At 94, Mike Nussbaum Is The Oldest Working Stage Actor In Show Biz At 94, Mike Nussbaum is reportedly the oldest working stage actor in the country. He is currently starring in a play at the Northlight Theatre in Skokie, Ill.
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At 94, Mike Nussbaum Is The Oldest Working Stage Actor In Show Biz

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At 94, Mike Nussbaum Is The Oldest Working Stage Actor In Show Biz

At 94, Mike Nussbaum Is The Oldest Working Stage Actor In Show Biz

At 94, Mike Nussbaum Is The Oldest Working Stage Actor In Show Biz

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/652736839/652872499" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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In Curve of Departure, Mike Nussbaum portrays a grandfather who is confronting loss and decline. Michael Brosilow hide caption

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Michael Brosilow

Before Mike Nussbaum started acting professionally in his 40s, he was trying to make a living as an exterminator.

"I was acting since I was 9 years old ... but I was doing community theater for many years before I went ahead with it as a professional," Nussbaum says.

These days Nussbaum is earning rave reviews for his portrayal of Rudy, a grandfather who is confronting loss and decline, in Rachel Bond's play Curve of Departure at the Northlight Theatre near Chicago.

Nussbaum won a Drama Desk Award for his performance in David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross in 1984. He's done lots of Mamet, lots of Arthur Miller, and had featured turns in several films, including Men in Black and Fatal Attraction.

He has done a lot — and at 94 years old, he is reportedly the oldest working stage actor in America.

For the role of Rudy, Nussbaum has to look death in the face, but he says that's not a problem at all.

"I think anybody who reaches my age is aware that it is a gift to be able to live this long and not to expect that it will go on much longer," he says. "In my note to BJ Jones, who directed the show and is one of my oldest and dearest friends, I said, 'If this play is my last, it's a great one to go out on. ' "

Nussbaum says that is truly how he feels.

"I am gifted and lucky to still be able to do the thing that is the most fun for me in life," he says. "As long as I can do it, I will."

In Northlight Theatre's production of Relativity, Nussbaum portrays theoretical physicist Albert Einstein. Michael Brosilow hide caption

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Michael Brosilow

In Northlight Theatre's production of Relativity, Nussbaum portrays theoretical physicist Albert Einstein.

Michael Brosilow

One thing that Nussbaum says helps with his continuing performances is his ability to project loudly from the stage.

"Audiences are delighted with an old actor who can speak loud because most of my audiences are also old and they don't hear the young actors as well," he says.

Nussbaum will turn 95 in December and is looking ahead to his next role, for which he will step into the shoes of the gravedigger in Hamlet at Chicago's Shakespeare Theater next April.

"After that I have no idea," he says. "It would take some courage for a theater to hire somebody who's 95 and I'm just hoping that somebody will."