He was born in Brooklyn and moved to Queens as a youth. It was there that he began his love affair with the theater.
“I was 8 years old when I started in the theater. I was in a school play, I fell in love with doing it and I haven't stopped since,” said Ackman.
Eventually Ackman ended up in Boston. He trained for a career in computers, which he did for many years until the lure of the stage was too strong. He soon went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
In deciding to return to his passion, Ackman reflected: “I always had my finger on the pulse of theater. It''s something that I've to do and its something that I will do for the rest of my life in one capacity or another, it's just too much fun.”
Ackman is too modest to confess to the extraordinary number of productions with which he has been involved. Suffice it to say, he has filled most roles around a theater from acting to directing to all things in between.
Typically he works on two or three productions simultaneously. The breakneck pace of scheduling would be enough to dizzy most people. Ackman reported that a typical day finds him awake by 8 a.m. and not home until after midnight seven days per week.
He has worked extensively with The Shoestring Theater in Lake Helen, The Center Players in Maitland and The Stage in Winter Springs; these are only his most recent endeavors, though.
Now involved with the Princess Theater, he and a group of three other directors make up “The Princess Players,” a group intent on reviving the old movie house and turning it into a true community theater. Their goal is to present a diverse offering for local actors and theater-goers alike in the effort to promote the theatrical arts by putting on several plays per year.
When undertaking a production, Ackman will study the work for months in advance.
“I will read the show three, four, five times. I will lay out the set. I will think about who I want or the types of people I want in each of the roles. I do all of this prep work before we even audition,” he said.
A sensitive director, Ackman is careful not to overwhelm his the schedules of his cast and crew once the roles are filled.
“Typically we rehearse three times a week, two and a half to three hours a night. 'Cause as an actor, I don't only direct, I act as well. I know what its like when you have a director that wants you at the theater five nights a week when you have a full time job... I know what it's like trying to work a full day and then go to rehearsal. So I keep it down to three nights a week if I can – until tech week when everybody needs to be there every night. Then we go until we're done. I try to balance it very carefully,” he said.
Ackman is continually conscious of his actors' process yet cognizant of his own role in the organization.
“As a director you're always tweaking... If I see something going wrong I try to correct it. If the timing is wrong, I just remind them... One of the jobs of the director is to be the eyes of the audience and the eyes of the performers, to show them what they cannot see,” he said.
“Moon Over Buffalo” is a farcical comedy centering around a five person repertory company of washed-up actors who persist in their dreams to make it to the top. With slapstick timing and self-referential humor, this cast of locals keeps the revolving door spinning and the audience in stitches.
“In 'Moon Over Buffalo,'” said Ackman, “because it's such a fast paced show, they're running in and out of doors, they literally have to be on top of their timing or the show is not as funny-- that's part of the challenge but a lot of the fun. To have one door closing while another is opening to keep it moving... There's nobody who has walked out of that show who has not said 'Wow! That was so much fun; I laughed, and laughed, and laughed.' Its a great entertainment and the cast has done and excellent job.”
Jessica Pirani can be reached at email@example.com.