Shadow and Light Theatre
Saturday night's marvelous performance of two plays by Harold Pinter played to a sold-out house at ACT's Bullitt Cabaret theater space. Afterward, two of the founders of this new company devoted to Pinter's works, actor Frank Corrado and director Victor Pappas, conducted a short conversation with each other and the audience. What they said was very cheering in these dark times for the arts and in the post-Pinter tristesse.
They talked about how tough it is for theater artists to get enough work these days, how easy it would be to settle into victimhood and self-pity. Instead, they decided to use the extra free time and "make our art." Corrado told about how affected he had been by Pinter's death two Christmases ago, and how that made him want to pay tribute to his favorite playwright by starting, of all things, a Pinter-only theater company in Seattle. Which they have done, including actress Suzanne Bouchard among the founders.
Their example brought to mind the advice from Michael Kaiser, "the turnaround king" in arts organizations, who has been stressing that arts groups can't cut their way to survival but instead have to rejuvenate themselves by more artistic excellence, pushing forward. That's exactly what these artists did, and also what ACT, in incubating the new Shadow and Light Theatre, has made possible.
The other thing I found so heartening was the scale and perfectionism of the endeavor. A year ago I ran into Corrado in a restaurant, busy poring over Pinter scripts for a program of reading Pinter plays for a small audience. Then came lots of rehearsals and workshops with some of the less-performed Pinter plays, a little like Vanya on 42nd Street, that unforgettable movie about actors trying over and over to get an inexhaustibly nuanced Chekhov play just right.
And so there we were watching two Pinter one-acts, A Kind of Alaska and Ashes to Ashes, in a small theater, wonderfully directed and acted by artists fully devoted to this difficult and multi-layered British playwright. Tickets were $20. It reminded me again of how much more intense things can be on a small scale, and how Seattle (rather than emulating New York) would do better to focus intently on some intimate, neglected, passionately-believed-in works.
"Two by Pinter" runs through Feb.7, playing weekends at ACT. Here's our critic Ben Rankin's admiring review. Besides going, you should find a few extra $50s to donate to the fledgling company. What they have done should be encouraged for all kinds of exemplary reasons.
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