Chairman of the Boards

Of course, there were better times during his nine-year New York acting stint. He appeared with George C. Scott in Richard III and As You Like It, and with Tom Bosely in The Power and the Glory. And he performed alongside a young Peter Bogdanovich in Othello as part of Joseph Papp's then-new Shakespeare Festival in Central Park. Hindman also took over the role of Theodore "Hickey" Hickman from Jason Robards in director Jose Quintero's legendary 1956 production of Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh when Robards left to star uptown in O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night. "For a performer, that's a fabulous role," Hindman says of Hickey. "It's five hours long and you get to work up to the fifth act, which is a 47-minute monologue only interrupted with an occasional line here and there. Jay Robards was doing Long Day's Journey, which was an hour shorter, so he'd jump in a cab at least once a week and catch the last act. Then we'd go out for a few drinks and talk about the problems with playing O'Neill and all that."

In 1965, when Hindman was appearing on Broadway in A Case of Libel -- while also being on contract to the TV sudser Love of Life and teaching at a trade school for radio announcers -- the city's industrial pollution brought on a case of late-onset asthma. "The doctor told me that I could move to Phoenix, which is dry, or Denver, which at that time wasn't industrial," he remembers. "He said South Florida was a possibility but had molds. South Florida was the only place that had commercials, film, and showed the possibility of someday having theater. So I chose Miami."

After his gigs at WTMI and the planetarium, Hindman joined the Players Repertory Theater in 1972, where he remained for seven years. "I signed a contract each year for forty weeks," he explains, "and we'd do eight productions and I'd be in seven of them." The Players are now defunct, but over the past 30 years Hindman has become a constant on South Florida stages. Recently, Harriet Oser, a well-established local actress, co-starred with Hindman in four of the brief playlets in Summer Shorts, for which Hindman received a Best Supporting Actor Carbonell Award nomination (bestowed by a committee of which I am a member). "It's like a Ping-Pong game," Oser says of her experience working with Hindman. "The more you give, the more you get back. He's a very knowledgeable man, and not just in theater: You say something and the next day he'll give you ten pages on it off the Internet."

Although it has made him countless friends, Hindman's pursuit of a theatrical career very likely took its toll on his private life, which has weathered three marriages; he has also produced seven children, one of whom died at age seven after having suffered a stroke as an infant. "It's very difficult to say that my career had everything to do with the breakups," he allows, "but it was certainly a powerful factor. As a working actor you seldom make enough money to keep afloat on your own, so that trying to support a family is quite difficult and leads to differences of opinion. I'm very happy all of my children speak to me. And they're all doing very well for themselves in their chosen fields."

One of those children is Miami Herald theater critic Christine Dolen. "If she's happy being a critic, I think that's wonderful. That's a father speaking of his daughter," he points out. "As an actor, it's an inconvenience. I think she's an excellent writer, and as such I wish she could review the things I'm in. I understand the conflict of interest," he says, adding with a chuckle "and it does make it easier to be a family. But if anyone wants the [Herald's] first-line critic to review their play, they don't want me in their cast."

One producer who hasn't hesitated to use Hindman is New Theatre executive artistic director Rafael de Acha. Having cast Hindman previously in Camping with Henry and Tom, Love Letters, Youth and Asia, Beast on the Moon, and The Value of Names, de Acha is now not only producing but directing the actor in Clarence Darrow. "If there is such a thing as a director's actor, he is it," de Acha raves. "You can use a directorial shorthand with him, and he fills in the blanks beautifully. He has the whole package -- a wonderful charisma, technique, intelligence, soul, warmth, personality -- that just spells human."

It's an assessment that would please Hindman, who discusses his philosophy of acting in the most human terms. "Acting is explaining people to an audience, and that's all it is. It is my belief that anybody who is on-stage to say 'Hey, look at me' is a fool or an entertainer. An actor goes on-stage saying, 'Look at this person, understand him, because somewhere in your life there is a person like this and they need your understanding.' And maybe this person is you in some respects. If someone comes back and says, 'Now I know why Uncle Louie is such a bastard,' I feel I've done my job, and that's the greatest reward I can get."

Bill Hindman stars in David Rintels's Clarence Darrow, October 16 through November 16, at the New Theatre. For more information call 443-5909.

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