass., in early October. I'm participating in Marc Zicree's movie Space Command, and I am doing another film soon called Zali's Crush; nice part. And I am in talks to direct Shaw's Misalliance. All that while I continue teaching my Shakespeare for actors class, and I'm finally finishing up the writing of my fourth novel. It's nice to be busy.
The Antaeus Company is located at 5114 Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollwyood, California. Visit www.anteaus.org or call 818-506-1983 for details about Macbeth and other upcoming Antaeus productions.
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