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Hanrahan and Wassilak in THE BALLAD OF JESSE JAMES

 

THE MIDNIGHT COMPANY and after

The Midnight Company formed in the Fall of 1998, over drinks. David Wassilak and Joe Hanrahan agreed to join up, agreed on their first production, had a space in mind, named themselves, and started up a theatre group that could do what it wanted to do, where it wanted to do it, and when.

They followed that credo for several years – producing mostly St. Louis premieres, including several scripts of Hanrahan’s. And they produced them everywhere – The Contemporary and Missouri History Museums; The Grizzly Bear bar in Soulard and The Duck Room at Blueberry Hill on the Delmar Loop; An abandoned warehouse in the Lemp Brewery complex; Technisonic Television Studio; the old St. Marcus basement theatre space; the Commonspace on Grand, and, eventually, on the porch of the Jesse James Farm in Kearney, MO near Kansas City, and at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival.

One St. Louis premiere they did not produce was THE RACE OF THE ARK TATTOO by W. David Hancock, an intriguing one-man show set in a flea market. David had found the show and wanted to perform it in the Spring of ‘02, and, as usual, a very unique and appropriate space had been located. Due to work commitments at his day job at an ad agency, Joe decided he didn’t have the time to participate artistically, so another director was hired, while Joe planned to produce, handle PR, etc.

But near the start of the process, David pulled out. This is not unusual for any producing entity. For whatever reasons, he decided he just didn’t want to do the show at this time. The Company proceeded on its merry way until the winter of ’04. David had indicated he wasn’t interested in working on anything right at that time, but Joe had found and fell in love with Conor McPherson’s solo show, ST. NICHOLAS. Joe indicated he wanted to perform the show, and had secured Sarah Whitney as the director. David refused to allow the show to be produced under The Midnight Company banner. While Joe felt the Company existed to serve its participants and their artistic goals (even when it was just a goal of one of the very small Company – as in THE RACE OF THE ARK TATTOO situation), David said he didn’t like the script, and didn’t want his or the Company’s name attached to it.

Joe felt that was a little harsh, and went on with the project under the producing banner of afterMIDNIGHT, doing all he could to make sure everyone knew David had nothing to do with it. David was one of the few people who didn’t like the show. It garnered great reviews, went on to additional runs at several venues, and was selected as one of the best St. Louis productions of 2004.
(This was the first break in their artistic partnership, and while one could say it truly stemmed from artistic differences – someone disliking a show enough to refuse to have his name associated with it – Joe felt David’s stand was not exactly supportive of artistic exploration.)

David went on to act and TD with other companies, while Joe, wanting to work, continued to produce under the afterMIDNIGHT name – a season at HH, (followed by one last ride of the Company with THE BALLAD OF JESSE JAMES in the summer of ’05), then more afterMIDNIGHT one-man shows of ThomPain and CUL-DE-SAC. It was at this time that Joe and David became aware of former colleague William Roth’s plan to open a theatre space. A few months into those plans, while Joe and David were considering a Midnight show, David mentioned that he was going to “do something” with William and Milt Zoth in William’s new space. When questioned, the only details that came forth were the bookings of big-name playwrights (Sam Shepard etc) to do one-evening readings of their work.

Within a few weeks, Joe became aware of fellow actors being cast by Dave in a Fall, 2007 production for a group called The St. Louis Actors Studio. They had a website, a 2007/2008 season, and David was an Associate Artistic Director. They had plans for a Company, they would meet regularly, explore their craft, and produce plays based on their improvs.

These details caught Joe by surprise. While this new company could certainly plan whatever they wanted to plan, Joe did expect his partner to relate his commitment to this new venture. (At the same time, expecting the other Actors Studio folks to understand and empathize with the awkward situation.)

A week or so later, Joe received a call from Actors Studio Artistic Director Milt Zoth inviting him to join this Company (in essence, becoming part of a Company co-led by his partner of just two weeks before.) As Joe characterized it, it was like being invited to an orgy where there’d be lots of chicks willing to anything you want, and, oh by the way, one of them’s your wife.

Joe expressed his dismay at the seeming shanghaiing of his partner and the lack of communication, to Milt, William and David. The exchanges with David were not as cordial as one would hope, with key differences being that Joe felt his partner should have given him some warning about committing to a year with a new company, while David insisted that everyone works with other companies, that David could always come back and do Midnight work when he could fit it in, and, eventually, that Joe should just shut down the Midnight Company if he didn’t agree.

Joe passed on that option, and after a few days, got back to Milt on his invitation to join the StL Actor’s Studio. Joe related he’d expressed his dislike of how everything went down, but he was over it and, with long-term personal relationships with all the principals and a long-standing love of group ventures, said, sure, he’d join the Company. But Milt responded, he didn’t know if that was possible now, with the harsh feelings that had been expressed. Milt promised to work on it with his colleagues, and get back to Joe.

Joe is still waiting for that call.

In the meantime, David and Joe did agree to legally dissolve their partnership. Joe, at this time, along with whoever works with him in upcoming productions, is The Midnight Company.

The Company hopes to continue to explore new work, and new stories.

 


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Revised: October, 2007
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