Metro Weekly

Zack Powell Gets Pucked

As the sprite with a mischievous streak, Zack Powell is having the time of his life in Everyman Theatre's "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

Zack Powell as Puck - Photo: Teresa Castracane
Zack Powell as Puck – Photo: Teresa Castracane

“I’ve done Romeo and Juliet four times. I’ve done Macbeth five times. I’ve done Twelfth Night three times. I’ve done The Tempest twice. I’ve done Comedy of Errors and Much Ado About Nothing. I’ve done King Lear. This is my third big Midsummer production.”

One thing is for sure: Zack Powell doesn’t need to brush up on his Shakespeare.

The handsome, dark-haired actor has become a familiar mainstay on D.C. stages over the past decade. Not long ago, he joined the resident company of Baltimore’s acclaimed Everyman Theatre, and is currently starring as the mischievous sprite Puck in its production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

“I’m having the time of my life, man,” he says over a Sunday evening Zoom call from his home in Alexandria, which he shares with husband Joe Smelser, the senior director of production for the Shakespeare Theatre Company. “It feels like a culmination of all my skills get to be used in this show. I get to play guitar. I get to dance. I get to use all of my Shakespeare training, of course. And I get to use my mime training.”

Mime training? As in stark white makeup and black and white striped shirts?

“No,” Powell laughs. “Think more like physical theater, think more like Synetic. I was in physical theater for a long time when I was a younger actor.”

This is Powell’s first time playing Puck, and he’s enjoying the fact that “I get to keep the audience guessing as to what’s happening next. Putting the spell on Bottom and transforming him into having the ass’s head — we all know that’s going to come. But they might not realize that I’m also about to pop out with my guitar and put a spell on him by playing a Nat King Cole song. And there’s a part where I….”

He stops himself. “I don’t want to spoil it for the audiences, but it gets a really big response. So I think I’m bringing my own unique Zack things to the role.” He grins. “Including mime training.”

Like so many actors, the pandemic lockdown took a toll on Powell, as local theaters went into hibernation. But he got a few “lucky breaks,” as he calls them.

“I shifted over to doing a lot more on-camera work,” he says, and in 2020, was cast in Tapawingo, an indie ’80s-style comedy that premiered at the Virginia Film Festival last fall and is scheduled for release later this year. The film stars Jon Heder, Billy Zane, Gina Gershon, Amanda Bearse, and John Ratzenberger of Cheers fame. “I’m only in the first three minutes of the movie,” he cautions, “but I’m very featured, which is nice.”

In part due to his classic good looks, Powell, who is gay, mostly gets cast as straight characters in productions.

“I was quite effeminate as a kid, so I did get bullied and picked on a lot all through school,” he says of his Kansas upbringing. “Later in middle school, I started adjusting my behavior. I was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to talk with a deeper voice and I’m going to make sure that I’m standing in a masculine way.’

“But I’m more secure now that I’m married, and I’m really happy to be an out gay man,” he continues. “I’m finally starting to embrace a little bit more of my natural feminine qualities. So it’s fun to discover that again in yourself at a later age.”

He would like to take on more gay roles (he shudders at the term “queer,” which he still hears as a slur).

“As an actor, there is a joy in playing people who are different from yourself, but there is also a great deal of joy and satisfaction at being able to expose truly who you are on stage,” he says. “And I love playing straight men. I love being in romances and being romantic leads. But how nice would it be to get to play a love scene with [a man]? I just think there is an element of authenticity to it.”

Zack Powell as Puck - Photo: Teresa Castracane
Zack Powell as Puck – Photo: Teresa Castracane


Our conversation eventually gets back to Puck, in particular, the character’s costume, an eye-catching portion of which is the pants.

“They’re amazing,” he beams. “Everyone always asks about the pants. David Burdick, our costume designer, created these faun pants that are all fringe. As I move and dance and jump and climb, there’s so much movement. It looks really cool and is sexy and dangerous. It’s got a Mr. Tumnus vibe,” he says referencing the character from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. “And they’re very comfortable — they’re lined with satin.”

Surely he has to sneak off with the pants when Midsummer ends its run. “I don’t know when I would wear them,” he shrugs. “Other than to M.A.L., maybe.”

A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs through June 9 at Everyman Theatre, 315 West Fayette St. in Baltimore. For tickets call 410-752-2208 or visit

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