A Life in the Theatre
by David Mamet
Directed by 
Tony Vezner
April  27 - 30 &
May  4 - 7, 2000

Apr 27th, 28th, 29th at 8PM,
Apr 3oth at 2:30PM and 7:30PM
May 4th, 5th, at 8PM,
May 6th at 2:30PM and 7:30PM
May 7th at 2:30PM
About the Play
About the Author
Director's Note
Dramaturg Note 
Humming the Set
The Critics
Photos

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"A Life in the Theatre"
What happens on stage will make you howl.
What happens backstage will make you cry.
Produced by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.

The Cast:
in order of appearance

John  Rob Pold 
Robert Bill Hammack
Stage Mgr

Amy Coons

Occasional Characters:
A Life in the Theatre   By David Mamet   Direceted by Tony Vezner Andrea Imes
Roland Imes
Click for a larger view of pictures

Production Staff
Director:        Tony Vezner
Stage Manager: 
Terry Locke
Asst. Stage Manager:  
          Catherine Bloomer
Set Design:         Art Kelly
Set Construction: 
          Heinz Karplus, Art Kelly
Set Painting: 
      
Donna Kanak, Susan MacNicholas
Props:        Bonnie Hilton, Liz Steele
Costumes:  Susan Remy
Costume Crew:
Trisha Boren, Peggy Carlson,
Carrie Claus, Pauline Gamble,
Kristen Lampadius, Margaret Nikoleit

Makeup:    Martha Hogenboom
Lighting Designers:
Noel Smith, Ruth Smith
Lighting Crew:
Linda Frevelletti, Anne Marie Hultgren,
Mike Huth, Dick Jacoby, Peg Jacoby,
Sandy Liakus, Paul Roach, Cal Turner

Sound:        Joe Nikoleit 
Dramaturg: Ed Wavak

Makeup Designer: Martha Hogenboom
Makeup Crew:
J. Hedy Bosch, Holly Cejka, 
Virginia Swinnen
Properties Designers:
Bonnie Hilton, Liz Steele
Properties Crew:
Sandra Buboltz, Bill FitzGerald,
Laura Leonardo-Ownby, Arlene Page,
Sue Turner
Set Designer: Art Kelly
Set Construction Chairs:
Heinz Karplus, Art Kelly
Set Construction Crew:
John Allen, Anne Cahill, Joe Delaloye,
George Dempsey, Bill FitzGerald, 
Kirby Harris, Mark Hewitt, Mike Huth, 
Bill Love, John Otto, Rich Ptacek, Paul Roach,
Todd Sleezer, Greg Valek
Set Painting Chairs:
Donna Marie Kanak, Susan MacNicholas
Set Painting Crew:
Jeff Arena, Stephanie Brescia, 
Karen Holbert, Pat Huth, Jan Frommelt, 
Becky McCormack, Mary Jo O'Hern, 
Laura Michicick, Laura Leonardo-Ownby, Bill Rotz, Connie Sierzputowski, Sandy Squillo, Marilyn Weiher
Sound Designer: Joel Nikoleit
Sound Crew:
Carol Dapogny, Betsy Gurlacz
Production Box Office Chair: 
Mary Ellen Schutt
Production Box Office Crew:
Ruth Cekal, Terry Kozlowski, Jill Neely,
Lori Proksa, Joan Roeder, Patti Roeder,
Mary Smith, Sandy Squillo, Don Strueber
Production Hospitality Bakers:
Carol Clarke, Bonnie Hilton, Karen Holbert, Pat Huth, Kathleen Kusper, Lisa
Machak, Virginia Swinnen, Megan Wells
Production Hospitality Crew:
John Archer, Linda Bremer, Brian Centers, Carol Clarke, Mary Clarke,
Mary Ellen Druyan, Mike DeKovic,
Charlie Egan, Mike Huth, Pat Huth,
Kathleen Kusper, Caitlin Machak,
Lisa Machak, Fumiko Kehoe Michael,
David Michael, Duane Mills, Arlene Page, Claire Amy Shunk, Todd Sleezer,
Susan Sponder, Megan Wells
Production House Manager Crew:
Jack Calvert, Susan Cardamone,
George Dempsey, Karen Holbert,
Harry Hultgren, Mike Mallon, Kevin 
McGrath, Andy Neely, Tom Schutt
Production Lobby Photo Display
Marjorie Mason Heffernan, Jane Stacy
Production Posters: Kathleen Kusper
Production Program Chair: 
Carol Dapogny
Production Program Design: 
John Vilhauer
Production Publicity Chair: 
Arlene Page

