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The Play’s the Thing

“Janice Duclos, who plays Polonius, does an excellent job, pushing her lines well into the realm of comic relief.”
—Rhode Island Roads

“Janice Duclos, who stars as Beverly, is perfect for the part, a master of deadpan delivery and the disapproving glance.”
—The Providence Journal

“Janice Duclos is luminous as Josie.”
—The Washingtonian

These glowing reviews illustrate the artistic depth of Janice Duclos ’81, a member of the resident acting company at Trinity Rep in Providence. During her 25-year tenure at the Tony Award-winning theater, she has delighted audiences through a diverse cast of characters from Polonius (typically played by a male) in Shakespeare’s Hamlet to tough-minded Melony in The Cider House Rules to the lighthearted Mrs. Fezziwig in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

The opportunity to deliver such varied performances is one of the primary reasons Duclos has built her career at Trinity: “I can stretch myself. All of the artistic directors, especially Curt [Columbus] have been very generous with the roles they’ve offered. Elsewhere, I’d be typecast.”

What’s more, the familiarity with fellow Trinity actors helps Duclos flourish. “We know each other and share the same aesthetic. There’s shorthand to what we do, and we bring our own relationships to the play.”  

This emotional connection has spilled beyond Trinity’s stages and onto the airwaves, where Duclos and other Trinity actors discuss and perform excerpts from short stories, novels, poems, and plays on Trinity Rep Radio Theater. As director and co-producer of Trinity Radio, broadcast on Rhode Island’s National Public Radio station WRNI, Duclos helps choose the program content.

“When Curt was interviewing with Trinity, he mentioned the idea of a radio program, and I immediately latched onto it. I feel so fortunate to be involved with TRRT. I like the sense of intimacy—almost confessional quality—of the studio.” The response to the live radio tapings has been positive, and the program is planning another at Trinity Rep on Monday, May 24, at 7:30 p.m.

Theater patrons need not worry that the appeal of an intimate studio setting will lure Duclos away from the stage. On the contrary. She is completing a run as Jean in Sarah Ruhl’s Dead Man’s Cell Phone, a comedy about an unassuming woman who gets involved in a dead man’s life when she finds his cell phone. After having portrayed Virginia in Ruhl’s The Clean House, Duclos is thrilled to perform in one of her plays again: “Sarah is an original voice in the theater, and she writes great roles for women.”

Fräulein Kost in Cabaret

Jean is the latest among a long list of complex women that Duclos has had the privilege of portraying. Among the more notable characters Duclos has brought to life is Eugene O’Neill’s Josie Hogan in Moon for the Misbegotten. Her critically acclaimed performances at both Trinity and Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., drew theater-goers from as far away as Ireland.

“The role is emotionally and physically demanding—you are onstage for about three hours. Because O’Neill’s language, relationships, and storytelling is so rich, it was a welcome challenge.”

For some actors, starring as the strong-willed Josie would top their professional life lists, yet Duclos does not have a role she considers the top: “My ideal role is the next one I am doing. For example, playing Fräulein Kost in Cabaret was not on my radar screen, but she quickly became a favorite of mine. I loved the fact that audiences perceived her as funny and likable at first, but by the end of the act they were surprised by an unexpected dark side. I like that kind of dimension in a character.”

Having delivered multifaceted characters on stage for decades, Duclos would love to have another opportunity to direct on the main stage at Trinity. In 1992 she directed One for the Money, a comedy revue that she had written about a financially strapped theater that holds a telethon to raise money.

Duclos developed material for One for the Money while pursuing her undergraduate degree in theater at URI. “I took a revue writing class with Kimber Wheelock the first time they offered it and saved some of my work. The timing was perfect because I also took some of my sketches to the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, and that was the last year URI organized the trip. It was amazing, and we ended up touring part of the show in Northern Ireland. Those were great times, and URI has a great Theatre Department. I have very fond memories.”

Interestingly, Duclos discovered her passion for theater and found her calling in performing while studying psychology at Community College of Rhode Island. “I was not one of those people who always planned on becoming an actor. I went to community college with the intent of studying psychology and transferring to URI to complete a bachelor’s degree. But I joined the theater group at CCRI, and I was hooked.”

Since then, there has been no looking back. Duclos wasted no time in honing her craft. In the mid-’80s, she was one of the founders of Providence’s Wickenden Gate Theater, where she was involved in all aspects of productions—acting, directing, lighting, costumes, marketing—for 10 years. “It was a great foundation,” she said.

Throughout that decade, Trinity actors and administrators taught classes at Wickenden and attended the performances. Duclos’ talent caught the attention of Marion Simon, the assistant to Trinity founder Adrian Hall.

More than 20 years later, Duclos could not be happier. To be part of the last permanent resident acting company in America is an honor: “Actors would give their right arm to be a part of this incredible company. It’s ideal.” 

Enjoy the work of this multitalented actor by accessing archived broadcasts of Trinity Rep Radio Theater at wrni.org. Trinity Rep also posts its upcoming season at trinityrep.com.

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(59 minutes)

By Maria V. Caliri ’86, M.B.A. ’92

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