Professor Russ Longtin: JSC’s Lion in Winter

What do you consider your greatest achievement in life?

Raising my daughter to be the best human being she can be. And she is now doing the same thing with her kids, which I think is interesting.

If someone were to play you in a movie of your life, who would it be?

Probably Russell Crowe, because he is really driven and on the edge emotionally. I don’t think he is the best actor, but I think he would work for doing this.

What is your greatest fear?

I have a fear of not being able to deliver the goods, which sounds a little ridiculous after 30 years, but that still hangs at the back of my mind periodically. Am I going to be at the top of my game during this class today? Am I going to be able to address whatever issues these kids have on a daily basis? I guess it’s more of a fear of being completely present, and being able to function in the moment.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Chocolate. Dark Chocolate.

If you died and could only watch one play, on repeat, in the afterlife, what would it be?

“Sophie’s Choice,” because of Meryl Streep. I am a total and complete Meryl Streep fan. Her name comes up at least once a class.

What would you say is the biggest lesson that life has taught you?

Not to rely on other people for your happiness.

What is the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?

“You’re getting old. Deal with it.” A student said that to me.

What living person do you most despise, and why?

My ex-son-in-law, because of what he has put my daughter through in the last three years. Oh, there are more names on that little card, but that’s the one that’s heaviest.

What living person do you admire most?

It has to be Meryl Streep. I never miss anything that she does. But I’m not the only one. I mean, she has had 19 Oscar nominations, and won five times. So, obviously someone besides me feels the same way.

When are you the happiest?

With family; at home, mealtime, fireplace, movie, popcorn. That comes close tie with, very close tie with, having a show come off exactly the way I envisioned it when I started working. That doesn’t happen a lot. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you know.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

A priest. Then I hit high school, and I went “uh, no.” I have 15 brothers and sisters. We lived on a farm. I’m the oldest of those 15 brothers and sisters. We worked our asses off, you know, milking, shoveling manure, and all that stuff. What was the question again? Oh yeah, we are catholic and my parents just assumed that that’s what was going to happen with me. Then I got to high school and thought, “no, I really don’t think so.” They were sort of disappointed, but then I was pre-med for the first year and a half of college, because they wanted free doctor’s care. So, I was doing that for them, and you study 24/7 when you’re in that major. Then I got to organic chemistry, and I was on the verge of failing it when I decided I needed to have another outlet, or I’m not going to make it through all.

So, I heard about all these really weird people on the other side of campus, and I was like, okay let me check it out. The rest is history. My parents were not happy. Over the years, when they saw that I was making a living of it [theater], they mellowed out.

What is the worst job you’ve ever held?


How do you relax?

I do this same thing all the time, and it really works. I get out of rehearsal at 9 or 10, I pull out a movie, and plunk it in. Most of the time I don’t finish it, because I start falling asleep, but if I don’t watch a movie before I go to bed, I don’t go to sleep. After a while you just run out of movies, but watching movies takes me out of me, and puts me there instead.

Bio-pics are fun, and I don’t know if you’ve heard of this title, but “Iron Lady” came out two, three years ago, about Margaret Thatcher’s life, Meryl played Margaret Thatcher. I have to say I watch a range of everything. I’m not really interested in all this 3D stuff, digital stuff, you know like robots that are 50’ high and stuff like that. That doesn’t do it for me. I really like watching character driven movies.

What is your most prized possession?

This is one of them (points to a block on his desk that says “I love that you’re my dad.”) She [my daughter] has this ability to know what I need to hear, and act on it. My greatest pleasure is seeing students on stage blossoming, and doing great things. My oldest grandson is an actor. I don’t know what he’s going to do about it, but he can. Do you ever go to Lamoille stuff? He played Shrek in “Shrek the Musical,” Michael Daily, and last year he played the beast in “Beauty and the Beast.” Um, I have been to their plays, and I support him, but when he was younger it was just fun for him to be in play. That’s not what’s happening now. He’s an actor, a full-blown actor. It’s going to be a hard road, but that’s what he wants to do, and he’s good at it. He’s not a bad singer either.

If you could go back in your career and direct or act in any play, what would it be?

Actually, in January, Patrick Houle, I went over there in January to see the babies, and for a friendly visit. He said, “Do you know ‘The Normal Heart?’” I said “yeah” and I had been wanting to do that play for a long time. I saw Brad Davis in the play when it was a play back in the 1980s, and Patrick just decided that he wanted to do this play. So, I latched on to it right away.

That is really the most interesting thing. Since I’ve been here, I will think of something I want to do, and it will come along on its own. I’m in that, and I’m directing “The Diviners” in the fall. I would love to do “Marat de Sade,” but there are 20 people in it.  It takes place in an insane asylum, and so much fun. It is very interesting, and I haven’t totally ruled it out, but with the number of people, who knows.

“The Normal Heart” is September 17 and 18 here, and then in three different places each of the following weekends. So, I’m going to be directing “The Diviners,” and then on weekends, working on “The Normal Heart.” No matter what I do, it’s always busy like this, but you know, whenever someone offers you something that has been a dream of yours for a while, hey.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?

I would probably not have gotten married, but then I realize I wouldn’t have my daughter. So, everything happens the way it’s supposed. Sometimes it may not be the way you like it, but it usually is something that is supposed to happen.

Is there anything else you’d like the Johnson Community to know about you?

Kindness toward other people is a really good thing to do. There is not enough of that going on, for me anyway.