When my mentor, Bill James, was advising me on becoming a teacher and my nose wrinkled, as if to say, “but I’m an ARTIST,” he said: "those who can, do; those who can do better, teach."
Recently, when seeing the work of my several of my fellow teacher / artist peers, I fondly remember how wise my mentor was.
I saw David Smukler, AIRE voice instructor, in The Seagull in Toronto in February. I thought he was charming, dotty, funny, vulnerable, surprisingly forceful … a wonderfully dimensional performance. Wonderfully Chekhovian, too, because he brought both HUMOR and pathos to the play. (Can't resist saying that Kate Fenton, as Masha, with whom I worked at St Lawrence Shakespeare Festival, was born to do Chekhov! So terribly funny until the last moment when her grief retched out of her on one breath.)
I saw Ted Hoerl, AIRE audition instructor, in The Weir in Chicago in March. Now, this is a play I LOVE and it is based in the area of Ireland from whence my people hoist their pints. Of the many compliments I paid Ted, one was: “I recognized you as a guy from my town sitting on the bar stool.” The other amazing thing he did was LISTEN like nobody’s business and this is no small feat, especially with the staging of this particular production. He actually made other people’s stories come to life without detracting from their telling in the least.
I saw AIRE’s scene work instructor, Steve Scott’s production of Rabbit Hole in Chicago in March. How does one recognize the work of a great director? It is nearly invisible, really, but Emi Clark & Betty Lorkowski (who saw the show with me) and I agree that there is a recognizable Steve style: careful attention to human detail. Particularly in the supporting characters, there were such amazing human quirks and foibles, little lifts of the eyebrow or tiny straightenings of the spine that told me Steve spent weeks asking questions! (Review of Steve's recent work, Frozen, is a couple of posts below.)
Although not directly Green Wood Studio / AIRE related, I saw colleague Craig Walker in Candida in Kingston, Canada, last week. Craig is a drama professor at Queen’s University, hence the relevance, & played Benedick to my Beatrice last summer in St Lawrence Shakespeare Festival’s Much Ado About Nothing (co-directed by meself & Steve Scott). Tricky thing for Craig with Candida was, he directed himself as one of the leads: Rev. James Morrell. I thought his direction of the show was excellent: clear, clean, uncluttered, no schmacting; his take on the show seemed to be to let Shaw's feckin brilliant text shine. I also liked his performance very much. He gave us a full range of human behavior: warts and all. Who the heck is crazy enough to take on a role like that and direct themselves? What was he thinking? Oops. Pots & kettles calling each other black.
(Reviews of 3 of the shows below.)
It gives me great satisfaction to say that I am blessed to work with a fistful of artist / teachers who can do better.
This summer, I get to work with two of them again: Steve Scott is directing A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Craig Walker is playing Bottom and I am playing Hippolyta / Titania. Craig is directing me as Nurse in Romeo & Juliet.
P.S. Want to guarantee I'll not miss a show you're in? Remind me OFTEN and give me comps. So many students & colleagues ask me to see their shows: making it easy on me will ensure I'm there. If I'm in town ....