By ALLEN RAU
A recent arrival to the Jonesborough area has a talent that is already proving useful to the Jonesborough Repertory Theater.
Tom Flagg, along with his wife Jane, recently moved to the area from the New York/New Jersey Metro area and has quite the experience in the performing arts.
He has performed under the bright lights of Broadway and has also traveled all over the country refining his craft. And, beginning June 29, he will play the part of John Adams in the local production of “1776.”
“I now find myself on the stage of JRT, performing one of my favorite roles in musical theatre,” Flagg said.
Born in Ohio, Flagg still remembers his first stage performance, “a school Christmas pageant when I was 5 years old.”
He gained experience in community theaters of North-Eastern Ohio, a time he remembers well. “It was a great training ground. I fondly remember those theaters, the people I worked with and one director in particular who encouraged me to be a professional actor. I guess I was destined to be an actor.”
While in high school, Flagg spent two summers at his “dream job” with the Kenley Players in Ohio.
The Players “produced ‘star package’ shows for 14 weeks every summer, and I got to work with stars I’d been seeing in movies and TV my whole life. Ethel Merman, Chester Morris, Artie Johnson, Jane Powell and many others,” Flagg said. “I was star-struck.”
At 19 years old, Flagg moved to New York City and attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, a two-year program that included classes on acting, stagecraft, performance techniques, fencing, mime and dance.
After completing his studies there, he began to audition for professional jobs, which led Flagg to meet his wife.
“On June 30th of that year, I arrived at the theater and soon met the young lady who would become my wife and sometime acting partner, and our theatrical life was off and running,” he said.
The two were married and spent time at theaters in North Carolina, New York and Pennsylvania. As their careers progressed, he spent much of his time traveling across the country. “I eventually traveled to 36 states and performed in over 125 different American cities,” Flagg said. “After each show ended, I returned to the fold to audition for another one. That is the nature of show business.”
One of those early auditions led to his first taste of Broadway. Flagg had a small role in a play called “LEGEND” and staged the fist fights and gun fights required for the Western style play, which closed three days after opening.
His path to the much brighter lights began at the Wolf Trap Theater in Virginia on a musical called “Shenandoah.” He was contacted and called to join the Broadway company of the same play. More Broadway shows followed and he also landed his own showcase.
“The Will Rogers Follies” ran for two and a half years at the Palace Theater.
While with the show for its entire run, Flagg “was at home to have dinner with my family before leaving for my show at night. I was able to drive my kids to school in the morning, and to be around to do Dad stuff during the day. It was a great time.”
He also appeared in the Broadway revival of “How to Succeed in Business” which starred Mathew Broderick.
When the Flaggs decided to retire, Tennessee’s tax rules drew them to the area, and they met the Jonesborough Repertory Theater’s Shawn Hale on a “scouting trip”, who then sold them on Jonesborough.
After moving to the area, the couple met former Mayor Kelly Wolfe, who convinced them of the soundness of their choice.
Flagg received a call from JRT artistic director Jennifer Ross a few days later, and after a few conversations, he was tapped to perform the role of John Adams.
Flagg said that his next door neighbor told him “If you make eye contact with someone and they don’t smile and say hello, then they aren’t from around here.”