Behind the scenes at Orlando Shakespeare Theater

Actor Spotlight: John Ahlin

John Ahlin Orlando Shakes’ 25th Season is officially underway and we’ve been pretty busy around here. With the great success of our current Wild West inspired production of The Taming of the Shrew, I’d like to take a moment to shine the spotlight on one of the show’s many talented performers: John Ahlin.

Returning to Orlando Shakes after 16 years, John last appeared in the repertory productions of Richard III (Stanley) and The Merry Wives of Windsor (Falstaff) at Lake Eola. The experience became even more special when John’s wife, Jean Tafler, was offered a last minute role in Merry Wives (Mistress Page). Together with their 3-year old daughter, the couple, who met while working on a production of Macbeth, traveled from New York to Orlando. Once their daughter reached school-age, they had to become more selective with roles. “I hate to say it, but life trumps theater,” said Ahlin.

Watching John perform the role of Baptista Minola (Shrew’s father figure and the roadblock to his youngest daughter’s many suitors) it is clear that, despite his grey whiskers and fatherly demeanor, his passion for the stage is still very much alive. It’s a good thing too, considering the steady flow of acting jobs he’s held throughout his career. The “student of Shakespeare” has appeared on Broadway seven times, and has also made a name for himself in dozens of regional theaters across the country including the Goodman Theater, Pittsburgh Public, and Centerstage Baltimore. But he hasn’t always been so outgoing.

John Ahlin (center) and wife Jean Tafler (left), Merry Wives 1996

John Ahlin (center) and wife Jean Tafler (left), Merry Wives 1996

Before John Ahlin wanted to be an actor, his dream was to become a forest ranger. The 300 pound wrestler looked the part, but was denied due to a ‘C’ in high school chemistry. Remembering his success in a school play, he enrolled in drama at Syracuse University but was quickly repelled by the uniform of tights and leotards, and the strange assignments including a game called ‘Reeds and Swallows’. John kept to himself and never spoke in class or interacted with his peers. About to throw in the towel, everything changed when his professor called for a round of ‘Simon Says’. John shocked everyone when his booming voice volunteered from the back of the room. “I was brilliant,” Ahlin said proudly. “I went immediately from a monster to a god.” The lesson John learned from that first semester is something he’s kept with him since: “Just jump in.”

And jump in he has. In addition to his extensive acting resume, he’s also dabbled in directing and playwriting. (He’s currently writing a show for his wife. Aww!) Yet despite the many significant places he’s worked, John still agrees there’s something very special about Orlando Shakes. “There’s a sense of caring here. This company embodies that.”

ShrewPreview_1If you haven’t got a chance to see John in The Taming of the Shrew quite yet, the production runs through October 6. Just make sure to laugh out loud, because – as John says – “getting a laugh on stage is the best thing in the world.”


Shakespearely Yours,

Melissa Landy
Public Relations Coordinator


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