Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Rejoining the Madness

Popped down to KenCen for a photo call for "Shear Madness," which I will be rejoining for the spring daytime company (actually, three days and one night per week). I'm sure I will be blogging more about the Madness that is Shear, a production I have been privileged to participate in a couple of times over the years.

For today, the task at hand was snapping pix of the actors, in character, for the lobby display. I was very glad to be present, as the picture previously used for me in the show resembles neither man nor beast. It was fun meeting the newbies who will be learning the show from scratch, and especially hoot-full to be working with Catie Flye, who directed me in "Christmas at the Old Bull and Bush" at Arena many moons ago.

Rejoining the show will be the first in a series of very nice gigs scheduled for the coming months. 007 is looking up!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Shakespeare Reach-Around

The Shakespeare Theatre (now: Company) has been bestowing their annual Will Award since 1988, and the Gala Awards Ceremony is a big money-maker for the Free For All at Carter Barron. It's a worthy cause, so the occasional eye-roller (Mel Gibson?) can be overlooked. From Joe Papp to Christopher Plummer, from Patrick Stewart to Maggie Smith, the recipients list reads like a who's who (or who used to be who) of high-profile classical theatre. Of course, because the event during which the award is bestowed is a fund-raiser, all the recipients are substantial stars. We are not likely to see the Will Award bestowed on Simon Russell Beale or Antony Sher until they star in a hit movie or TV series.

Until now. This year, The Shakespeare Theatre Company will be bestowing the Will Award upon...themselves.

Emery Battis, Floyd King, Ted van Griethuysen, David Sabin, and Ed Gero are all actors who helped ignite excitement in the classics through their performances over the years. Helen Carey, Andrew Long, Tana Hicken, and Philip Goodwin have all lent their talents to the company many, many times. But I wonder about a few of the other recipients. Avery Brooks? Patrick Page? Geraint Wyn Davies? These fine gents have appeared a few times at The Shakes, and apparently are now considered actors who have substantially influenced the success of the theatre.

Good for them and the theatre, I suppose.

But if Mr. Page is considered a member of the company after a grand total of two roles, and Mr. Wyn Davies after three, then where are Kelly McGillis, Pat Carroll, Caitlin O'Connell and Craig Wallace? How was this list of "company members" compiled?

Wally Acton and Fran Dorn have not been seen in these parts in many moons (the Twelfth Night reading at KenCen notwithstanding), but congratulations on your lasting influence on the company.

There is even confusion about how many actors are actually receiving the award. The Shakespeare Theatre website announces 13 honorees, though Michael Kahn is excited about only 11 of them. Apparently, the press release announcing the recipients lists 15 actors scheduled to get the award, including Nancy Robinette, who is not mentioned elsewhere.

So maybe the Awards list continues to grow. Better snag your ticket to the ceremony; you might be winning one.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


A very nice and relaxed general for Carlyn Davis today. She called last week to set up a meet-and-greet, completely forgetting that I met her several years ago. Ah, well, maybe this one will stick. They put me on tape for their files, with a brief monologue, then reading a very generic side. But the techie, Jan, was warm and welcoming.

My film career has been fairly limited, with the exception of a terrific little part in John Waters' "Pecker." (My catch phrase swept the nation: "Everybody wants to be in Vogue!") Otherwise, background work has been my bread and butter in the film world. I've hauled dead bodies in "Homicide," lectured (in silence) the young Jeb Bartlett in "West Wing," and helped Kirstie Alley and Tim Allen escape legal punishment in "For Richer or Poorer." My significant role in the indie "Red Nights" has been relegated to the VHS bin, with little hope that the film will ever be released on DVD.

So Carlyn, do with me what you will...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Hazy Hayes

A year or so ago, the nominating process for the Helen Hayes Awards was redesigned, in hopes of allowing the smaller budgeted theatres a fairer share of the nominations. That hasn't seemed to help much this year, in which the heavy hitters clearly dominate the proceedings. There is already debate on DC's premiere theatre blog regarding the choices this year, which happens every year and is healthy and fun. Other bloggers have joined the fray, and that's healthy, too.

