Love Boat TV star Ted Lange teaches students about show business

Southwest welcomed aboard one of America’s favorite TV bartenders, “Isaac Washington” (a.k.a. Ted Lange) from the long-lived TV series, “The Love Boat,” to the Macon Cove Campus and Whitehaven Center April 17 and April 22.  A prolific actor of stage and screen, director, playwright and educator, Lange received the NAACP’s Renaissance Man Theatre Award, the Heroes and Legends HAL Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Dramalogue Award.  In May of 2018, Lange received an honorary star plaque on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to “The Love Boat.”

Ted Lange gestures while reciting Shakespeare during his master acting class at Southwest.

Ted Lange gestures while reciting Shakespeare during his master acting class at Southwest.

Lange was in Memphis as an artist-in-residence with the Blues City Cultural Center at the invitation of the center’s co-founders, Southwest Associate Professor of Communications, Graphic and Fine Arts Levi Frazier, and his wife, Deborah. Its signature program, Peach in the House, received a National Endowment for the Arts Challenge Grant in support of its activities to engage youth to promote peace and reduce violence through creative arts platforms. Lange also was a guest speaker at the center’s 40th anniversary celebration held at Hattiloo Theatre April 23.

During his 2-week residence, Lange taught a master Shakespearean acting class at the Macon Cove Campus. Though some of the students in the master acting class were too young to know about “The Love Boat,” Lange humorously told them he’ll be forever immortalized in syndication. How he got to play a part on the TV show was not smooth-sailing.  It took Lange several attempts to convince the show’s producers to allow his character, “Isaac,” to even speak, let alone become a major part of the crew, despite his notable repertoire of acting roles.

So what does “The Love Boat” have to do with Shakespeare? While directing one of the episodes, legendary English actress Lynn Redgrave convinced him to apply to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. “At the time I told her my goal was to have a career in American TV,” said Lange, to which she replied, ‘I’m sorry, I thought you wanted to be an actor.’” Soon after, during the show’s hiatus, Lange set sail to London to study Shakespeare.

“If you are going to be an actor, you should have the complete works of Shakespeare in your library,” Lange said. “It can help you with contemporary plays because reciting Shakespeare teaches you how to use words and phrases.”  Throughout the acting class, Lange recited several passages from Shakespeare’s plays and asked students for readings.  He demonstrated how voice inflection and physicality of movement can influence the meaning of a word or phrase.  The students were excited to practice some of their own works with Lange, who coached them on their acting skills.

At the “Night in Whitehaven” event, hosted by Levi Frazier’s communications class, Lange spoke to an audience about his career as a Hollywood actor, director and playwright.  Memphis City Council Vice-Chair Patrice Robinson introduced the famous actor. “It’s vitally important to have someone like Ted Lange speak to members of our Whitehaven community,” Robinson said. “Anytime we have someone share their talents with our youth, whether it is acting, music, or the arts, they learn how to express themselves and keep engaged.” 

Lange’s talk in Whitehaven focused on the challenges he faced as an African-American actor in Hollywood and his playwriting career.  He mentioned the band of fellow African-American actors he hung out with during his early days as an aspiring actor. “We all encouraged each other – in this business, it’s important to have a support system,” Lange emphasized.  He also mentioned some of the plays he has written, calling himself a footnote historian. “I find historical moments in American history and uncover the African-Americans who were part of that movement because those individuals – that African-American experience – is usually a footnote.” Lange referenced Mary Bowser as an example of someone largely unknown who played a key role in American history as a slave to Jefferson Davis and Union spy in the Confederate “White House.” 

In addition to Lange’s presentation, representatives from the Whitehaven Camera Club and Whitehaven Rotary Club outlined their upcoming club activities which are held at the Whitehaven Center.

Levi Frazier, Keisha Earnest, Ted Lange, Patrice Robinson and Deborah Frazier at the Night at Whitehaven event.

Levi Frazier, Keisha Earnest, Ted Lange, Patrice Robinson and Deborah Frazier at the Night at Whitehaven event.