Mitch McGuire is an actor, director and producer born in Chicago, but living in New York City for many years. After doing some amateur theatre and marrying and having three children, he attended the Goodman Theatre Dramatics School in Chicago. After only one year in school he got his first professional job doing summer stock in Oden Michigan with a salary of $20 per week…for mowing the lawn. For acting he got nothing. After a number of similarly lean years, Mitchell left for Hollywood, sans family and sans money. He roomed with his parents in San Diego, and got a part in
Six Characters in Search of an Author, by Pirendello, in the role of the Manager.
It was a Globe Theatre production directed by founder Craig Noel. While Mitch was doing this part he was working in a hotel on Shelter Island as a room clerk and bell hop where he carried bags for Louis Armstrong, and Jimmie Rodgers among others. He learned here that not all celebrities tip well.
Mitch was anxious to get to Hollywood, so he left San Diego a few months later. There he worked in three hotels simultaneously while learning the LA ropes. His success was not impressive. He managed to do some studying while there, with Eugenie Leontovich, the Russian Method actor However, McGuire’s
film career did not materialize. His only performing work was in various plays, the most prestigious being the lead in an commercial production
Sideman and Son. He did get to do an audition scene at MGM, but was upstaged by his gorgeous scene partner whom the assorted men wanted to bed (and probably did).
His accidental hotel career thrived, however. He was Gene Autry’s first night auditor of the Continental Hotel on the Strip, until he was fired because he wanted time off to attend his father’s funeral. Despite this dastardly event, Mitch backed into the position of Resident Manager of a hotel in Beverly Hills, the Beverly Carlton, where he succeeded for awhile…until they too fired him--- for doing
Sideman and Son. If they had a little more patience they could have waited because the show closed in only two weeks. Not to worry though. The Ramada Inn hired him as the Assistant Manager, but the manager fired him the day before
he got fired. Mitch doesn’t recommend hotel work if you want a long term position.
Mitch moved to New York City. In his first year he appeared in five plays, all of them forgettable, and none of them Equity productions, and he was so frustrated by his inability to be accepted into one of the unions. He was working at a Mafia motel in Sheepshead Bay Brooklyn, and moved to Seagate, a private gated community on Coney Island. While there he noticed an unused stage and proceeded to produce his first plays, in which he also starred in. They were
The Man of Destiny, by George B. Shaw, and
The Lesson, by Pirendello. His lease on his beachfront apartment ended after nine months and he moved to Queens.
After a friend introduced him to casting director Joan D’Incecco, she cast him in a five line role on
The Doctors on ABC. He joined his first entertainment union, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AFTRA. He continued appearing occasionally in small parts on
The Doctors after that. He also did numerous other plays Off-off Broadway. He was anxious to live in Manhattan, and his opportunity came through a summer stock job in Kentucky at the Pioneer Playhouse. He was the leading man and an actress named Helen, the leading lady. She and he became a leading couple and when the season ended he moved into her apartment on West 69th Street on the park block. He finally made it onto the Isle of Manhattan and was a member of at least one of the unions.
But before that, Helen had introduced him to the then non-union Roundabout Theatre Company, run by founder, Gene Feist. Mr. Feist cast Mitch as Dr. Benjamin in
Waiting For Lefty as well as the male lead in
The Bond by Strindberg. Both plays were scheduled to open at the Roundabouts 26th Street theatre under a supermarket, but there was a rent dispute and we were barred entry during rehearsals. Of necessity we opened the plays at the Mermaid Theatre on West 42nd Street, a street then best known for its pornography and massage parlors. Little did we know we were treading the boards of the future Theatre Row, and the eventual site of Mitch’s office at Manhattan Punch Line Theatre! But that was later…read on.
Eventually the rent problems were ironed out and we opened the next production,
Lear, back on 26th Street. Feist cast Mitch as the Duke of Albany, the weak husband of the evil Goneril, played by Mitch’s gal friend, Helen. Simultaneously Mitch was working Midnight to 8AM at the Mafia Motel. One night, two mobsters on a lark, robbed him, and Mitch made sure they got caught, mostly because they would not leave. After the hoods made threats on his life, Mitch quit his job, and finally got some full night’s sleep!
Mitch attributes that sleep to improving his performance in
King Lear to a point where he was noticed by playwright Paul Foster, who cornered him backstage and asked Mitch to appear in his Off-Broadway, Actor’s Equity production of
directed by Tom O’Horgan.
Mitch finally got into Actors Equity, and had a long run both Off-Broadway and a Bus and Truck Tour of colleges with
When Mitch returned to NYC, he was invited to perform in his birthday suit in the notorious Oh, Calcutta! He stayed for a year and a half, both off and on Broadway and a subsequent video and film release. Recently broadcaster Bob Edwards interviewed Mitch on both XM Satellite Radio and NPR about his ribald experiences in that musical review. You can listen to this interview on the Audio page.
From that point on Mitch was unstoppable. He developed a relationship, after Helen dropped him, for another actress who requests anonymity, and who could blame her? While Mitch was working most of a year on an Off-Broadway salary, she was doing commercials and making twice as much as our hero. He got the message, got a haircut and started going out for commercials. He was a young husband and spokesperson for a number of products, including Prell, Scope, Timex and Kodak film, among many others.
But Mitch hankered for acting work that was legitimate. He and two friends started a theatre company called Manhattan Punch Line Theatre in 1979. He was the President, producing director, and occasional actor. He produced over fifty full productions, hundreds of cabaret shows, and benefits, etc. He acted in various productions including,
Male Animal and many others. He also was the performer/director of the Punch Line Players, an improv and Sketch Group. He likes to say he produced more plays than Harold Prince. And he has!
Meanwhile, in the commercial world, he graduated from young husband, found a manager who got him into voice-overs through legendary voice agent and gentleman, Chuck Tranum, of the late lamented agency, TRH.
That happy event was followed by years of happy residuals, mostly due to Total Cereal. General Mills had the foresight to use Mitch’s voice for nine years to sell the vitamin cereal, and Total shot up to number one with a ? (research this expression.)
Cue music: then Mitch met his current wife, Cathryn M. Williams, once a marvelous modern dancer, now the Director of Strategic Alliances at the Lincoln Center Institute! They have two children; a boy, Brendan, and a girl Kathleen. Brendan is in college and Kathleen recently graduated and is a new Doctor of Physical Therapy in Los Angeles. They are thrilled of course.
Mitch also has three grown children by his first marriage (remember Chicago)? Michael, Kelli and Lauri. He has six grandchildren, and four great grandchildren…believe it or not.
Mitch eventually left Manhattan Punch Line Theatre and renewed his legitimate career, doing many plays and television shows, as indicated on his resume. Most recent was his appearances were as Mr. Voysey in the
Voysey Inheritance at the Atlantic Theater, and Jorgenson in
Other People’s Money at the Engeman Theater in Northport Long Island. Mitch approaches the future with as much enthusiasm now as when he was 24 years old. If you ask him how that is possible, he’ll tell you, “I love being an actor.”