By James Ingagiola
One Last Show on Washington Street: Moonlight, Winter 2001
By the end of 2000, Performance Network was ensconced in their new space on Huron and Fourth and about halfway through their professional season. The space on Washington was still standing (at that point), and it still had a theater space inside of it. Through some series of circumstances that was beyond my comprehension and concern, the Ann Arbor Civic took over the space.
Why is this relevant to our little story? Well…Amy Kullenberg, who was in our production of Shrew and who had had some involvement with the Civic (though I can’t quite remember how much involvement), suggested that we look into renting the space from the Civic in early 2001 and putting on a play outside of our “traditional” summer slot. One thing led to another, and the BTE started rehearsals for their Winter 2001 production of Shakespeare’s Richard II.
Richard II? That’s not listed in the Show History. For good reason, dear readers. For good reason.
(The “good reason” being that it never happened. Sorry for the anticlimax.)
Richard II went into rehearsals with our first cast made up entirely of people who did not audition for the roles (which would become standard BTE practice–with one exception–until 2013). Rob, Anne, and I were there since the beginning; Patrick Morgan was in King Lear; Amy and Joshua Messer were in Shrew; and Michelle Mirkin I had worked with outside the BTE. We were throwing this production together not exactly on the fly but in a slightly more hurried fashion than usual.
So, we had the seven of us in the principal roles, and all we had to do was find a few more actors to fill out the cast. We called, emailed, spoke to people. No dice. Everyone was busy. We were at least a week into rehearsals when we convened a meeting to discuss options. We determined that we should shelve the Shakespeare and choose a piece that would work with the people we had: Four men, three women.
Harold Pinter’s Moonlight.
Given my reverence for Pinter–even greater than my reverence for Shakespeare–it was only natural that, if I continued to direct for the BTE, we would eventually get around to performing at least one of his plays. Moonlight, one of his more recent works (I think it was about seven or eight years old by that time), perfectly fit our cast and the time of year. It was a terrific blend of drama, comedy, and moodiness.
I could write a book about performing Pinter–and I don’t mean that as an arrogant statement. (After all, I didn’t say it would be a good book.) I simply have a lot to say about what I’ve discovered through acting and directing and reading him, and…well…I just enjoy his work. A lot.
But I won’t go into it right now. I will say, though, that I look back on that production with fondness. My love of the play and the playwright. The camaraderie among the cast–something else that became a trademark of our process, everybody (and I mean everybody) pitching in to make it work with very little complaint (if any). The intimacy of the space.
And, I think, above all, the season. I am a nocturnal creature, and fall and winter are my favorite seasons because the nights are longer. The air is crisper. The snow creates a stillness and a clarity. And performing in a cozy theater in that atmosphere was a great way to spend a couple of weekends.