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“Here Comes the Judge!”

Posted Jan. 16, 2012

Kent State Trumbull Instructor and Warren Municipal Court Judge Thomas P. Gysegem cuts loose in Footloose

enter photo description
The cast of SummerStock 34's theatre production of
poses for a photo. Circled at the left side is
Kent State Trumbull Part-time Justice Studies Instructor
and Warren Municipal Court Judge Thomas P. Gysegem.

Thomas P. Gysegem can be called a lot of things, including assistant prosecutor, judge and teacher. But there is one tag many people don’t know that they can hang on the longtime law man – actor.

And it was his role as a part-time justice studies instructor at Kent State University at Trumbull that brought the Warren Municipal Court judge back to the stage this past summer after a self-imposed sentence away from acting.

“I was on campus teaching a class, and when I let everyone out for a quick break, I stumbled out into the hallway for a minute and found myself right in front of the theatre,” says Gysegem. “I ran into a few friends that I had performed with in community theatre, and everyone asked if I was there to audition for (SummerStock 34’s production of) Footloose.

“I told them I was only there to teach that evening, but when I learned that Renee Taunee was directing, I thought I’d wander in and say hello. As soon as I walked in, she said ‘Oh, you’re here to audition!’”

And despite having a full plate already, the former Trumbull County assistant prosecutor acquiesced to the pressure and gave it a go, soon finding himself in the role of a high school principal for the shows three-week run on the Kent State Trumbull stage.

“It was a small role, and I’m just happy that I could contribute to such a fine cast,” says Gysegem. “The music was terrific, the adult leads were off the charts and the kids, well, they were just phenomenal.”

It seems as though the theatre-going public agreed. With a slate of nine performances spread across three weekends, each performance played to a packed house.

“The summer stock program is such a great one,” Gysegem says. “Finances for programs like that are always an issue, but when you stage productions like that that play to full houses and you see the local talent, it really should serve as a source of pride for the community.”

Taking the stage in community theatre is nothing new for Gysegem, as the Howland High grad (’77) has been doing just that for almost a decade with the Niles-based Trumbull New Theatre (TNT), despite having no prior acting experience.

“I had always enjoyed going to the theatre and had toyed with the thought of (acting), but had never done it before,” says Gysegem.

But when a casting call for a local production of 12 Angry Men came along, it seemed only natural that the time was at hand.

The rookie thespian landed a minor role as one of the jurors, and despite the lack of stage experience, felt he was already well versed in the craft.

“I had absolutely no acting in my background – just trail lawyering,” Gysegem says, laughing. “The courts are a theatre of their own!”

From there, Gysegem took the stage in almost a half dozen other productions, including a Felix award-winning performance (best supporting actor) in the TNT production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 2005.

“Some lawyers and judges use golf (to relax), but I don’t,” Gysegem says. “Acting is my golf. Besides, it’s cheaper, and after seeing my golf game, someone advised me not to bother pursuing it!”