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Eric Ankrim: bad prince, good gypsy, and dueling with himself

In Village Theatre's newest musical, the plot revolves around a very bad prince and a very sweet gypsy who just happen to look exactly alike. Rather than casting two actors as "twins" in the The Gypsy King, the real laughs revolve around one actor portraying both characters.Seattle actor Eric Ankrim has been handling this double trouble role since the musical was first workshopped in Issaquah. It was not a part that he expected to play.

"In 2006, I broke my contract at the Village Theatre," said Ankrim. "I was  in Girl of My Dreams when my buddy Ben Shelton called and said some ad executives had seen our YouTube videos and wanted to talk to us." In short, Hollywood rang, offering some lucrative commercial contracts, and Ankrim left the Northwest to pursue the opportunities offered in Los Angeles. Village Theatre, he emphasized, was very nice about the whole thing, but that, he figured, was the end of that relationship.

With Shelton, Ankrim wrote and performed in short films that played on the JumboTrons of major NBA games as well as MySpace, YouTube, and commercial TV. His work can be seen at

Then, in 2008, Ankrim received a very surprising phone call. Friends at the Village Theatre thought he would be right for the dual role of the bad prince Alfonz and the good gypsy Frederick in a new musical. "Randy Rogel, the creator, was in Los Angeles and I was asked to meet with him," Ankrim recalled.

After some discussion, Ankrim came back to Village Theatre for the first reading of The Gypsy King. "I still felt guilty about leaving, but when I saw Steve (Tomkins, Village's artistic director), he just gave me a big hug." Flash forward to 2009 and Ankrim was ready to leave LA for Seattle. His wife was expecting their first child and the time had come to return "to a community that we wanted to be surrounded by."

The starring role in Peter Pan at Seattle Children's Theatre "came at just the right time." So between late night feedings, diapers, and other duties of a new father, Ankrim crowed and battled pirates from November to January. "You just learn to exist on less sleep," he said.

Now he's delighting in switching between the very sweet and innocent Frederick and the wicked Alfonz. "Musicals are so grand. You can be bigger than yourself and not read false," Ankrim said. "I'm just a really nerdy goofy guy so Frederick is not that big of stretch for me. Frederick is the type of role that I'm usually cast as, but if Alfonz was cast by himself, I would have to work really hard to convince the director to use me. And it is such a delicious role. He's so bad. Sometimes I feel like I should go up to the other actors and apologize for Alfonz afterwards."

In his dual role, Ankrim knocks about, quite literally, and is very glad that he is wearing knee pads under his costume. "The show has this wonderful vaudeville quality, and, at some points, it's a slammed door farce. I'm knocked down and on the floor a lot. I get slapped three times, hit in the face with a sword, and have a climatic duel with myself."

At the end of the day, the carefully constructed plot of Rogel's new musical "turns into this wild ride. It's great energy and comic precision," said Ankrim, backed up with beautiful sets and costumes by the Village Theatre team. "This show couldn't be any bigger. It feels gigantic and gorgeous."

And as for the new father, faithful gypsy, and wicked prince, he catches what catnaps he can on living room couch before heading out for another evening at Village Theatre. "Coming back to Seattle has been great," he said. "It's nice to focus on stage work again.