Friday, September 17, 2010

Between a Rock and an ART Place

My Boston Theater career began, "officially", in 1976, on July 14, when the first play I was in "post-academia" opened (May Day, about the 70's Anti-War demonstrations in DC, written by Michael Wikes and directed by Andy Golov, both BU theater grads, at the former Boston Arts Group Theater, a second story black box on Boylston near the Pru). That fall, I toured coast to coast with Maxine Klein's Little Flags Theater, followed by Vatzlav ("Bobby Bat") at People's Theater (where else but in Cambridge), readings and workshops, and my first of many outdoor summer shows with the now defunct Open Door Theater (playing the radio announcer Gabriel Heatter in Toby Armour's Masque & Revelries of Calamity Jane {Kathryn Woods} and Her Would-Be Daughter Mrs. McCormick {M. Lynda Robinson}).
Then came one of my favorite roles ever: Grundeis, "the notorious thief" in a touring production of the German children's story Emil and The Detectives, with music by Andy Gaus, and book and direction by the Next Move Theater's Karen MacDonald.

And there lies my dilemma.

Before and since that tour, I became close friends with Karen, who I've always felt was one of the most talented actors I've known. (In the mid to late 90's, we were NY roommates in Brooklyn). Karen's friendship, support and love have had great importance in my professional and personal lives. When Diane Paulus became Artistic Director of the ART, I heard from many about the changes afoot, the dissolution of the Acting Company (which was actually begun by Robert Woodruff), and questionable season choices.

The "old" ART, which under Robert Brustein and his successors had produced some of my favorite shows (A Midsummer Night's Dream with the malevolent and inspired Puck of Mark Linn Baker, Comedy of Errors with Karen and Cherry Jones in their toilet-paper-doll dresses, Six Characters In Search Of An Author, True West, King Stag, No Exit, Mother Courage, 2008's Endgame, among many others) and some of the most maddening (Shakespeare's Pericles, Trojan Barbie, When It's Hot It's Cole, to name just a few), was no more.

At some point I stopped going unless Karen was featured, and post-show conversations were more about the process and "the weather".

Now, with the controversy surrounding Diane Paulus, the "a.r.t.", and the now infamous Will LeBow Letter, I find myself (having established this blog) needing to register a response.

I'm torn (how many weeks have I been composing this entry?) between past loyalties and the realization that I'm enjoying myself, at both the Loeb and at Oberon, with the "sense and sensibilities" of this "new regime".

I've boogied down at The Donkey Show, jumped to my feet at Best of Both Worlds, and left humming the tunes of Johnny Baseball.

I've also watched Karen (if possible) grow, deepen, and continue to excel in productions all over New England, most notably in All My Sons in a stellar performance at the Huntington, and in the tour-de-force cast full of characters in The Blonde, The Brunette, and the Vengeful Redhead at the Merrimack in Lowell.

My "Pollyanna 'Can't We All Just Get Along' " outlook is evident, and has been criticized by many.

As the wonderful Tommy Derrah sings in the current runaway hit production of Cabaret, "So What?".

I mourn the loss of the repertory company of actors, I feel for my friends and colleagues who are so personally and professionally upset, but I embrace the change.
Maybe I'm just a musical comedy kid with a penchant for "the immersive experience". But I'm not on board the "Get Her" train (a blog I read used that italicized phrase as an entry title). I'm looking forward to the coming season with bright, wide eyes.

And I can't wait to see Karen in Bus Stop at the Huntington

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful........I analyzed everything on your FB wall.