One of the most entertaining moments of the seasonal purging process for me was to come across an old box of materials from when I started out as a reviewer. It was from back in the day when everything was actually printed and not done via internet and email. I ended up dumping a lot of stuff into the recycling but there were several items I couldn’t bear to get rid of. Among these are:
- A program from the Theatre Gym production of “How I Learned to Drive” in 1998. It was the production where Jill Bari Steinberg first blew me away and where I first saw Gordon Bass do something besides act in a kid’s show. Cool artifacts from the program: Steven Koehler was the lighting designer before heading off to greener pastures and the stage manager was Wendy Gentile, back in her pre-Vandergrift days.
- A program from “Jails, Hospitals and Hip-Hop,” the Scott Wichmann tour de force, with the cool skewed-perspective cover picture of a hoodie-wearing Scott. Marcel Marceau gets a shout out as part of the credits.
- The simple one-page program from The Experiential Company’s production of “The Sea Gull,” the production that, in tandem with Experiential’s “The Importance of Being Earnest,” introduced an amazing Erin Thomas to the local scene. The production was staged at the Windy River Winery at in Beaverdam. I loved going out to those shows.
- A program from “Cry Out!” a one-man show developed by my old friend Jesse Rabinowitz for the Shard Live Performance Collective. I couldn’t help but think back to Shard when Stage B emerged recently. Two scrappy young companies, idealistic and innovative. Shard moved on and it’s seeming like Stage B has as well.
These are artifacts from what I still consider a golden age in local theater, mostly because I was being introduced to actors whose work I would continue to love for years. It’s impossible to forget first glimpses of stupendous talent like Steinberg’s, Wichmann’s and Thomas’s. Luckily, fresh and exciting new actors are always popping up, like the blossoming of Matthew Mitchell from an ensemble player to a certifiable star in shows like “The Liar.”
And seasoned actors can still deliver surprises; Steinberg’s was different kinds of stunning in “Judas Iscariot” last season and then in “Kimberly Akimbo” last winter. I also hear she’s making quite an impression in “Scorched Earth.” Spring cleaning has opened up space in my closets and my attic but hasn’t put a dent in the delightful bits of clutter in my memory.