Award winning actor and playwright David Heron recently returned to his classical roots, taking on the role of Lord Montague, father to Shakespeare’s iconic Romeo, in the record breaking and highly acclaimed production of Romeo and Juliet at the Shakespeare Festival of St Louis in Missouri.
The production, directed by Elena Araoz, played through the month of June at historic Forest Park in downtown St Louis and received unanimously positive reviews from the cities’ major critics. Several of them singled out the Jamaican born Heron for high praise, including KDHX media who wrote that “David Heron imbues his Lord Montague with tempered ambition and genuine concern,” while Talkin’ Broadway declared that “David Heron and Patrice Foster are sleek yet heartbroken as Romeo’s parents.”
The production entered the history books on Saturday June 23, when an unprecedented 5800 patrons attended that evening’s show, breaking the record for the highest attendance ever of a single performance of any production in Forest Park mounted by the Shakespeare Festival of St Louis.
According to Heron, “It was a wonderful experience in which I shared the stage with some of the finest actors I’ve ever worked with, and performing for thousands of people every night was like rock star Shakespeare! But to have broken the record for the most people ever to attend a single show- that was special for all of us. All the hard work truly paid off.”
Yet for the New York based actor , a Shakespeare veteran who has appeared Off Broadway and across the USA in some of the playwright’s most famous works- including The Winter’s Tale, Antony and Cleopatra, Hamlet, The Tempest, Othello, Henry V and Coriolanus– it is a career that nearly never happened.
Heron graduated from the University of the West Indies in Jamaica with a Communications and English degree. He never studied acting. Although he had performed in numerous high school and college productions, he embarked on a highly successful advertising and marketing career after graduating college and had no designs on a life in entertainment.
But his yearning to be involved in the arts at some level lead him to write his first play-a romantic comedy titled Ecstasy – which found its way to a Jamaican producer who then mounted the show, resulting in a record breaking two year run.
His relocation to New York was fortuitous. His fourth play, Love and Marriage and New York City premiered in Jamaica and would eventually tour regionally in the USA, ultimately leading to an Off Broadway run at the renowned Billie Holiday Theater. Heron, who played a role in the production, stayed on after the show closed and started auditioning for acting roles.
He booked his very first major New York acting job almost immediately – the role of Laertes in a production of Hamlet opposite Timothy D Stickney, and has not looked back since.
“Shakespeare was a very natural fit for me as I was starting out in New York because I had this interesting Jamaican accent that many casting directors didn’t quite know what to do with. But producers like Debra Ann Byrd of Take Wing and Soar, who produced Hamlet, and Jim Helsinger at Orlando Shakespeare- who gave me the role that got me my professional union card in his wonderful stage adaptation of Robinson Crusoe – knew exactly how to use me. Shakespeare and classical theater have kind of become my mainstay since then.”
As of now, he is enjoying what he calls an “exciting career” as one of the few Caribbean born actors regularly working in classical theater at the highest level.
“The great irony for me is that none of this might ever have happened. I’m a kid from Jamaica who took a huge chance- a leap of faith- leaving behind a very successful corporate career and coming to the USA to do this. People thought I was insane. Even now to me, it’s still surreal that I’m here. But I’m loving every minute of it.”