23 December '03
"Okay, I'm only a day late this week!"
I said that LAST week, didn't I? Well, that's how Traditions get created, right? Right??
I got to only one show last week:
19 dec HOLIDAY MEMORIES B.U. Professional Theatre Initiative STUDIO 210
I was also asked to a production of "The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever" but I needed and never got clear instructions on how to find the show in Allston using the MBTA ... and preditions of ugly weather. I had worries that my faulty sense of direction could have me wandering endlessly through windy below-freezing unfamiliar streets, and so I chickened-out. I wanted to see how a relatively new Community Theatre handled a play with so many kids in the cast. Maybe next year!
"Holiday Memories" was as different as possible from any of that. It combined B.U.Theater Students, on both graduate and undergraduate levels, with thorough professionals (Two of the actors were Equity members), with references to study in England popping up in some bio's. It turned out to be a warm story-theatre-style evocation of Truman Capote's youth in rural Alabaman poverty. Bill Gardiner narrated Capote's stories, lovingly watching Chris Conner (a B.U. Sophomore) and Helen-Jean Arthur (an experienced Equity professional) re-creating the memoirs on Kenichi Takahashi's evocatively detailed yet abstract set.Emily Strange played all the other women, Bob Braswell all the other men in the show, while projected images on a background scrim often moved the action outside home as quickly as a movie could have with cuts or fades.
The professional polish and attention to detail was everywhere evident, and Director Jim Petosa's experience as Artistic Director of the Olney (Maryland) Center for The Arts was evident in not only performances but designs and running-crew activities as well.
The production also offered me a chance to see a show, as it were, through two other pairs of eyes. I sat with someone who'd made a nearly annual ritual of reading Capote's original stories, and who could remember a production of it on television back in the black-and-white days. For her it was a bringing-alive of an old, familiar joy, while for me it was a new experience every step of the way. Both of us were pleased, but in different ways.
And after the show I talked with Bill Gardiner, who had invited me to see what he thought a critically-acclaimed yet poorly attended production. He's an Equity professional who, after twenty years acting in and around Boston is going back to school intending to turn into a teacher. As is usual between us, it took me a few moments to see one of my favorite actors under the fondly reflective character he played. I envy his future students already, his fellow-students now.
The "Professional Theatre Initiative" associates classes and students with Huntington Theatre Company professionalism. All in all, an excellent marriage. Apparently, since on a Friday night the fine, high-risered bank of seats was sparsely filled, the only NON-professional aspect of the production was that of proper advertising.
( a k a larry stark )