Vincent Balstri has worked in theatre since leaving Chicago's Goodman School of Drama in 1968. Roles over the years range from the lead in Charles Ludlam's Bluebeard; to Peechum in Brecht's Three Penny Opera; and Jacques in As You Like It. Ensemble work includes Waiting for Lefty with Seattle's One World Theatre, Animal Farm with the Caravan Farm Theatre of British Columbia. Mr. Balestri was nominated for a best actor award in Chicago for originating the role of Old Buk in the premiere of Paul Peditto's The Life and Times of Charles Bukowski.
Mr. Balestri directed a national children's theater touring group and has directed his own theatre company. He designs and directs acting workshops both privately and for schools. Vincent's first one-actor show, Red Earth: A Western Myth was performed in Canada and the U.S.
In 1980, Vincent began working on what would become Kerouac: the Essence of Jack. While directing Alice in Wonderland at the Punch and Judy Theatre in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, a friend introduced him to Edie Kerouac, the first wife of writer Jack Kerouac. The two developed an instant affinity and Edie encouraged the actor to take on the role he had already been pondering for quite some time. She supplied tapes of Jack reading (unavailable to the public at that time) and they spent hours talking about the era. Vincent began a series of hour-long performances in a friend's loft in Chicago. The first road performance was a benefit for a group of stranded actors at David Thompson University in BC. The story goes that scenes kept being added and improvised for eight hours until the janitor arrived and kicked everyone out. Full production began in 1981; the early shows lasted about three hours with no intermission. As the actor has grown, so has the show. Over the years, Jack's friends and family who have seen the show have provided insights and anecdotes. The performance now is usually about two hours long -- including the intermission.
Essence has played in many cities across the U.S. and Canada, including extended runs in San Francisco and the Bay Area, Chicago, and Austin, Texas. Jack's hometown, Lowell, Massachusetts, has hosted the piece. It has been seen and enjoyed by many of Jack's family and old friends, as well as by those who are less familiar with Kerouac.
"The actor is the lighthouse of his country, civilization and age. He represents the emotions we all feel, objectively. He understands philosophy, psychology, history and religion. He searches in total freedom of the imagination, with his heart, soul and mind, the living being: Man. Our condition as a culture is represented through and by the actor; that is an actor's subtext. It's a very serious, naked, risk-taking profession. The true actor's eyes are his country's eyes."