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Nashville’s Chip Arnold Set to Perform the Iconic Role of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman
TPAC • March 14–28
“He’s smart, funny, brave, and generous, and working with him always means I have to up my game, because no one dedicates themselves to a role like Chip Arnold does.”
— René Copeland
by Jim Reyland
Total transparency: I’ve never seen a production of Death of a Salesman. I know that sounds strange for a theatre guy, but the opportunity has never presented itself. That is until now. This month I will happily present myself at TPAC as the Nashville Rep stages the Arthur Miller classic, winner of the Pulitzer and the Tony for Best Play in 1949. And when the lights come up on this long-overdue theatrical experience, standing there among some of the finest actors Nashville has to offer will be Chip Arnold as Willy Loman.
If you asked Chip, he’d tell you he’s spent his whole life preparing to play Willy. A professional actor since 1970 and a graduate of Pepperdine with his BA in acting and MFA from U.N.C., Chip has studied and worked and earned every imaginable role in front of every conceivable audience.
Wes Brustad is the former producing Artistic Director of the Advent Theater, the first Equity professional theatre in Nashville, which Chip helped found. “I had the privilege of seeing Chip perform in a 10,000-seat venue midway in a pop concert as an adjunct to the music. I was scared to death for him . . . walking into that audience who wanted to rock, suddenly using only the spoken word to get their attention. He grabbed them by the throats. Every eye was fixed on him. For the next thirty minutes, there was no sound in that massive hall other than Chip’s voice. The ovation when he finished was enormous.”
Chip went on to take a turn as artistic director of the Nightingale Theatre and wrote original plays and musicals for the company. On stage Chip has played Scrooge, Shakespeare, Huxley, Capulet, Finch, Keller, and Rothko, among others. At home, he takes out the garbage each and every time his wonderful wife, Kay, asks him to, but draws the line at making the bed.
Throughout his long career, Chip has developed a legion of artistic friends. René Copeland, producing artistic director at the Nashville Rep, has been collaborating with Chip for many seasons, helping him bang away at his personal bucket list of coveted roles. “One of the great joys of my line of work is that every once in a while you get to work with someone who becomes a true artistic partner. That’s what working with Chip Arnold has been like for me—a partnership that I thoroughly enjoy and which also makes me a better director.”
Chip is also award winning: a Best Actor by The Tennessean in 2011 and by the Scene in 2012, along with a few ADDYs, Tellys, and Asters. He’s worked with Sissy Spacek, Rip Torn, Jeff Bridges, Michael W. Smith, and Steven Curtis Chapman and is a terrible namedropper. He’s done voice-over work, audio books, has an original one-man show The Light of the World (the life of Jesus), recorded trailers, commercials, and narrations. He’s written screenplays and two novels, Hometown Favorite and his nonfiction book KABUL24.
So, as you can see, Chip Arnold has put in his ten thousand hours, and he stands ready for each and every opportunity that comes his way. Soon that will include the granddaddy of them all, Willy Loman.
“While we all may dream of great personal achievements, we underestimate the significant accomplishment of getting up each day and putting one foot in front of the other as we search for those ‘diamonds’ in the dark jungle that provide us with a level of emotional and spiritual understanding,” says Chip Arnold. “That is a universal story with Willy Loman as ‘Everyman’ struggling to get though life on ‘a smile and a shoeshine.’ It is an honor for me to team up again with René Copeland and be a part of a cast and crew that will bring this great classic story to the stage.”
More total transparency: Chip Arnold is a friend, and the same wonderful qualities that make him a great friend also make him a true and transformative actor. Beginning March 12 he will illuminate our lives as one of theatre’s greatest protagonists in a way as fresh as Miller would have dreamed, and you’ll all want to come see it with me.
Death of a Salesman runs March 14–28 (previews March 12–13) at Johnson Theater at TPAC, 505 Deaderick. Tickets are available at www.NashvilleRep.org. Preview tickets are $25; regular run tickets start at $45.
Jim Reyland’s STAND, starring Barry Scott and Chip Arnold and voted Best New Play by the Scene in 2013, returns to TPAC September 24–27, 2015, to kick off a national tour sponsored by HCA. www.writersstage.com.