Story and photo by Keri DeTore
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
The baristas at Bird On A Wire Espresso probably know Allen Galli better than the average Seattleite, but this actor and West Seattle resident is getting national attention for his role as “Sancho Panza” in Pacific Northwest Ballet’s current production of “Don Quixote,” which wraps with a 7 pm performance tonight.
The attention is due to this production’s unique concept and staging by international dance superstar Alexei Ratmansky. What’s unique about this ballet is that two of the main characters: Don Quixote, played by Tom Skerritt, and Galli’s Sancho Panza, don’t dance. Or speak. Allen Galli does however, get thrown into the air.
Galli’s been acting since high school, when he lived in South San Francisco. He moved to Seattle in 1980, and has been acting fairly steadily since then. His roles tend toward the comical, such as “Mr. Grumps” in Seattle Children’s Theater’s production of “Lyle the Crocodile” but he’s also been “Iago” in the Bathhouse theater’s production of “Othello.” He’s acted in Seattle for so long, you have likely seen or heard Galli, and didn’t realize it. He’s appeared in episodes of “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” the 100th episode of “Frasier” (the only episode to actually be filmed in Seattle) and has done radio commercials.
He’s got movie credits on his resume too: “Kansas,” “Mad Love,” “Tootie Pie,” and “Ira Finkelstein’s Christmas,” which you might recall for West Seattle filming sessions last year (palm trees on Alki!).
Galli’s goal has always been to be a working actor. He recalls telling someone that he just needed to make enough money to “Keep a roof over my head, beer in the fridge and do something I love.” And he does love it. Asked what about acting is so fulfilling, he answers: “Part of it is working with other creative people…the collaboration. When you’re able to make a connection with other actors, or in this case, dancers, and then you make that same connection with the audience, it’s really marvelous — it’s a feeling you don’t get anywhere else. And when you’re doing a comedy role and you make people laugh, that’s just wonderful.”
Galli shares the story of another audience connection that impressed him deeply: when doing “Harold and the Purple Crayon” at Seattle Children’s Theater, he was told of a young autistic boy in the audience who usually wasn’t able to communicate with others. During the performance, the boy started talking about the play and talked throughout the entire performance. When it was over, he once again withdrew and stopped talking. Galli says, “That creative process touched something, and it was miraculous. You don’t realize the potential of the work — it’s very humbling.”
He says his role as PNB’s Sancho Panza may be his favorite. Though he’s done many musicals at the 5th Avenue Theater, including the recent “Guys and Dolls,” he’s never been in a ballet.
When he got the call from PNB’s Artistic Director Peter Boal, Galli says, “I laughed, and then immediately said ‘Sure!’ because it’s work! When my wife got home that night I said, ‘Sit down, I have something I have to tell you, words I thought I’d never say,’ and she went pale. I said, ‘I’m going to be in a ballet.’ She just fell apart she was laughing so hard.” He says this is the general reaction he got from people when he told them he’d be in a ballet. “Most people asked, ‘When are you going to get your tu-tu?’ I’d respond, ‘A tu-tu isn’t big enough, I need a twelve-twelve.’ I’ve been getting a lot of razzing.”
However, he adds, “I’m having a ball. PNB is a really fine organization…there’s a real sense of ensemble. Even when people aren’t dancing, they’re watching and applauding. There’s a nice sense of community and I think the show benefits from that. I think we generally have that in Seattle. I can’t say enough about it, and they’ve kind of adopted Tom (Skerritt) and I.”
There are still a few roles Galli would love to tackle such as Falstaff in Henry IV. He’d also like directors to know that he will be available after the last Don Quixote show closes on Sunday!
Tickets are still available for tonight’s DQ finale as of last check – find out more online.