Juergen K. Tossmann is a Louisville theater mainstay. Most associate him with Bunbury Theatre, where he took the helm in 1991 and currently serves as producing artistic director. But his career actually began in 1978 after he completed an apprenticeship at Actors Theatre of Louisville.
He’s written and produced more than 14 plays at Bunbury throughout the years, including the latest show, “I Bet on the Nag,” which opened April 7. Tossmann loves going to the track in the spring, which is why he decided to set the story and its two characters at Churchill Downs just days before the Derby.
“I Bet on a Nag” is a relationship play in the vein of D.L. Coburn’s “The Gin Game,” says Tossmann, and through all the many plays he’s written, never has one come so quickly.
“Over the last 30 or so years, my wife and I have been going to the meets, together or with family and friends. I was struck by the number of times I was giving ‘lessons’ to novice wagerers,” he explains, adding that he’s anything but an expert. “I probably know as much about the racing form as the next guy, but I would often puff up when asked about what the numbers in the program mean. And more often than not, I lose!”
This got him thinking about a two-character play set at Churchill Downs that involves an avid horseplayer and a novice with secrets.
“I Bet on the Nag” runs April 7-10 and 13-17 at the Henry Clay Theatre. Tickets are $22 ($10 for students, $19 for seniors).
Before the curtain was drawn on opening night, Tossmann answered some important questions …
What’s the most surprising thing on your Bucket List?
Eating a Big Mac right before I kick the bucket. I haven’t had one of those in 30 years. I remember my first one back in 1965. It was the most amazing thing I’d ever tasted. But we all know why we don’t eat them now!
What poster was on your wall in junior high?
I didn’t have any posters on my wall. I shared a room with my brother, and it was pretty stark. If I could have had posters, I would have had Beatles, The Temptations and Stop the War posters.
If you were mayor, to whom would you give the key to the city?
I’d give it to my dear friend Matt Orme. He is an amazing human being and gifted actor who is overlooked in this town. If I had two keys, I’d give the other to Barbara Sexton Smith. What a remarkable leader she is. Barbara did an outstanding job with the Fund for the Arts and continues to be a force in this town. Three keys and my lovely wife Kit gets one. The gold one!
What are your preferred pizza toppings?
Pepperoni (which I shouldn’t eat), mushrooms, green peppers, anchovies (which people don’t like because of some myth perpetuated over decades that said you shouldn’t like anchovies), onions and pesto.
If you could be any age for a week, what would it be?
31 — It was the age when my daughter was born, and I’d love to re-live her birth and the week following that event. She is a dream girl, and I so want to engulf my senses with those memories of her in that moment in time.
What famous person do people say you resemble the most?
It depends on who you ask. But most often I get Sigmund Freud — especially when I wear my pensive cloak. I don’t see it, but hey, it’s a German thing.
Who would you most like to be stuck with in an elevator?
At my age? If you were to ask me when I was in my 20s, I’d have a snap answer! Actually, I was in an elevator with Ned Beatty once. I’d like to be stuck with him for an hour or so just to pick his brain. I guess it would have to be Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I spent a year studying his life. I wrote a play about him, and it would be humbling to spend the time just absorbing the essence of that great man.