Photo credit: Xanthe Elbrick
Toward the end of high school Victor’s guidance counselor pulled him out of class to announce good news: he’d been awarded a scholarship to study acting at Ohio State. Victor turned it down. The summer before, at the age of 15, Victor had spent 10 week’s as an apprentice at the Lakewood Musical Playhouse. “I spent an amazing summer with incredibly talented people. They were making 75 dollars a week. I was making nothing and working harder than I ever had before. That’s when I decided to never become an actor.”
From an early age he spent his free time making drawings in pencil and ink. He couldn’t see himself pursuing acting as a career after seeing those amazing performers drawing there 75 dollar a week pay check and no job after the ten weeks so, at the ripe old age of 17, he moved to New York City to become a visual artist.
He was on the fast track to become an advertising art director when a friend who worked as a scenic designer from that summer of stock called and asked Victor if he’d like to paint scenery for the venerable Chautauqua Opera Company in western New York state. Victor arranged for a brief leave of absence from the advertising firm.
“It had been years since I’d been in a theater,” he recalls. “When I walked into the Opera house at Chautauqua, I felt I was home.”
Victor never went back to the ad firm. He landed a job stage managing variety acts – a country/western band, a juggler, and a magician – at the Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio, In an era before Amazon or Barnes and Noble existed, he hunted for books on acting..
“Lee Strasberg. Michael Chekov. Richard Boleslavsky. I read any book on acting I could get my hands on,” Victor recalls. “But the one that really spoke to me was Uta Hagen’s Respect for Acting.” Victor’s first introduction to Uta Hagen was in his Speech and Drama class where he heard a recording of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff.” “The moment I heard this woman’s voice, I said to myself, “She’s telling the truth.”
He placed a call from a pay phone at the amusement park after making his decision to study with Uta to HB Studio in New York.
He studied off and on with Ms. Hagen and other legendary actors, Kim Stanley and Geraldine Page, for several years. “Studying with Wynn Handman during this time as well was crucial to moving me into my professional life.”
Exceptional material and the chance to work with great artists kept Victor in New York when so many of his peers moved west to Los Angeles. Stage jobs in the city soon beckoned. Victor’s performance as Lachlen in The Hasty Heart at Mirror Repertory off-Broadway led to his being cast opposite Geraldine Page at the same venue in a Ibsen’s Ghosts, directed by Austin Pendleton.
Television jobs followed including a recurring role on ABC’s “Guiding Light”. Broadway beckoned in 1993. Victor played John Cleary in Frank Gilroy’s Any Given Day (the precursor to The Subject was Roses) alongside Sada Thompson at the Longacre Theatre, following that playing Dr. Sugar in Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly Last Summer at Circle in the Square with Elizabeth Ashley, JFK in Jackie: An American Life with Margaret Colin at the Belasco, Mr. Robinson in The Graduate with Kathleen Turner at the Plymouth Theatre, and John the Baptist in Salome with Al Pacino at the Barrymore Theatre.
He is known throughout the industry for the research he brings to playing roles of particular power and complexity.
Victor still approaches his roles with a painter’s eye. “My approach takes lots of patience and time, and these days time is a luxury. At the end of the process, the work should be invisible to everyone but me.”
He laughs. “The funny thing? I’ve been doing this now for over thirty years and I feel like I’m just getting started.”