Presenting Paul Ugalde

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Thursday February 02, 2012

If theatre is your thing, do yourself a favor and get down to the Flynn Space to enjoy Vermont Stage Company’s “The Clean House.” There you will see, among other superb actors, South Burlington resident Paul Ugalde in his element. Stagestruck since his debut in first grade reciting a poem, Paul has been taking roles in theatre productions ever since.

Paul grew up in the Mayfair neighborhood of South Burlington with his brother David, his sister Margo and their parents. His father, Louis Ugalde, was a professor of Spanish at the University of Vermont for 25 years. Paul’s mother, Isabel, lived in the house from 1962 until 2005.

By the time Paul went to South Burlington High School, he was involved in playing football in the fall and baseball in the spring, but drama held his attention throughout the entire school year. He spent one year at Tulane University in New Orleans before returning to Burlington to enroll at UVM. The Champlain Shakespeare Festival was just beginning at about that time, and Paul got his first professional theatre job as a member of the Festival’s stage crew in the summer of 1973. When the festival’s summer series overlapped with the beginning of UVM’s semester, Paul managed to stay on top of both. Over these early years, his involvement with the Shakespeare Festival introduced him to many aspects of theatre, both onstage and behind the scenes. In a small role in “Romeo and Juliet,” Paul was initiated into the skills of stage brawling and swordplay. He became fascinated by fight choreography.

Paul had learned fencing at Tulane, where the skills of speed and surprise were vital. He soon came to realize, however, that these skills could be dangerous on stage, where collaboration and teamwork were more important than anything else. In his own words, “swinging rapiers in really small spaces” is what it’s all about in theatre. Over the years, Paul found himself gravitating toward shows with fight scenes. Nowadays, many theatre directors in Vermont turn to Paul when they need their casts to learn about stage combat or to stage any kind of altercation. He has staged everything from fistfights to fencing matches to dagger combat to frays with spatula versus frying pan.

In 2001, Burlington’s Lyric Theatre presented “The Three Musketeers,” the only non-musical production in its history. Since almost half of the scenes involved fighting, Paul ended up directing the whole show. In one scene, Paul directed actors fighting with two unusual deadly weapons: a cheese wheel and a baguette.

More often than not, Paul can be seen in major roles onstage. When engaged in any theatre production, Paul says, the show “becomes my life.” It can be challenging to balance work, personal life, and theatre, but according to Paul it’s all about getting enough sleep and pacing yourself. He says that the excitement comes from everyone involved having the attitude, “let’s get it, let’s make it happen.”

Much like Clark Kent and his alter ego Superman, Paul is a mild-mannered working man by day and a Thespian when needed. In his day job, he serves as Director of Development for the Population Media Center in Shelburne. This nonprofit produces radio and video series aimed at bringing about behavioral changes concerning reproductive health, family planning, women’s concerns and environmental issues. His job has taken him to Ethiopia, Mali, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Guatemala and Mexico. Research has shown that people living in these countries tend to listen to radio or watch videos in groups. By experiencing these twice-weekly soap opera type programs together, conversation develops about these vital issues and change begins to happen.

Paul and his wife Catherine now live in the very same house in Mayfair where Paul spent his childhood. Paul may be seen in action in “The Clean House” now through February 12 at the Flynn Space. Performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., and 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Tickets may be purchased through the Flynn box office, 86-Flynn or www.Flynntix.org.

SOURCE: Lois Price, Contributor