Five years ago, at age 48, Geoff Wilner M.D. left behind his real-life emergency room drama for the drama of the theater.
Today, with a best performance award at the Maryland Arts Festival for his monologue in the Potomac Company’s Chain Links 1999 and a stint on the former NBC TV show Homicide, this successful doctor turned struggling actor is proving that perseverance pays off.
This Friday night, Wilner will return to PTC in two of its Chain Links 2002 one-act plays.
At 53, Wilner admits that he cannot wait around for his big break.
“I don’t have 20 years,” he said. “I have to make it happen for myself.” And that is exactly what he’s doing with his partner Mark Kokkoros, with whom he is writing and producing an independent film that he can star in. Together they formed a production company and are producing a feature whose filming will take them from Washington, DC to Northern Ireland.
During his 20 years as a senior partner in an emergency room doctor’s group that he founded in 1974, Wilner studied acting and performed. When he tried to break into theater professionally while continuing his medical profession, he burned out trying.
“I wanted to push my work as an actor, but I had to pay the bills,” said Wilner. So he took a break from acting to spend more time with his children and family.
But when a medical condition forced him to look at other avenues, he left his medical career and took the step into acting full time.
“My wife Kari said, ‘You have the opportunity to do something you never could do, go back into,’ and I did,” said Wilner.
He was well prepared for his career change. He had already received an MFA in acting from Catholic University during his years as a physician.
This week, Wilner plays two contrasting roles in PTC’s Chain Links 2002, Suing the Samaritan and Vampires on Disability. In one, he is a blind person who is applying for assistance; in the other, he plays an Archie Bunker type of guy.
“Geoff is very versatile,” said producer Maureen McMurphy. “Geoff is an example of how actors, from high school all the way to the professional, can hone their skills in community theater.”
Another Potomac resident, Scott Michnick will be performing in Joshua Dreeben’s play, Losin’ Susan. Dreeben is also from Potomac.
The six plays, all by area playwrights, are a mix of comedy and drama. Call 301-299-8571.