===================
About the Author:
David Mamet was born in Chicago in 1947 and grew up on the south side. He spent his college years at Goddard College in Vermont and later became its Artist-in-Residence. Returning to Chicago, he worked odd jobs including cab driver, real estate salesman, and writer for a men's magazine. He started ushering at theaters in New York and worked his way up.  
Many of Mamet's early works premiered in Chicago, first at the Goodman Theatre Studio or at the now-defunct St. Nicholas Theatre, which Mamet founded. He burst into the American consciousness with such early works as The Duck Variations and Sexual Perversity in Chicago (later filmed as About Last Night...). But it was with his 1975 play American Buffalo that Mamet emerged as a highly respected playwright.  Shortly after that success, A Life in the Theatre also amassed high critical praise.
Since then, Mamet has become one of America's
most influential playwrights. He is also a well-regarded stage and film director. He has written novels, essays, children's books, poems, and song lyrics. Among his credits are Boston Marriage (which opened last summer in Cambridge); The Cryptogram; Edmond; Glengarry Glen Ross, for which he won the Pulitzer 
Prize; Oleanna; Speed-the-Plow (which starred Madonna on Broadway); and The Water Engine (produced at tws in 1992). He has adapted three of Chekhov's major works. A partial list of his screenwriting credits includes The Edge; Hoffa; House of Games; The Postman Always Rings Twice; The Spanish Prisoner; State and Main (due this year); Things Change; The Untouchables; The Verdict; Wag the Dog; and The Winslow Boy.
He has taught at a number of universities including Yale, University of Chicago, New York University, and Columbia University.  He helped establish the Atlantic Theatre Company in New York.  Mamet is now married to actress/musician Rebecca Pidgeon and lives in Vermont and Cambridge, 
Massachusetts. In addition to his writing, he designs a line of clothing distributed by Banana Republic.  
====================
About the Play
David Mamet began writing A Life in the Theatre while hanging around his father's office. He would sit down at the electric typewriter and write out brief sketches, which soon accumulated to some
fifteen scenes about life in the theater. The scenes then, of course, evolved into the play. 
A Life in the Theatre was first produced in Chicago at the Goodman Theater's Stage Two, opening February 3, 1977. It starred Mike Nussbaum and Joe Mantegna (two longtime Mamet regulars) and was directed by Gregory Mosher, who has collaborated with Mamet on many of his works. It was next produced by Jane Harmon in New York City, opening October 20, 1977 at the Theatre de Lys in Greenwich Village. This production featured Ellis Rabb and Peter Evans under the direction of Gerald Gutierrez. In between productions, Mamet expanded his play adding about 15 minutes to the 75-minute Chicago version.
He also added a third silent character, the stage manager, to help facilitate the scene changes. The New York production was broadcast on public television in June of 1979.  Mamet also wrote the teleplay for a production of A Life in the Theatre which aired on tbs in 1993. 
The movie starred Jack Lemmon and Matthew Broderick. Gregory Mosher directed once again.
====================
On "Humming the Set"
by Carol Dapogny
Several years ago during a discussion about the necessity for "balance" in the production of a play, 
Ted Kehoe (Artistic Director of TWS 1978-1991) remarked that he never wanted audiences leaving this theatre "humming the set." Such a pithy line tends to stick in the brain, forming the basis of theatrical judgment. It is the collaborative effort of all the designers, costume, makeup, set, etc., that is critical.  If any part shouts "look at me," then the audience may miss the play. A good theatrical production is a perfect example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.  About the same time as Ted's comment, TWS stopped using a front stage curtain. The timing was probably 
only coincidental, but it has been decades since the lights went down, the curtain opened, and TWS audiences applauded the set. Today, from the minute you enter the house as an audience member, you become part of the play.  The set is there, and as you take off your coat and wiggle comfortably into your seat you become part of the show. You see where you are, and your imagination begins the process of creating the drama. As designers and crew members we take great personal pride in our work.  But what we do is only to help the audience enter the play-to give theatrical reality to a make-believe world. If the audience is jarred by any element of the production, the whole production suffers.  I was reminded of Ted's directive as I typed in the names of the more than 30 people who designed, built, painted and dressed this set for A Life in the Theatre. 
If we have done a good job of keeping balance, you won't even think about the set-certainly not hum it - as you leave. You will probably think that we have a moderately messy "backstage" and had a really easy time getting the stage ready for this production. In reality, our stage and backstage areas have much less character than the set for "A Life in the Theatre."   So we set about to create a "theatrical stage," something audiences expect a stage to be. The cinder block back wall is really painted styrofoam; the partially painted side wall is really a canvas flat painted to look "partially painted." Much of the piping on the "walls" was, until recently, part of our 
40-year-old furnace which we replaced in early April. The battens holding the lights-which we usually try to be sure you don't see-for this show were lowered because that is what you expect to see backstage. And finally at about 10:30 pm a dozen days before this show opened, a great shout of joy came from the light and set construction crews, "They're all on!" Getting the "footlights" and "stage lights" to work correctly was more of a challenge than originally expected.  When A Life in the Theatre closes, we will tear down our temporary construction. If we have kept production balance, you will not walk out "humming the set." And we will start again with another blank stage, our really, truly "ho-hum" stage.


