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Have you seen this man? Sand is all over

By DAN LYBARGER Special to the Democrat-Gazette

This article was published April 20, 2018 at 1:51 a.m.

Veteran actor Paul Sand is coming to North Little Rock for a benefit for Little Rock’s Kaleidoscope Film Festival.

It's far easier to find the Tony Award winning stage and screen actor Paul Sand than it is to locate Waldo.

If you're channel-surfing you might find him playing a rabbi on Joan of Arcadia, a doctor on St. Elsewhere, a passenger on the Love Boat or a Norwegian-American farmer in the 2005 indie movie Sweet Land.

He has managed to appear both in the '70s flight attendant comedy Flying High and the movie Laying Low. With 86 acting credits on IMDB.com, it's not surprising that he has also been co-stars with A-listers such as Robert Redford (The Hot Rock), Barbra Streisand (The Main Event) and Richard Pryor (Wholly Moses!).

In a career that has stretched from Bewitched and the nanobudgeted dark comedy Chuck & Buck to Curb Your Enthusiasm, it's hard to cover everything that Sand has done or what he has to say about acting, filmmaking, television or theater.

He'll be around to answer some of the questions that might pop up with An Evening with Paul Sand at The Joint Theater and Coffeehouse in North Little Rock on April 23 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $100, with the proceeds going to support Little Rock's Kaleidoscope LGBT Film Festival in August.

LUCKY NERVES

Sand, a Santa Monica, Calif., native, started his career after an incident that might have ended others.

While he would later learn mime from the legendary French artist Marcel Marceau and is still starring in and directing plays at the Santa Monica Public Theatre, which he helped found, Sand recalls by phone how his stage fright actually helped him land his first paying gig in a vaudeville parody starring the legendary Judy Garland (The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St. Louis).

"They wanted me to audition as a chorus boy," he recalls. "They started playing music, and I got up and was dancing and miming and pretending I was an MGM dancing star. And she walked in, and she was a wonderful audience and laughed at everything I did. And then I said, 'I'm sick, and I'm going to throw up.' I went into the alley, just out of nerves, I was sort of dry heaving against the wall. There's the little hand sort of holding my forehead.

"I turned around, and it was Judy Garland, sort of holding my forehead. I said, 'I'm sorry. I do this when I get nervous.' And she said, 'Don't worry. When we're on the road, you can use my bucket.' I said, 'Does that mean I've got the job?' And then she said, 'Yeah. Do you sing?' I didn't know whether I could sing or not. Just looking at her face, I thought I was in a movie, and I thought, what would Donald O'Connor do? He would lie. So, I said yes. I took some lessons, and it turned out I could carry a tune."

Another early success was his performance in the Broadway play Story Theatre by Paul Sills. Angela Lansbury handed him his Tony for the performance, and it's not surprising to hear that he later worked with her on Murder She Wrote, where she solved yet another homicide.

"That was kind of a coincidence," he admits. "I was suspecting she was the killer all along."

LONG DISTANCE RUNNER

Sand never stopped doing stage work, but became omnipresent on TV after returning to Los Angeles.

"I was sort of offered to stay in New York and turn into sort of a Broadway stage actor. And the idea didn't appeal to me. Isn't that funny? I had the opportunity to do a lot of television, and I just liked the idea of a wider audience and frankly more money. That was a choice. I didn't want to hang around Manhattan," he recalls.

When told that he's still running on all four cylinders, he jumps in and asks, "Only four?"

Whatever engine seems to be powering him, it's striking how none of his enthusiasm for the job has faded. It's easy to imagine more credits will show up on IMDB.com soon.

"I tell you someplace along the line, I just decided that I want to have fun all the time. It does not mean going to parties. It means fun in the kind of work that I do. I can rehearse for 20 hours a day and not even know it," he says. "I've never been a joiner, so I'm just living my life the way I feel like it. I like to watch the audience's faces."

One factor that might have contributed to his longevity is that fact that he isn't easy to classify. Sand (whose given surname is Sanchez) is the son of a Mexican dad and a Russian mom.

"There doesn't seem to be a problem with my playing anything," Sand says. " What really worked is when I joined the Second City company in Chicago. [Alumni include Oscar-winner Alan Arkin, Tina Fey and Bill Murray.] All of us just sort of got known in the business. Once you're known, they don't care what you look like."

He has ably played nebbishes, but in a recent stage review (which is sampled at PaulSandProjects.com) of Kurt Weill songs, he performs the tunes sporting a creepy red glove. Weill's melodies accompany lyrics about murder and other crimes, so that's appropriate, but Sand does very little to convey menace. Still he creates more chills standing still than Ozzy Osbourne can at full fury.

"I don't like to do anything too big. If you just sort of feel it, it comes through. With so many actors, we feel so insecure, like we're sort of faking it, so we add on too many movements and things. But if you just relax and pretend you're a bad guy, all the moves happen," he explains.

"If I'm on the Broadway stage, I don't do anything different than I would in a movie or television. I don't do anything bigger on the stage, or smaller. I've always heard actors say that there's a big difference. It shows. You can just stand on the stage and think something, and the audience catches on."

Sand has been friends with University of Arkansas professor Stephen Stanley for several years. Stanley will moderate the event, but Sand recalls that another fact makes him eager to return.

"(Stanley) called me and asked me if I wanted to do a class. He flew me out. I taught a class, and I really thought the students were amazing. There was no attitude. Everybody was friendly and just eager to learn or understand what I had to say. I'll do this any time. I really liked them a lot, so the teachers must be great," he laughs.

MovieStyle on 04/20/2018

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