By Lorraine Wilde
While Whatcom County has a healthy share of talented, hard-working actors, few could argue that they are appearing in more theatre, film, and stand-up comedy performances than 35-year-old Bellingham actor, Glen Nelson Bristow.
A Sehome High School graduate, Glen moved to the Bellingham area when he was just 10 years old. But acting wasn’t on his radar in the early days. “It never occurred to me to attempt acting. I always wanted to try stand-up but I had no idea where to start.” In 2012, Glen took his first improvisational acting class, thinking he’d learn skills for stand-up. One class then became a full year of classes. “I’m a bit of a hedonist. I like to make people laugh, or at least amuse them. I don’t take life too seriously, but I throw myself into everything I do. I want people to be happy, and have good times.”
The following year, Glen jumped into comedy with both feet. He did his first stand-up set in Guffawingham open mic at the Green Frog Acoustic Tavern (The Frog). “A few months later, I discovered that acting was another way to make people laugh, so I showed up for my first audition.” Glen scored his first film role as Goon #1 in Episode II of Wilson Large’s web series, Dark Darkness, and soon after appeared in his first play in the Idiom’s 48-Hour Theatre Festival. Since then, Glen has never looked back.
His typical day begins at 6:00 a.m. and includes a 30-minute commute to his day job as a paralegal in Skagit County. “I think it’s foolish for me to plan to make a living with art. My job helps me afford a theatre lifestyle. It’s very 9 to 5 and has allowed me to audition and perform more than I otherwise could have,” explains Glen. “I sometimes use public transportation because I can learn lines or work on my stand-up.” After a full work day, Glen heads off to a theatre rehearsal by 6:00 or 7:00 p.m., arriving home for dinner around 11:00 p.m. Sleep is an elusive creature for Glen. Even when he’s not rehearsing or performing in a play or musical, his weekends and non-rehearsal nights usually include a film shoot or hosting and performing a stand-up set at one of five venues around Bellingham.
In addition to Guffawingham at The Frog, Glen does stand-up at the oldest 24-Hour restaurant in America, Bellingham’s Horseshoe Café, as well as at Poppe’s 360, the Star Club, and the Upfront Theatre. “My stand-up sets, like many comedians, are largely about relationships,” notes Glen. “I recently developed a 30-minute feature performance for Poppe’s. My next step is to work on a clean 30-minute set. I’ve definitely got dirty covered.”
Glen has a theory about why he’s been able to get so many roles in the past two years. “I get parts because there is a shortage of male actors in the area, especially at auditions for musicals,” giggles Glen. “Not that many guys want to sing and dance. There are college-aged guys willing, but men my age have jobs, obligations, or however you want to define responsibility.” Glen recently appeared in the musicals, A Chorus Line and A Miracle on 34th Street, at the Bellingham Theatre Guild. “My first dancing experience, and by far my favorite character that I’ve played, was as Frank in the Rocky Horror Picture Show. There’s nothing else like him,” beams Glen. “Audiences love Frank. He takes off the cape and they really freak out. He pulls people outside of themselves and they’re completely entertained.”
The next couple of months promise to be very busy for Glen. He recently began shooting season two of the absurd web series Tin Can Odyssey by Bellingham Writer/Director Patrick Timmins. Glen plays Canadian Captain Brendan McKenzie who leads a precarious international mission to colonize Mars. Glen developed his Manitoban accent specifically for the part.
Appearing through March 1 in Ken Ludwig’s farce, Leading Ladies, at the Bellingham Theatre Guild, Glen plays one of two down-and-out Shakespearean actors who comically disguise themselves in order to scam an inheritance from a rich old woman. “I was really excited to play Leo Clark, and planned my winter around the part,” notes Glen.
He is also about to begin rehearsals as the antagonist, Brooks Floyd, in the Idiom’s, The Glasses. Glen will appear in April in the first full production of this play, written by Los Angeles playwright, Ron Burch, and directed by local, Daniel Ruiz, about a real estate agent who inherits a magic pair of glasses that allow him to see people’s secret thoughts.
Glen is enjoying his forays into theatre, film, and stand-up and wants to continue his efforts throughout Whatcom County. “I don’t have degrees. Material gain has never been my motivation. If I were in Los Angeles, I would be type cast. But here I get to play the lead in a range of roles,” explains Glen. “I’m not worried about the future. More laughs with more audiences. That’s all I need.”