In the early ’90s, Harry Philibosian’s brother-in-law convinced him to audition for a community theater production at the old Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church on Castor and Kensington avenues. Philibosian was in his 50s, and had no interest in theater before that moment.
“I remember standing backstage and hearing that overture, and that was it. I couldn’t believe how I felt,” he explains. “It was a high like I never felt. I said, ‘I could smoke or drink whatever I want, but I’d never feel like that.’”
After closing his dry-cleaning business, Philibosian earned his Equity card in 1995 and went on to star in nearly 100 local productions, winning two Barrymore Awards along the way.
This week, the 76-year-old actor returns to the stage after a three-year absence due to a debilitating spinal injury. In Theatre Exile’s “Saturn Returns,” Philibosian plays a brooding senior who is haunted by past loves and losses.
“There’s not a lot of roles out there for a guy who can’t walk very well or stand very long,” he says. “But in this part, my problems kind of work with the character, so if I can just make it through the rehearsal process, I’m really excited about the play.”
“Saturn” is penned by famed playwright Noah Haidle, author of “Mr. Marmalade” and “Persephone.” The latest rewrites of the play appeared onstage in London last November, and Philibosian will be the first actor to bring the changes to life in the States.
“You know, I still don’t think I’m very good as an actor,” says Philibosian. “People tell me I’m good, but I sometimes wonder how I got to do this. I have no formal training. All I have is a lot of life experience. I’m just a happy guy — except for a few of those years in the dry-cleaning business.”