Cricket's Notebook by Larry Stark

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide



entire contents copyright 1997 by Larry Stark

Sunday, 14 September '97 --- Who The Hell Is Larry Stark? Part 2

Larry Stark is just a fat old man with a cane.

How painfully true that is. But should you care to learn the sordid details of this man's disreputable past and questionable companions --- unsuitable as they are for portrayal on such a public front-end page such as this --- you'll have to repair to a much more private page...

Okay. We alone now?

Actually, Don Gillis was the one who said:

"Hello Larry:
"Since I have been doing theatre reviews, I have a lot of people asking me about the theatre mirror--- especially...WHO IS LARRY STARK?
How about a nice bio of you on the theatre mirror?"

Well, oddly enough the necessity never occurred to me, but why not?
I'll tell you who I was and what I remember about theater.


Born 4 August 1932.
I lived in East Brunswick, New Jersey until 1957.

The first play I remember was a puppet-performance of "Aladdin" in the two-room/k-4th grade school a short walk down highway S-18 from my home.
When the genii appeared out of the puff of smoke, the real actor looked huge!

In South River High School (1946-50)

I turned myself on to science-fiction, and then science-fiction "fandom" --- a loose postal network of people who wrote and mimeographed their own personal magazines for mutual delight. An English teacher (Mrs. Appleby) encouraged my writing, and I started doing short-stories, then radio-plays.
(Remember that I grew up hearing half a dozen "plays" every day over radio, so I wanted to be Norman Corwin when I grew up. Hell, I STILL want to be Norman Corwin when I grow up!!!)

A French and Speech & Drama teacher (Mrs. Small) got me on the stage (Stage Manager in THE HAPPY JOURNEY FROM TRENTON TO CAMDEN & The Professor in LITTLE WOMEN).
One afternoon Mrs. Small sent me to a parochial school in New Brunswick to watch a short, round, ugly little man do some readings, including playing all the parts in all the rude-mechanicals scenes and "Pyramus & Thisby" from "Midsummer Night's Dream". He was Charles Laughton.

First Broadway show I saw: closing night of "Guys & Dolls"; second, Julie Harris & Boris Karloff in "The Lark".

Spent six years commuting from home to Rutgers University (night) College(AB, English), and a semester of Graduate Library School. (1950-56)

Drafted in 1952 (for eighteen days; asthma), missing a semester's classes. Spent it coiling wire. Spent the money from a job every weekend in New York City at George Ballanchine's City Ballet, and plays of all sorts.

At the World Science Fiction Convention Labor Day of 1956 met two science fiction fans who offerred me a bed in their Cambridge apartment. I left New Jersey forever in January 1957.

First summer here I played The Doctor in THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER, then two tiny roles in TIGER AT THE GATES that fall, both Harvard productions. Gave up acting for freelance (i.e. unpaid) stagehanding. Worked the second show on the Loeb Drama Center stage, and shows all around Harvard and Cambridge for the next five years.

About 1963 recruited by Joseph Hanlon to review plays in THE TECH at MIT during his senior year.
About 1965 Hanlon came back from Tulane with a Masters in Math, to work on a Doctorate in Particle Physics at Tufts. He founded BOSTON AFTER DARK (now called The Boston PHOENIX), and my review of HOT SEPTEMBER appeared in the second edition (a musical based on Inge's PICNIC, it closed in Boston).
Reviewed plays for six years (the first three of them unpaid); the last two of those years I saw 150 and then 200 plays; in London in 1970 saw 15 plays and a movie in two weeks; went there again in 1972, saw 60 plays in ten weeks of summer.

On B.A.D. Steven M. Mindich covered Broadway try-outs; I covered college, community, and off-Broadway shows, and we alternated The Charles Playhouse and Theater Company of Boston, until Mindich became publisher and I became Theater Editor. Quit in 1972 when told the new editor expected only one major review a week.

Lee VanderLaan "loaned" me a computer about 1992, and thought that some sort of Internet Website might be a good and maybe profitable idea.

We launched THE THEATER MIRROR in October of 1995.

But those are just "facts". There are also memories....

