“As a trial lawyer I get to write my own script. That’s the key difference,” Frank Plaut explains of his work in the courtroom and on stage.
After 36 years working as a trial lawyer and 18 as a judge, Frank has his fair share of wisdom to share about, well, everything. His ridiculously prestigious credentials don’t hurt — after getting an economics degree from Northwestern University, Frank studied economics in Germany thanks to a Fulbright grant. He followed that up with a degree from Harvard Law, and later became president of the Colorado Bar Association after teaching law for several years.
The credentials are listed off like a résumé. They’re great schools and amazing experiences, but Frank isn’t one for resting on his laurels.
Unfortunately for us, some of the wisdom he’s discovered will remain secret. “All of my anecdotes are off-color,” Frank said, and followed it up with pleading the fifth on that point.
We’re sitting in EverBean, a coffee shop near Evergreen Lake. Everyone behind the counter knows Frank by name, and they talk about the weekend while whipping up “the usual” latte. He’s no stranger to some of the patrons too, and greets them with his characteristic dry humor. Frank and his wife Linda came to Colorado from Massachusetts, looking for somewhere that emphasized the outdoors and was friendly to newcomers. They found it open and welcoming, and they loved the mountains.
It’s been a few years, and Frank and Linda recently celebrated their 55th anniversary with a concert at Mount Vernon Country Club. The two are very different, but maybe that’s what makes it work. They enjoy traveling together to places far and wide and seeing upwards of 35 theatrical productions a year — and, of course, spending time with their 3 daughters.
One of the troubles of moving for Frank was his job. “I got offers in Oregon and Washington,” he explains, “but not in Colorado. Linda got an offer in Colorado.” But that didn’t stop Frank from continuing his law career in a new state. Colorado is more open than a lot of places. In Louisiana, Frank explains, he could have worked in law for 30 or 40 years before getting to where he was after a few years in Colorado.
Frank doesn’t work on criminal cases, so there’s no “defense” and “prosecution.” He usually works for the plaintiff though. “I like to be someone’s champion,” he says, holding up his arms like an Olympic victor.
“Number one: public service,” Frank says, speaking to his favorite aspect of being a judge. “Number two; it’s more manageable than being a lawyer. Sometimes I worked 60 hours a week as a trial lawyer.” He also mentions that some of his favorite cases to work on are those that changed Colorado law.
A lot of what Frank does is centered around interpersonal relations. From the courtroom to the stage, he focuses on telling stories, and maybe more importantly, convincing people to believe those stories. “Actors are always acting,” he notes, and he’s no different.
But Frank’s acting presents an honest, approachable front. His notebook lies to the side of the table, and there’s no phone in sight. “I even take these off when I’m doing openings and closings,” he says, pointing to his already-unobtrusive glasses. He doesn’t want to put up a wall between him and his audience. Of course, that means no reading off notecards, too.
Frank considers his courtroom performances acting — he’s even taught a workshop called “Courtroom Stagecraft 101.” It only seems fitting, then, that he would bring his performance to a non-metaphorical stage. That stage just happens to be in Evergreen.
Like many of us, Frank “did some theatre in high school” and dropped it soon thereafter. Excluding his courtroom performances, Frank stayed out of show business until he moved to the mountains, when he went to see a concert in which his friends, Ann and Mike Moore, were singing. They had just started the Evergreen Chorale; and in 1976, Frank decided it would be fun and joined them.
He hasn’t stopped singing since, and Frank’s now one of four Chorale singers that have been there from the start. He took it a step further in 1980, when he signed up for his first musical. Since then, Frank’s performed in 30 shows (both musicals and plays) and sung in even more concerts.
His favorite show to date is "Brigadoon," a musical about a Scottish adventure to a town that only exists once every 200 years. “If you can get over the premise, there’s great music and great characters,” Frank explains. He also learned a Scottish accent for the show, starting from a book and then working with a dialect coach. The hardest part for him to perfect was the rolling cadence of the sentences.
How did he finally perfect the accent? He and his wife Linda went to Copper Mountain for a weekend of skiing, but Frank refused to ride the lift with her. Instead, he took the singles line, and attempted to convince whoever he rode up with that he was actually from Scotland. Most of the time, it worked.
Some people might resent being ordered around after working with a group for almost 40 years, but Frank isn’t one of those people. He says that one of his favorite aspects of working with the Evergreen Chorale and other theatre groups around town is that “you get to see how the sausage is made” — that is, it offers an inside look into what goes on behind the scenes. He loves watching the dramatic collaboration between the director, musical director, and choreographer in a show (and being a part of the product).
Frank is currently in the Evergreen Chorale’s production of "Kiss Me Kate," a Cole Porter musical that shows the onstage and backstage dynamics of a company performing Shakespeare’s "The Taming of the Shrew." The script describes his role, Baptista, as “an aging character actor;” and Frank thought it was a pretty fitting description for both of them. He’s the oldest cast member (the youngest is 14) and not at all ashamed of it.
For Frank, who has spent a lot of time on both sides of the curtain, "Kiss Me Kate" is an “authentic” portrayal of “interacting and intrigue between actors backstage.” Last seen as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the Evergreen Players’ "Annie," he relishes the chance to take on yet another complex character. Plus, he enjoys the music — Cole Porter’s songs have retained their popularity for many years.
If you haven’t already, you’ll probably see Frank around one of these days. Hopefully, it’s from the audience and not the courthouse.