My first performing appearances outside of school plays were at the Robin Hood Theatre, Arden, Del., in 195l. The Robin Hood was an oldstyle resident summer stock company–ten shows in ten weeks, rehearse by day, perform by night–and quite a good one. Among the members of the resident company during my two years there were Barbara bel Geddes, Barbara Rush, Jack Klugman, and Anthony Perkins. I acted in eight productions in 195l-52, pursuing the traditional path from apprentice to union member, and thus nominally professional.
In the winter immediately following my seasons at the Robin Hood, I did a lengthy tour (thirty-some weeks of one-night stands) in Edward Mabley’s Glad Tidings, a typical Broadway comedy of the time. Our leading man, director, and driver, Wendell Mayes, went on to a highly successful career as a writer for the early live television drama shows and for film (e.g., Anatomy of a Murder). Over the next year or two, I acted in an Equity Library Theatre production of The Corn is Green, did a summer package tour of northern New England (Glad Tidings again), rehearsed an off-B’way production of Peer Gynt whose funding fell through before it opened, and dipped a toe into those TV dramas with U.S. Steel Hour. Needing a steadier income to support my voice lessons, and incidentally my life, I then withdrew from acting for many years.
This early theatre experience had taught me a great deal about the practicalities of the stage and how to make certain effects, but not a lot about acting in a serious artistic sense, though over the years I had observed good acting, and read extensively about theory and teaching methods.
My work with Corsaro (see Singing) was helpful, but that was in an operatic context. So when I returned to acting, it was as a student at the HB Studios, first for a summer with William Hickey, and then for several semesters with Austin Pendleton.
That led to my participation in an extraordinary theatre event–the 198l Broadway revival of The Little Foxes, directed by Austin and starring Elizabeth Taylor in her live theatre debut. (I understudied three roles.) That in turn led to a “second career” in acting, more substantive than the first. It has included seven seasons (eleven productions) at the Williamstown Theatre Festival,leading roles at several regional theatres, and a half-dozen off-B’way productions (these actually opened), as well as a recurring supporting role on daytime television’s One Life to Live.Among my favorite parts: Biedermann in Frisch’s The Firebugs; Svetlovidov in Chekhov’s Swan Song; Northumberland in Henry IV and Agamemnon in Troilus and Cressida (both Shakespeare); and Otto in The Diary of Anne Frank. Last appearance to date: A Tribute to Richard Wilbur, conceived and directed by Ralph Hammann, Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, Mass., Aug. 22, 2011–scenes, songs, and monologues from the translations and original lyrics of this distinguished American poet, plus readings by Wilbur from his poetry.