When a year closes out, we look back on the 365 preceding days and see what we remember, what happened that can nourish and strengthen us for the days to come?
I directed a production of the 1946 socialist melodrama An Inspector Calls. I knew I wanted a diverse cast and I worked to get one at auditions. I was overjoyed looking around the audition room that I absolutely could cast this with a cast completely made up of actors of color. It was totally a testament to the incredible wealth, depth and steady growth of Capital Region theater that this was possible. The Inspector says “We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other.”
The Importance of Being Earnest had an incredibly successful run packed with my favorite actors at Curtain Call and I was all set to celebrate its close when I showed up for the final performance and discovered that Carolyn Shields was wracked with nausea. We unwisely pushed her out to the first act and hoped for the best. All was going smoothly until she missed her final entrance in Act I. The cast ad-libbed to intermission and we made the decision that I should go on as Jack’s ward-the 18-year-old, virginal Cecily Cardew with the only costume, a robin’s egg blue hair ribbon. The cast and audience had great fun and I tried to play it as straight as I could. I’ll never forget my partner Chris’s aghast reaction of “Such a pretty girl!”
I was directing a show last year that had 7 parts-5 men and 2 women. There was a turn-out of 30 actors-10 men and 20 women. So, if you were a man, your chances of being cast were 50/50 but if you were a woman it was 1 in 10. After 5 years of teaching my Saturday morning Acting Class and directing many productions which I could not cast my students in, I felt the need to create an opportunity for my class. MEN ON BOATS is the 1869 adventure of the charting of the Colorado River by a one-armed Civil War major and his insane but loyal crew. Playwright Jaclyn Backhaus states in her Notes on Casting that “the characters of MEN ON BOATS were historically cisgender white males. The cast should be made up entirely of people who are not.” So, my diverse “band of brothers” (12 mostly middle-aged women) and I figured out how to portage, ride rapids, traverse waterfalls and save each other’s lives on a bare stage in Averill Park.
Another night I remember was a miraculous performance at UAlbany in October. I saw a young man, Colin Gioia, in their production of Godspell with whom I had worked 8 years ago in Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge at Confetti Stage in the Albany Masonic Lodge. He was Tiny Tim to my Scrooge. Now, here he was playing Jesus. In Obama’s second year in office he was saying “God bless us, everyone!” but now in Trump’s “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Of course, the show goes on from there. I believe in creating impactful work with a community that is collaborative, inclusive and supportive. “We can build a Beautiful City.”
My Favorite 2018 Shows:
The Royale at theREP, Dangerous House at WTF, Cry It Out at DTF, Two Trains Running at Weston, Pool (No Water) by Creative License, King Lear at Confetti Stage, Miles for Mary by The Mad Ones, Everything You Touch at Skidmore, Leni at BST, Is God Is at Soho Rep, Disgraced at CTC, Funny Girl at Mac-Haydn Theatre, Office Hour at Long Wharf, Songs for a New World at St. Rose, Make Believe at Hartford Stage & The Seagull by Northeast Theatre Company.
Recommended This Month:
Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberlyat the REP, 11/23-12/23 https://capitalrep.org/A thoroughly imagined sequel to Pride & Prejudiceby Lauren Gunderson & Margot Melcon, directed by Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill which finds dull, dutiful Mary visiting The Darcy’s for Christmas and meeting a match of her own.
Oh, F**k It’s Christmas!Lea DeLaria at Bard College, 12/8 http://www.bard.edu/news/eventsJazz singer, comic and star of Orange is the New Blackdelights with an off-kilter take on the Holidays.
A Christmas Carol at Sand Lake Center for the Arts, 12/7-12/16 http://slca-ctp.org/Brian Sheldon & Melanie Douglas’s adaptation of the Dickens classic should prove to be a heartwarming treat for the whole family. Get your tickets now!