Pick your partners and step lively.
Carrie Houk sees Midnight's ST. NICHOLAS at Herbie's. (She loves the show, it was produced at her HH acting studio in a previous incarnation.)
Carrie urges Joe to consider doing something at her incipient Tennessee Williams Festival, hands him Tennessee books.
Joe looks over Tennessee letters and essays, but nothing sparks for an original piece on or about Williams.
Joe comes across description of THE TWO-CHARACTER PLAY. "Two characters? That sounds like a Midnight show."
Joe brings it up to Carrie, who says "Everybody wants to do that?" Everybody turns out to be Michelle Hand, who did a scene from it in a recent acting class, and wanted to pursue it.
Joe and Michelle do a read, Sarah Whitney is on board as director.
Meanwhile The Festival and Midnight haggle over performance dates (every day or night), fee (minimal) and performance times (other events are fit into The Learning Center, forcing Midnight into some matinees.)
Disconcerting but, "Hey, we're part of a Festival."
THE DANCE BEGINS
Sarah, Michelle and Joe sit around a table for a few weeks and try to figure out what Tennessee was doing with this script.
They don't totally figure it out, but they get on their feet.
They work and work, and start circling something that starts to make some sense.
THE BIG NUMBER
Midnight moves into The Learning Center, formerly The Wednesday Club – the historic 100-year old building, where Tennessee produced some of his first work in the 30's.
The Learning Center feels, hauntingly, like home.
Mark Wilson makes magic in the outdated space, finding enough electricity for evocative lights and sound.
The performance commences, and response is impactful. Many people learn they love this play.
The sights, sounds, people of The Festival are a show all by themselves:
Sharon Madden; sister of a high school classmate who's now doing theatre in San Diego. Sharon has been a movie/tv/stage actress & teacher in LA for 30 years, and was a constant fixture at Festival events, with a standout read at Tennessee Jam. She learned of the Festival through Joe, and was able to dive back into Tennessee, having met and befriended him when she was a young actress in New York, as well as visiting and befriending his mother in St. Louis.
Jeremy Lawrence; who monitored Tennessee Jam (and let me read the final, touching Tennessee poem.) A quiet, gentle man who performed a one-person Tennessee show (which I was unhappily unable to see because of conflicting performances.)
Ride Hamilton, photographer; He's the official photographer for the Williams Fests in Williamstown and New Orleans. In addition to being a consummate artist (who shot the hell out of our show), he is another kind and positive presence. Highly complimentary of our work, as we are of his.
B Weller, actor; he participated in the reading of Tennessee letters (as Dakin), stayed after to watch our show. His last appearance. One week later, he died of an untimely heart attack. Hit the St. Louis theatre community in the gut.
New friends, like Henry Schvey, Washington U professor, another big fan of our show.
Old friends, like Margeau Steinau, who saw Two-Character and led a social media charge about it, and actors in other Festival events – including excellent performances by Peter Mayer, Eric White, Julie Layton and more in the semi-site-specific Rooming House Plays show, and Rachel Tibbetts and Kelly Weber in A PERFECT ANALYSIS GIVEN BY A PARROT (in which I was back on stage as a drunk Shriner at the climax.)
THERE IS A PAUSE, A SILENCE…
Reviews were good, to embarrassingly good.
Our performance at The Festival gained us publicity, new fans, new stature in the tough St. Louis theatre landscape.
But The Festival - we did feel a sting. From the minimal fee and the moderate promotion. And that a few of the Festival staff couldn't be bothered to see our show. Most of their energy (and money) was focused on The Rooming House Plays, which they produced. Everything else, to them it seemed, was Festival filler.
AND THEN THE ENCORE
We moved into the small space of Winter Opera St. Louis on The Hill – where we'd rehearsed.
The extended run was by Popular Demand. We sold out the small space four times, and could have sold four times the tickets.
The intensity, the passion, the commitment of the play and the performances raised the play to new heights.
A bow to Michelle, and Sarah, and Liz, and Mark, and Jimmy…and Cassidy at Winter Opera. The dance is over.
But the melody will ever linger on.