There seems general consensus that Studio's Fat Pig was the biggest shut-out, no pun intended. The Hayes folks have also acknowledged a huge error in allowing Woolly's Faculty Room to be nominated as a new play, which would be a big surprise to the Humana Festival, which premiered the show in 2003. However, the Haysies have only rectified half of the problem by removing it from consideration. Surely there is another new play which should have been nominated in its place? To my shame, I am not an avid attender of New Plays, but two I did attend this year seem naturals: Monkeyboy at Charter and Nevermore at Signature.

I would like to have seen Andrew Long's performance as Henry Higgins at Signature get some recognition, for it was an engrossing take on a role which we all have preconceptions about. (Pet Peeve time: Long is clearly an Actor Who Sings, rather than a Singer Who Acts, and that may be why his turns as Higgins and as Fagin at Olney were hailed as terrific performances, but ignored at awards time. Too many people believe that, if the notes are not beautifully sung in a legit style, it is not a valid Musical Performance. I have fought this mindset throughout my career, with only marginal success. But I digress...)

I am sorry that both Christine Baranski and Harriet Harris were overlooked for their work in Mame, a production which suffered from insufficient rehearsal before the critics arrived, sinking its chances of a New York transfer, and probably sinking its chances for Hayes nominations, too.

For those who WERE nominated, I say yea and bravo to Stephanie Burden's bookish Helena in the Folger Midsummer, and the multiple nods to Round House's Prayer for Owen Meany including its leading actor, Matthew Detmer. I also applaud Karl Miller's nod as Rep Stage's Hamlet and Caitlin O'Connell's as the wife in The Shakespeare Theatre Company's Enemy of the People. However, I have to admit I found that production on the whole to be stagy and unconvincing, and I am perplexed by the nominations of most of the cast.

Speaking of being perplexed, Ralph Cosham must be the Ellen Burstyn of this year's Hayes nominees, as his role in Midsummer is equivalent to her 12 second performance in Mrs. Harris, for which she was nominated for an Emmy. There is no better proof that judges nominate names they recognize more often than performances that excel.

Speaking of performances that excel, I loved Sherri Edelen's Kost in Arena's Cabaret, and J. Fred Shiffman's Ernst, too. Fred was a hoot in She Loves Me as well, but I would have liked to see Bobby Smith's understated work in Studio's Caroline, or Change in this category.

I'm sure there will be more debate as the Big Night nears. I am not yet sure I will be in attendance to cheer the winners, as I'll be in tech at Washington Stage Guild that week, but I'll surely be there in spirit...

Monday, February 12, 2007

D.C. Doings

Big night in the old town tonight, as The Shakespeare Theatre Company's series of staged readings presents "Edward III," one of the bard's apocryphal plays. Wonder if Joe Banno will sneak in to grab some pointers for his upcoming full production of the piece at Washington Shakespeare Company.

But the bigger to-do tonight will be the announcement of the nominations for this year's Helen Hayes Awards. Just a prediction, but I imagine the show to beat will be Round House's "Prayer for Owen Meany," an epic staging of a difficult piece produced with verve and heart. Expect multiple noms.

This year will be a calm one for my nerves. The only local performance I gave which was eligible flew completely under the radar, and deservedly so. I doubt we had 200 people see the thing the entire four week run!

Better luck next year...

Orson's party

I caught the matinee of "Orson's Shadow" today, thank you Round House for your 10 dollar tix for Equity members. I love all backstage stories, and Jerry Whiddon's production revives the hunch that all of us, no matter what the level of prestige, experience the theatrical life with a mixture of ego and insecurity. Kudos to the cast for playing the play, and thus reflecting their characters in a much more realistic fashion than if they had resorted to simple impersonation.

Kathryn Kelley's parting shots reminded me of the chaotic callback this weekend out at Baltimore Shakespeare Festival. Dozens of actors were called at the same time, and expected to wait for their moment with the director in a cramped ante-room which had maybe 5 chairs. The director did not seem to know who or why anyone had been called back, and the time it took to try to pair actors up with acting partners effectively was, in a word, wasted. Kimberley, where are you?