Spotlight Summons Attorney to the Stage

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“Late-bloomer” catches acting bug, blossoms with Farmington Players.

Tony Targan may be a late-bloomer, but he’s made up for lost time. Last year, he debuted his latent acting and singing talents in the Farmington Players production of The Producers. Since then, he’s added two new acting gigs and an “assistant director” title to his repertoire.

Targan, a 50-year-old commercial lawyer and former criminal investigator who lives with his wife in West Bloomfield, was born in New York to a writer and an artist. He acted in high school productions and hammed up countless Monty Python skits with his brother, but he put theater on the backburner while attending law school and raising his two daughters.

When he saw a Get a Clue Mystery Theater production at a local restaurant, his passion for theater resurfaced. “It whet my appetite to get back into it. I thought, ‘I could do that,’” he says.

After landing parts in Get a Clue shows, Targan set his sights on the Farmington Players community theater, which boasts more than 50 years of productions at the Barn Theater in Farmington Hills.

“I’d been told, ‘You’ll never get into the Farmington Players,’” Targan says.

Targan built his skills — and confidence — with a practice audition. The pressure was off because he knew his schedule couldn’t accommodate the Farmington Players run he was reading for.

Then he went all out for The Producers, a musical comedy by Mel Brooks, and won the part of Carmen Ghia. The role forced him to learn quickly not only how to memorize lines, take stage cues and transform himself into a flamboyantly gay man, but also to sing and dance.

“If you really enjoy something, you tend to throw yourself into it,” Targan says.

Targan typically jumps in with both feet. Ten years ago, he laced up his running shoes for the first time. Now he’s an accomplished runner and running columnist with 11 marathons under his belt. Running, he says, has helped him stretch his boundaries in all areas of life.

With acting, Targan has experienced a euphoria like no other, he says. Opening night of The Producers was like runner’s high on steroids. “I thought, ‘I’ve run the Boston Marathon before, but this is really something.’”

It’s not just the applause that thrills him, Targan says. “I like to think it’s more than that. It’s the accomplishment. It’s the sense of creating something with other people and having it all come together.”

Fresh off his debut, Targan settled into the assistant director’s chair, working with Michael Schacherbauer, who’d helped him hone his stage presence as assistant director for The Producers. Schacherbauer chose Targan to assist in directing a 26-member cast in To Kill a Mockingbird, which opened this year’s Farmington Players season.

“Tony may be a bit ‘green,’ but he totally commits to his character and seems willing to stretch and reach to new heights,” Schacherbauer says. “It was a pleasure to have him [as my assistant director] to bounce ideas off of or to get his opinion.”

Targan went back on the Farmington Players’ playbill in December for A Christmas Carol, a unique take on the classic Charles Dickens tale, in which Dickens directs his Christmas Eve guests to act out his Christmas story. The result is a cast of 10 playing 40 different characters.

Targan’s multiple characters, combined with the play’s lack of curtained scene breaks, changing time settings, old-fashioned language and English accent, kept him on his toes. Portraying Clarkson Stanfield, Dickens’ painter friend, Targan also played Bob Cratchit, the Ghost of Christmas Past, Topper, the Thin Man and the Undertaker.
“I like the challenge of playing different roles,” Targan says. For example, Targan’s Christmas Carol wife, Amy Lauter, played his daughter in a different scene, and his love interest in another, so he had to get into a new mindset each time he took the stage.

“The hardest part is becoming the character,” Targan says. “It’s important that you have the lines ingrained so you’re thinking about how your character feels and how you relate to the characters around you. The body language is really important.”

Targan’s theater work is far from over, he says. This February, he graces the Farmington Players stage once again, this time as Wilson in the comedy Whose Wives Are They Anyway?.

And no one’s ruling out directing in the future. “I believe he has the potential of directing a play on his own,” says Schacherbauer.

Targan isn’t quitting his day job anytime soon, but he does love the stage, he says.

“I’m a very creative person. When I tap into my creative side, I get a lot of joy. I like taking something, whether it’s a piece of paper or lines in a play, and turning it into something I can appreciate and others can enjoy, too.”

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