I can still remember B.S. Pulley taking the cigar out of his mouth as Big Julie to rasp "I came to shoot crap. Let's shoot crap!"
And I remember Julie Harris ending the play saying, directly to me in my front-row seat in the balcony "Well, let it end here, then ... if nobody minds."
I remember Eartha Kitt singing up in a tree-house in "Mrs. Patterson" and Ethel Barrymore playing an Eleanor Roosevelt likealook U.N. ambassadress in "The Prescott Proposals" and "La Boheme" down in the Village with only two pianos.
I remember seeing a matinee of four Ballanchine ballets, only to notice that the last two rows of the orchestra were full of people excitedly talking in Russian --- the Kirov Company was here on a cultural exchange.
I remember helping to strike three different Harvard shows in one week --- I was especially good at coiling light-cables.
I remember the Rose Coffeehouse and the Caravan Theatre and The Cambridge Ensemble and The Hub Theatre Centre and chasing The Theater Company of Boston from one hotel to another. Ralph Waite, Paul Benedict, Larry Bryggman, Blythe Danner, Bronia Steffan and director David Wheeler and playwright A.R. Gurney all worked there. I remember The Charles Playhouse doing "Galileo" with Tony Van Bridge, and Michael Murray directing "Poor Bitos" and "The Rehearsal" and Edward Zang's "Hamlet".
I saw three Hamlets in one month, but the one I remember was Brian Bedford's down in Stratford Conn --- four and three-quarter hours that whipped by, and Bedford doing "The Three Sisters" in rep that same week.
I remember "The Proposition".
I remember The Boston Shakespeare Company doing "Richard III" and a Moliere and another Shakespeare all through the same night and ending with a steak & eggs and champagne breakfast at dawn.
I remember the original tent theatre that is now The Publick.
I remember sitting in the last row of the top balcony in The Old Vick hearing every syllable of "Long Day's Journey into Night" from Margaret Leighton and Larry Ollivier.
I remember "The Lady's Not for Burning" and "Twelfth Night" and "Follies" at The Footlight Club and "The Hostage" at the Open Door Theatre.
I remember The Craft Experimental Theatre.
I remember "Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Momma's Hung You in The Closet And I'm Feeling So Sad" and "Aubade" & "Sing To Me Through Open Windows" by a kid named Koppit, and the plays that Tim Meyer and Thom Babe did at Agassiz for a summer or two.
I remember Dan Seltzer.
I remember the perfections of The Open Theatre, and the imperfections of The Living Theater, and a "paper happening" by Carolee Schneeman, and a week's festival of experimental theater happening all around Providence.
I remember going back The Shubert to see "Company" a second time before it hit Broadway, and seeing "Follies" at The Colonial, and saying that the kindest thing the producer could do for "Prettybelle" would be to close it out of town --- and he did. But that was my first, last, and only review for VARIETY.

I remember the May or June when Jim Lewis, the penultimate publisher of Boston After Dark, told me to take a week's leave of absence from the Paperback Booksmith in Cambridge to work on a record-breaking Summer Preview issue. After three years of four-page one-sheets we were going to shoot for a dozen. (Actually, it ended up with twenty-four.)
I remember sitting alone all night calling local Information Operators for the numbers of summer theatres, then calling all of them throughout the next day to get their schedules. That was before NYNEX homogenized the service, and I was fascinated by the Maine and New Hampshire and Vermont and Connecticut accents whispering out along the wires.
The paper was available to be handed out free at the World Premiere here of the movie "The Thomas Crowne Affaire" --- it had been shot here in Boston --- and Deac Rossell had several interviews with its makers, and his own less than enthusiastic review. There was Jim and Deac and Jane Steideman the editor, and Steven --- still the best ad-salesman in Boston --- and me. Late in the week Jane and I cleared off two desks to get a few hours sleep, and then went back to work again.
The paper the next week was back to one four-page sheet, but really started growing, and a few months later Jim hired me --- supposedly as a copy-editor, though no one wanted their copy edited --- and pretty soon just to review anything that moved on a stage anywhere in town. And for the next three years I tried to do exactly that.

And --- thanks to Lee VanderLaan --- I'm trying to do it again.

So, let it end here, then, if nobody minds
Let's shoot crap!

( a k a larry stark )

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide