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The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, William Shakespeare’s theatre company, did not last fifty years. The Group Theater, known for rousing social justice dramas featuring some of the iconic talents of the 1930s, did not last 50 years. In the ephemeral world of the theatre, 50 years can be an eternity.
Therefore, Long Wharf Theatre’s 50th anniversary, celebrated in earnest this past weekend, is something to be immensely proud of. “It is a staggering accomplishment. This is the great era of American theatre,” said former Artistic Director Doug Hughes.
By way of celebrating Long Wharf’s storied history, all of the artistic directors came together for the first time on Sunday, June 7. The four men – Jon Jory, Arvin Brown, Doug Hughes, and Gordon Edelstein – walked out to a rousing round of applause and a standing ovation, something Long Wharf Theatre audiences only give when completely deserved. The mere mention of Long Wharf’s iconic productions brought murmured appreciation from the audience. The quips and stories were met with raucous laughter. Managing Director Josh Borenstein correctly described the event as a pep rally.
The artistic directors engaged in a wide ranging conversation, talking about their own backgrounds, and some of the challenges of programming a regional theatre. They spoke of the changes they’ve seen over the past fifty years. And sometimes they just told stories. Sure, there was a bit of dishing, but for the most part, the four men engaged in a jocular but serious discussion about the history of the institution and just how important the art form is in our culture. “(Long Wharf Theatre) did not feel like a regional theatre. It felt like a theatre in dialogue with world theatre,” Hughes said. “There was something beguiling about the fact it was at the food terminal.”
Jon Jory, one of the founders of Long Wharf Theatre along with Harlan Kleiman, spoke of how things got started. Long Wharf Theatre was founded in 1965 as part of the regional theatre movement. Jory and Kleiman, then freshly minted graduates of the Yale School of Drama, wanted to get in on the movement. As always, money was a concern. They needed about $125,000 to get the theatre going, money they simply didn’t have or have access to. So, they started reading the society pages of the New Haven Register and cold calling the people listed to ask them if they would be on the steering committee of the new theatre, he said. “We were just two kids … when people came to the office for a meeting we would hire people from the Yale School of Drama to be the receptionist,” Jory said.
The first leaders of the organization – Jory and Brown – comparatively speaking, were neophytes to the profession. In fact, Brown had not directed a full length play before working with legendary actress Mildred Dunnock in Long Day’s Journey Into Night. In his effort to prepare for the project, Brown had moved little white figures around a model of the set. The first time he tried to suggest his blocking to Dunnock, the actress simply asked “why?” Brown was befuddled. “None of the little white figures had said anything like that”.
While each man offered the theatre a different style and sense of taste, there was one thing they uniformly agreed to – the task of putting together a season that would please everyone is an almost impossible task. “Long Wharf audiences are literate, open, educated, and honest. They are a great audience to perform for. However, virtually everything you do, you get complaints,” Edelstein recalled.
Arvin Brown recalled a production that culminated in the beheading of one of the characters. “People were not happy about that at all,” he said. Later that season, he was invited to the home of a loyal subscriber who was particularly vocal in his dislike for the play. Brown was concerned, but dinner moved along in a convivial fashion. Dessert was another matter. “It was a cake with a severed head,” Brown said to audience laughter. “It’s true. That took some planning and some bucks.”
Edelstein recalled several recent productions that for one reason or another caused consternation in the audience – puppet sex in Paula Vogel’s The Long Christmas Ride Home and fake urination in Curse of the Starving Class. On a more serious note, he pointed towards a production of Sixteen Wounded, which explored the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as a real lightning rod. “Sixteen Wounded sparked such a strong response there were fistfights in the lobby. You knew the power of the ideas on the stage,” Edelstein said. “How fantastic! I really mean it,” Hughes said. “It makes the case for the perpetuation of the form.”
They find that for all of the machinations in a rehearsal hall, whether they view themselves as a proxy for the audience during the process or completely make decisions based on their own lights, once performances start the surprises begin. “Always always always,” Edelstein said. “After a couple of weeks of performances, though, you know what you have. There is no play without the audience.”
The 50th anniversary allowed for a certain amount of introspection. Each artistic director could speak to a very specific moment during their tenure that reminded them of the importance of their work, and why they wanted to devote their lives to this profession. Doug Hughes remembered his production of The Importance of Being Earnest, and the waves of laughter cascading through the theatre. “All you are saying when you put on a show is ‘we feel this way. Do you feel this way?’” Hughes said.
For Brown, it was working with his long time friend Al Pacino on the seminal production of American Buffalo by David Mamet. “Watching him walk out on stage for his famous first monologue … I enjoyed the sheer brilliance of his craftsmanship,” Brown said.
Both Jory and Edelstein reminiscences were about a particular personal accomplishment. Jory’s memory was of nothing less than the first moment he set foot into the warehouse that would become Long Wharf. “When we moved into this building, there were no lighting fixtures,” Jory recalled. “I thought, ‘I’ve always wanted to be in the theatre and I’m here.”
Edelstein re-imagined Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, making the whole play something the young man Tom was writing in a small hotel room. It added another layer onto the family drama, introducing the idea of artistic creation into the performance. “I had no idea whether the idea was going to work. I’ve never been so scared in my life,” Edelstein said. “When I heard a gasp from the audience that night, I had a feeling of not pleasure, but relief. It was very overwhelming,” he said.
Edelstein’s story was one that could be analogous for the theatre’s history as a whole – it was a palpable risk, but when it worked it was nothing short of beautiful.
NEW HAVEN – Long Wharf Theatre announces non-Equity auditions for local actors between the ages of 13 to 21 for its upcoming production of The Odyssey Devised, directed by Education Programs Manager Mallory Pellegrino.
Auditions for the show will take place Saturday, June 27 between 10 am and 1 pm. Actors will be expected to perform a one minute, memorized monologue. To book an audition appointment, e-mail Pellegrino at email@example.com.
There will be callback scheduled for Sunday, June 28 from 1 to 4 pm by invitation only. At the callbacks actors will read from sides, as well as doing movement work and improvisation. There are between 10 and 12 slots available in the company.
Rehearsals will start on July 20 and take place each day from 1 to 4 pm. Performances take place August 13 through 15 at 7 pm on Stage II.
The rehearsal process presents a unique opportunity for performers – the actors will collaborate with Pellegrino to create the play. “I am so thrilled that Mallory will be devising this new work in collaboration with young artists. Mallory’s vision and creativity are boundless and I know her actors will have an incredible experience. I think it is vital to support an artistic forum for self expression and creation and I am thrilled we will create and premiere THE ODYSSEY DEVISED this summer at Long Wharf Theatre,” said Beth Milles, director of education.
She will work with the ensemble to create the show from scratch, using Homer’s Odyssey as the jumping off point for the story. Through a series of improvisations and movement workshops, and using found objects, scenes and characters will begin to take shape. That creative process will yield a script, which will be produced. “It’s a process that requires bravery and commitment on the parts of the actors,” Pellegrino said. “It is about finding your voice as an artist and letting that speak.”
The ceremony will be held on Monday, June 15 at 7 pm during the theatre’s 2015-16 season preview event, taking place on Stage II. The Founders Award was created to acknowledge those organizations, businesses and individuals who have made long term outstanding contributions to Long Wharf Theatre. The theatre’s founders were known for their commitment and dedication and the award seeks to honor those who mirror the same qualities. To RSVP to the event, call the box office at 203-787-4282.
“I have been involved at Long Wharf Theatre for 33 years, and am proud of its reputation for world-class theatre. Many of my efforts over the years have focused on both raising money and awareness, both to promote the theatre’s importance to New Haven, to Connecticut, and to the arts community worldwide. I have every hope that Long Wharf will continue to delight and engage audiences for years to come,” Pearce said.
“Barbara Pearce has been an indelible and essential member of the Long Wharf Board over three decades. Her contributions are far too many to mention and her impact on this theatre and this community has been profound and long lasting. We all thank and honor her for her service,” said Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein.
“Barbara’s passion for Long Wharf is evident from her leadership of the 50th anniversary committee,” said Joshua Borenstein, Managing Director of Long Wharf Theatre. “She led that group with tremendous energy and dedication, and all of us are very thankful for her successful efforts.”
“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to congratulate Barbara on her Founders Award. Barbara has been tireless in her support of Long Wharf Theatre over the years, but what many people might not realize is that she contributes her times and efforts not just toward Long Wharf and the arts, but towards many kinds of organizations. She really believes in giving back, and she has certainly done that over her years of service at Long Wharf Theatre. We look forward to continuing our long relationship with her,” said Sandy Stoddard, the chair of Long Wharf’s Board of Trustees and a colleague at Pearce Real Estate.
Barbara Pearce is the President and CEO of Pearce Real Estate. She is a graduate of Harvard College, Harvard Law School, and Harvard Business School. She majored in Psychology, rowed Varsity Lightweight Crew, and won her HBS Section Marketing Prize. She practiced law at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, & Flom before returning to New Haven to work in the business, which was started by her father.
She has been extremely involved as a community leader in Connecticut. She has chaired many Boards, including The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, Long Wharf Theatre, the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, the United Way of Greater New Haven, and the Hospital of Saint Raphael. She founded Women Organizing Women Political Action Committee (WOW), of which she is the current President. She has served on the Connecticut Real Estate Commission, the Committee to Visit Harvard College, Campaign Chair of the Greater New Haven United Way, and Chair of the National Arts Stabilization New Haven Fundraising Committee. In addition, she served as a NEA panel member reviewing theatre grants. She also attended the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center.
Barbara holds honorary degrees from Albertus Magnus College and the University of New Haven, and has been honored by Glamour Magazine, the Connecticut Council on Philanthropy, Junior Achievement and was named a Woman of FIRE (Finance, Insurance and Real Estate) in 2011. She is currently Chair of ArtSpace, the New Haven-based visionary and dynamic non-profit organization which champions emerging artists and builds new audiences for contemporary art, and Chair of the Burry Fredrik Foundation, which was created to support professional theatre in Connecticut. In 2014, she was named by the Arts Council Of New Haven as a recipient of its Arts Award for decades of contributing her time, energy and impassioned leadership to organizations that promote New Haven as the regional epicenter of the arts. She is a Trustee and former Chair of Long Wharf Theatre and co-chair, with Linda Lorimer, of the Theatre’s current 50th Anniversary committee. She is a marathon runner who lives in Guilford with her attorney husband, Norm Fleming. They have two grown children.
For more information, visit www.longwharf.org or call 203-787-4282.
On May 30-31 we are offering a studio class for adults in Clowning and Commedia taught by Daniel Passer. Daniel is an acclaimed Cirque du Soleil Clown, Comedy Conceptor and Master Teacher at CalArts, Harvard, Brown University, The Second City and The Moscow Art Theatre. Most recently, he played the lead clown in the world tour of Cirque du Soleil’s latest spectacle Zarkana directed by Francois Girard. You can find out more about Daniel’s extensive body of work by visiting his website: www.danielpasser.com or read our interview with him below.
LWT: How did you become a theatre artist?
DP: My mother used to perform in old age homes with a bunch of other middle aged matrons (translation: housewives and mothers). I must have been 4 or 5 at the time. I still remember the outfits they wore – I think they were red white and blue skirts and blouses and sometimes they would don a cardboard stars and stripes hat. They sang a lot of George M. Cohan mixed in with 1920’s poo poo pee doo songs. I would run free in the audience – climbing on the wheelchairs and pulling their necks. The joy these women brought these kind old folks was priceless and I felt myself an essential part of that experience. I didn’t have an inkling then that 40 (something) years later I would be earning my living crawling through an audience and pulling the necks of over 2000 people a night at Radio City Music Hall.
LWT: What is your teaching philosophy?
DP: Joy and Rigor. Playing like a child and playing with total commitment and intention. We all had it as kids. The challenge is getting our “put together” adult selves out of the way.
LWT: Could you briefly explain the technique you will be teaching in your class?
DP: It’s not really linear, but here goes. This is what I send to my prospective students:
Delving into the beautiful chaos and ferocious simplicity of your individual Fool.
Exercises will be customized to each player as we investigate playing and playing hard.
This is a place to further explore or find anew. Discover, Surprise and Offend your senses!
Hasn’t it been long enough since recess? Run Wild. And be ready to Belly Flop!
LWT: Is your class appropriate for those with little to no acting experience?
DP: Sometimes, the individuals who really click in Clown Work are those with little or no experience. I think this is because they can’t help but approach the play with a beginners mind.
LWT: What can students expect to gain from taking your class?
DP: I can only speak from experience about how this work benefits theatre practitioners. In Drama School, I was introduced to 2 techniques that completely changed/enhanced the way I played as an actor. The first was Clown which I had the great fortune to study under a wonderful teacher. The second was Viewpoints which I practiced under the direction of Tina Landau and Beth Milles. Both of these forms are completely focused on moment to moment work and being present.
LWT: What is one piece of advice you would give other theatre artists?
DP: Difficult question. In general, I stay away from giving advice to other theatre artists as I feel it’s such an individual journey. Maybe that’s it. I wish someone had told me that when I was first starting out. There’s no one path.
About the Class:
Clowning and Commedia with Daniel Passer
Saturday, May 30 from 10am-1pm and Sunday, May 31 from 1pm-4pm
Ages 18+; Cost: $125
In this two day master class, participants will explore the elements of clowning and Commedia dell’Arte. There is no need to be physically fit—or need to have any previous experience with clowning—this is a place to explore further or start anew. Exercises will be customized to each player as we investigate playing and playing hard. Discover, surprise and offend your senses! When was the last time you let loose?
For more information or to register contact Mallory Pellegrino at 203.772.8272
or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mallory Pellegrino
How many people can say that the rock star Sting wrote a song for them? Fred Applegate can.
Fred, currently playing secretary Joe Tumulty in The Second Mrs. Wilson, running through May 31, can point towards the recent Broadway run of The Last Ship, Sting’s new musical, as one of the highlights of his career. One day he came home from rehearsal for the show to find out that Sting was giving his character, Father O’Brian, another song in the second act. “It was an extraordinarily heartfelt and difficult show with breathtaking music. Everyone put his heart and soul into that one,” he said.
The Second Mrs. Wilson marks Applegate’s return to straight drama. The last non-musical play he’d done was 16 years ago – a successful production of Uncle Vanya in Los Angeles. Earlier this year, he’d finished another musical at the Alliance Theatre when he decided that getting back into a play would be just the thing for him. His agent contacted Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein and the rest was history.
For all practical purposes, Applegate has had several different careers. He began his career working in regional theatre, spending several seasons in the Guthrie Theatre’s repertory company. “I was in my 20s and had boundless energy – who doesn’t have boundless energy in their 20′s? I was at the theatre every day from 11 am to 11 pm. When I left the theatre at night, I wanted to go back. When I got up in the morning, I wanted to go back. It’s was where I wanted to be,” he said. “It was a tremendously creative period.”
But, California sang its own siren song. Applegate and his wife drove from Minneapolis to Los Angeles to visit some friends. While he was there, Applegate booked a national television commercial and a guest appearance on a television show. He and his wife were about to begin a family, and the pay was certainly good. “I said to my wife, this is easy,” he recalled. He didn’t make another penny for the next seven months.
Applegate kept plugging away, taking theatre jobs at the Mark Taper Forum, among other theatres. Television casting directors saw him in a play there, and Applegate went on to do over 150 television appearances over the next decade, including in Newhart, Growing Pains, Seinfeld, and a host of others. “The harder you work and the quieter you are, the more likely they are to have you back,” he said.
About a decade ago, Applegate decided to return east and concentrate on the theatre. He missed being on stage, interacting with an audience, being part of an ensemble. “You show up in New York at age 54 and you are the new kid. They respond to you differently,” he said.
It’s been quite a run – he’s appeared in six Broadway shows in the past eight years, including The Producers, The Sound of Music, and Young Frankenstein. He’s got two more lined up for the next season. “During the performance of a play, no matter the technical events, you are responsible for everything you do. You are expected to make a contribution to that night’s performance,” Applegate said. “In television, you are responsible for bringing what the director wants you to bring to the taping. But you don’t know how they are going to use that.”
Television is fun and certainly pays the bills, but for Applegate there is nothing like being part of a theatre community, bringing a show to life, interacting with an audience. “I am very close to not having to work anymore, being able to retire. I only want to do what I love,” he said.
Please join us to celebrate our 50th Anniversary with the Artistic Directors on Sunday, June 7 at 2:00 p.m. in the Mainstage. A lively discussion with Arvin Brown, Gordon Edelstein, Doug Hughes and Jon Jory about the history and future of Long Wharf Theatre, followed by a champagne toast and light refreshments. RSVP to the Box Office at 203.787-4282.
This event is free and open to the public so all who are interested are invited to attend!
There is almost nothing as satisfying in theatre, film, and television than watching a great character actor perform. They tread often in the background of a scene, stepping forward to lend moments of color, humor, and sheer pleasure to the proceedings. With a simple gesture and or inventive inflection, they can steal a moment. If it’s done right it looks easy – uncalculated, just someone behaving. If you know anything about acting and actors, there is nothing unplanned or easy about it.
The cast of The Second Mrs. Wilson is filled with these types of performers – supremely gifted, utterly nuanced, and completely in tune in the world of the play. Today, we come to celebrate and to get to know Nick Wyman, who plays Henry Cabot Lodge, President Woodrow Wilson’s nemesis in the Senate.
With a wave of his ever-present cigar while issuing a booming piece of rhetoric, Wyman creates a compelling and formidable antagonist. Lodge, his character, opposes Wilson’s single minded effort to establish a League of Nations because he believes it would damage America’s standing. Wilson felt that in order for the League to work properly, the United States had to make a military commitment in foreign conflicts. Lodge, a Republican who harbored presidential aspirations, believed that since only Congress can declare war, participating fully in the League would remove some of the United States inherent sovereignty. “Lodge is a Washington insider. He’s a very powerful man and very sure of who he is, with very strong believes,” Wyman said. “He’s a man of entitlement, the first man to get his Ph.D from Harvard.”
Wyman did some research on his role – not as much as playwright Joe DiPietro or fellow actor Harry Groener – but he did enough reading to know that Lodge was a brilliant and difficult man, and one whom Wilson simply loathed. And, the feeling was certainly mutual. “You have to play what’s on the page and what’s in the story,” Wyman said.
Sharing the stage with such stalwart, veteran actors like Margaret Colin as Edith, John Glover as Wilson, and with Fred Applegate, Groener, Steve Routman, and Stephen Barker Turner as the politicos enmeshed in the intrigue, has been an utter delight. The cast has made their own small community, something the theatre can provide that Wyman celebrates. Read his explanation of “Why I do Theatre” on the Actors’ Equity website to find out the strong role this sense of community has played in his career choice. It gives you more than just confidence. It’s the joy of playing with the best. They know their stuff so well, it’s just playing – you think ‘what am I going to get from Margaret tonight?’ It is a joy to be with these actors on stage and off,” he said.
He’s noticed that much of Long Wharf Theatre’s core audience – women of a certain age, as he puts it – derives tremendous delight in watching Margaret Colin put the misogynistic men of this world (Lodge included) firmly in their places. “The audience loves it,” he said.
Wyman doesn’t work out of town much anymore – he’s lucky that the bulk of his jobs are in New York City. He spent six years on Broadway as Thenardier in Les Miserables. If you’ve turned on your TV at some point in the past decade or so, you’ve seen Nick’s work. He’s battled Bruce Willis in Die Hard: With A Vengeance. “Making that was beyond fun. It was and remains the biggest movie roles I’ve had. They treated me like a prince. Remember, I was just another actor,” he said. He’s jousted with Steve Martin in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. He’s appeared on hit television shows as doctors and lawyers, as he says.
But one might argue that one of his more important role is one an audience doesn’t get to see. He is the president of the Actors Equity Association, a post he has held for the past five years. Wyman hopes that in this role, he can give a bit back to the other members of his profession, a difficult one under the best conditions. Being the union’s leader is a tough job. He’s in the midst of running for re-election. He’s been handling some major union concerns reverberating throughout the industry, while balance work on Mrs. Wilson. “I and the other people in the cast are lucky to make our livings as actors. But most actors put together their lives and careers as actors as a mosaic … we are all trying to put together enough money to make ends meet while getting enough work as actors to satisfy ourselves,” Wyman said. “(Serving as president) has been very gratifying. Very challenging, but very gratifying.”
- Steve Scarpa
When talking about the firsts of First Lady Edith Wilson it’s pretty easy to focus on the fascinating debate about her being the first woman to run the executive branch of government. However, we’ve found out that the second Mrs. Wilson holds the claim to a number of other firsts among presidential spouses. Check them out.
1. She was the first woman to get a driver’s license in Washington D.C.
2. In 1904 she became the first woman in D.C. to own and drive an electric car.
3. She was the first First Lady to play golf when she took up the sport to spend more time with Woodrow during their courtship.
4. She was the first First Lady to accompany her husband in the carriage on inauguration day to and from the Capitol in 1917, also the first inaugural parade to include women.
5. Was the first First Lady to stand beside her husband as he took the oath of office.
6. First First Lady to order a Presidential china service made in America, she ordered it from Lenox China in Trenton, New Jersey.
7. Became the first First Lady to christen a ship on August 5, 1917 when she broke a bottle against the Quistconck, the ancient Indian name of the place where the ship was built.
8. Made first official overseas trip as a president’s spouse when she accompanied the President to Europe on two separate occasions, in 1918 and in 1919, to visit troops and sign the Treaty of Versailles.
9. First First Lady to attend foreign diplomatic talks.
10. First First Lady to make international visits with European royalty.
11. First presidential spouse to decode covert wartime communications and was entrusted by her husband with a secret code that allowed her access to the drawer holding classified information and wartime planning papers.
12. First former First Lady to receive permanent Secret Service protection.
13. She and Woodrow Wilson were the first and so far only President and First Lady to be buried in the Washington National Cathedral.
Bonus Fact: She could have been the first First Lady to vote in a presidential election in 1920, but chose not to because she did not personally support suffrage for women.
President Woodrow Wilson was well known in his day for loving Limericks. He would recite them not just for entertainment in social situations but also in the company of his aides and advisers while executing his presidential duties. Today he would have thoroughly been enjoying himself by celebrating Limerick Day.
You’ve probably never heard of this holiday and no one is really sure who exactly created it. We do know it celebrates the birthday of writer Edward Lear who popularized Limericks in his 1846 Book of Nonsense. The day obviously also celebrates Limerick poems.
What exactly is a Limerick? A Limerick is a humorous verse or poem. It is five lines longs. The first, second and fifth lines rhyme and are generally longer while the third and fourth lines rhyme with each other and typically have less syllables. They began as nursery rhymes over 500 years ago with bawdy versions developing over time in pubs and taverns. This style of poem received its unique name from Limerick, Ireland after the city began to be popularly used in refrains.
Wilson was reportedly so fond of quoting Limericks to others that some thought he had written them. One hundred years later some of his favorite ones are still often mistakenly thought to have been authored by him. Joe DiPietro incorporated Wilson’s renowned Limerick habit into The Second Mrs. Wilson by having his Wilson cheekily recite to Edith one of the Limericks most commonly associated with him:
For beauty I am not a star,
There are others more perfect by far,
But my face, I don’t mind it
For I am behind it,
It is those in front that I jar.
This Limerick was actually written by a poet named Anthony Euwer, not Woodrow Wilson, and was first told to Wilson by his daughter Eleanor. If you enjoy a good Limerick like President Wilson did then be sure to celebrate this holiday by writing or reciting one of these humorous poems today.