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posted: 10/31/2012 12:01 AM

'Superior Donuts' gives Hanover Park native a taste for stage

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  • An aspiring writer (Preston Tate Jr.) changes the life of a doughnut shop owner (Richard Cotovsky) in Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co.'s production of Tracy Letts' "Superior Donuts," directed by Matt Miller.

    An aspiring writer (Preston Tate Jr.) changes the life of a doughnut shop owner (Richard Cotovsky) in Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co.'s production of Tracy Letts' "Superior Donuts," directed by Matt Miller.
    Courtesy of Sid Branca


Preston Tate Jr. has been acting professionally since high school, mostly in TV commercials and short independent films. But his role in Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co.'s remount of Tracy Letts' "Superior Donuts" was his first time on stage as a professional actor.

It was a step he knew he had to take.

"My manager and I are working on venturing out to California," Tate continues. "He told me that the top casting director pays attention to theater credits."

So almost a year ago, Tate, who grew up in Hanover Park, auditioned for "Superior Donuts," Letts' follow-up to his Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning "August: Osage County."

"And here I am," Tate laughs.

The role he landed was that of aspiring writer Franco Wicks, who develops an unlikely friendship with an aging, increasingly disillusioned hippie who owns a failing doughnut shop in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood.

"(Franco) is energetic, charismatic, and even though he is caught up in a shady business, he has a good heart," Tate says, adding, "And he is a funny guy."

Tate first knew he wanted to be an actor when he was on stage in grade school.

His desire only grew as he got older, and when he graduated from high school he put off college to focus squarely on building up an acting career.

"I got head shots," Tate says. "I took acting classes and auditioned."

Slowly Tate built up his resume, first doing local film productions and eventually appearing as small characters in nationally televised shows that film locally. Most recently, he appeared on an episode of the new drama "Chicago Fire."

The transition from acting for the camera to acting on stage went fairly well for Tate, though he admits stage work requires more stamina.

"This is the first character I have played that was close to me," he says. "He is very physical and very funny. He is just a bigger version of me. And I put a lot of myself into this character."

The Mary-Arrchie production was first acclaimed by the critics, and later by audiences who flocked to the sold-out shows. The show opened in February and was only supposed to run five weeks.

"Eventually we got extended to May 5," Tate explains.

After the show closed in Chicago, the production had a brief run this summer at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights.

Interest in "Superior Donuts" continued, and it is now being remounted at the Royal George Theatre.

Was it hard preparing for the remount? "Not really," Tate says. "After doing the show literally from the beginning of the year, I know it like the back of my hand."

Tate may be prepared to re-create his role, but he finds it amazing to be still working on that character a year after auditioning for it.

"To think," Tate enthuses, "this is my first year in the Chicago theater scene and my first play."

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