A Family Affair: A Glimpse Into Life With a Family of New York Actors

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18 Dec 2012

Timothy Shew
Timothy Shew

A family of working theatre actors — Timothy Shew, Jane Brockman and Jonathan Shew — speaks with Playbill.com about what daily life is like inside their own showbiz troupe. 


The Shew family has a lot to be thankful for this holiday season. For starters, as a clan of actors, they're all working. More important, perhaps, they've got each other for mutual support — to weather the uncertainties of the business and to celebrate its successes. As Stephen Sondheim's lyric for the fabled theatrical troupe of Gypsy goes: "No fits, no fights, no feuds and no egos, Amigos, together!" Husband and wife Timothy Shew and Jane Brockman, and their son, Jonathan Shew, give Playbill.com an insider look at life inside the home of a working New York theatre family.

"Every once in a while I'll be talking about my family and someone will say, "You're all in the business?," Brockman says, laughing. "It does tend to be a bit of a dramatic household."

When they're not working out of town, on any given day someone at home is playing the piano, dashing out for an audition, or rehearsing sides in the living room of their apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side. "It's exciting, and the business is so up and down, so we're all rooting for the other," says Tim. "My friends come over and they don't live in this world," Jonathan adds. "They think it's cool to see how it works. It's not like my dad leaves at nine in the morning and he's back by five."

"We bounce things off each other," he continues. "If my dad needs help with the music, I play piano for him, or if I need help with songs, he can help me with acting. And Jane, as well, she's so great with all of it, especially going through scenes. We have a nice little trio going on."

The family's homework has paid off, with everyone treading the boards this year. Tim is currently appearing as one of the aristocrats in the Broadway revival of Evita, his tenth Broadway show, while Brockman is on the road in the national tour of Wicked, covering the role of Madame Morrible. Jonathan, who just turned 25, is set to appear as Gabe in the second leg of a co-production of the musical Next to Normal, which recently concluded a run at the Arizona Theatre Company and is gearing up for an engagement at the San Jose Repertory Theatre in early 2013.

"We are so blessed. It doesn't always happen like this. We're really lucky to be working, all three of us at the same time," Jane says. The norm for any member of the family is working regionally five or six months out of the year, with one of them holding down the fort in New York City.

Jonathan recalls, "I grew up in that environment. My dad having to be away for work became part of my life. It was never an issue." Tim, who raised Jonathan as a single parent for the first part of his life, was fortunate to have steady work on Broadway when Jonathan was small. This meant that a five-year-old Jonathan was spending time backstage at the Martin Beck Theatre while his dad was playing Rusty Charlie in the Tony Award-winning 1992 revival of Guys and Dolls.

"The key was the bicycle," Tim says with a laugh. "It allowed me to go and do the matinee, then hop on the bike, get back to our apartment shortly after he got off the school bus so I could feed him, and do homework with him. Then, if there was no babysitter, he'd be coming along to the theatre with me."

"I was kind of a backstage baby," Jonathan recalls. "I used to sit off stage right, by the guy who does the curtain, and watch the show, singing along. I knew all the lines." It was during those backstage moments that Jonathan learned his first card trick from veteran actor Ernie Sabella, or a few years later, hung out with a pre-Tony Award winner Sutton Foster, who was a swing in The Scarlet Pimpernel, Tim's fifth Broadway show.


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