================
Director's Note:
Director's Note
One of the most basic human needs that we all share is the desire to leave something that will survive us, to make a mark upon the world for later generations to see. There are two main ways to do this: have children, or create something that will (hopefully) last a long time after your death. Your creation may be a work of art, a company, a trust fund, a political/social movement, or a law. The item is less important than its permanence.
This need to leave something built the pyramids.  It painted the Mona Lisa.  It incorporated McDonald's.  It is also this need that American presidents consider as they approach the end of their terms, and most people feel this need as the end of their careers and lives draw near.  Imagine how frustrating it would be if the things you were building to leave a mark after your life continually vanished - not after you were gone, but right before your face. Such is the fate of the theatre artist. Everything that is produced in the theatre disappears the moment the show closes. Those keepsakes that supposedly record theatre
performances fade and pale in comparison with the real  experience - photos look posed and static, videotapes seem flat and false, news clippings become irrelevant, and memories either expand or fail over time.  As someone who has worked in theatre for nearly ten years, the only thing I have that accurately reflects the impact of my
work is myself-my life and my point of view as it has been affected by the process of doing that work. The same can be said of most of the volunteers here at tws. As you walk from our lobby towards the restrooms you will pass a wall with many photos on it-those are our Active Laureates, volunteers who have given significantly of themselves and their time to make tws a better
place.  While you may be able to find tangible things in the Theatre that are directly due to their work here, most of the Active Laureates will tell you that the biggest benefit of their work in the
Theatre has been the effect it has had on their lives. That effect is hard to quantify, but you can sense it when you speak to them. Their lives are richer from having worked in theatre and from having made it a part of their lives.
The question is, how do you pass on that intangible quality, that love of the art form, the people, values, memories, excitement, fulfillment, and traditions to those who follow you? Where is the proof?
If you could pass on the intangible, could the receiver appreciate it fully? That's Robert's main conundrum in this play.  His attempts to pass on his "life in the theatre" make up the comedy and
pain of this entertainment. If theatre is your life, how do you give it away? And do you necessarily have to die in the process?  
Among the staff and Actives at TWS, there is a constant giving away of our lives. Some give more readily than others, and some fear the risk of giving, but in the end we all want to share our gifts.  
I have an Active friend who invites me to her home for long lunches. We sit and talk for hours about old shows, some of which had their final performance before I was born. She wants me to know about them and to appreciate their worth in some measure as she does. I am happy to listen and to try to learn.  After all, she is giving me the richest part of her estate.  She is giving me her life.

=================== 
Dramaturg Note
What You Hear Isn't Necessarily
What You Hear

by Edward W. Wavak
David Mamet has been compared to such writers as Harold Pinter, Samuel Beckett, Ernest Hemingway, and Luigi Pirandello.  The former two certainly influenced him, especially early in his career, but now he has his own style that others try to emulate. His experience as a young artist in the theatre, and his view of more mature ones, is clearly revealed in A Life in the Theatre. Mamet has composed essays about his artistic influences and his individual mentors as well, experienced theatre artists who influenced his passion for writing for the stage. The passing down of codes of behavior, and the contrasting urge to strike out in new directions, is one of the playwright's common themes.  Mamet is known for writing about the grittier side of life, often writing about thieves and hustlers and the demystification of the American Dream (or in the case of this 
play, the demystification of the theatrical dream).  His play American Buffalo helped define, if not start, what is now considered to be "Chicago-style theater."  Several decades ago, his raw language and "in your face" style were shockingly new.  
Mamet's style is highly dependent upon his unique use of language. A Mamet play may seem confusing because the characters never say what they mean. But according to Mamet, "That's why theater's like life, don't you think? 
No one really says what they mean, but they always mean what they mean."  So when watching a Mamet play, it is important to listen for the sounds and rhythms of the dialogue. 
His dialogue says nothing but means everything. At times it is more important to know what isn't said as much as what is.
Mamet states that human beings do not "communicate our wishes to each other, but we communicate to achieve our wishes from each other. We do not speak the desire but speak that which is most likely to bring about the desire."
Whether it's dialogue that breaks off in mid- sentence, or the use of "gritty" language, his characters are people we all can relate to in one way or another. Critics have noted that Mamet's language enables him to tell the truth about his characters in a way that more traditional, finely phrased writers cannot.  Mamet seems to be an actor's writer as well in that his dialogue is rich with both meaning and rhythm. Perhaps 
J.J. Johnston, who was in the original production of American Buffalo, summed it up best when he said, "(David) threw away more good lines than most guys write in a lifetime."
Mamet has described A Life in the Theatre as a slightly sad comedy "about and in praise of actors - those individuals whom we elect to live out our dreams for us upon a stage." 
The main question, as Mamet sees it is, "How does one train oneself to live in the moment - to make the moment (every moment) on stage so beautiful, so full, so unliveably affective and true that one is forced to the next moment."
Mamet carefully crafted A Life in the Theatre to give the viewer an inside look at the life of actors. And although the play may seem to be simply "about theater," its conflict is more universal than just the art of theater. As with any turning point, there is turmoil and pain. And in any career, in any life, one wants to find and to be a mentor.  As Mamet's career shows, there are times when we need our influences, and times when we become one ourselves.
====================

What the Critics Say
Compiled by Jeff Arena
David Mamet's writing has provoked countless acts of celebration, rebuttal, and dissection.  Fellow playwrights and directors find affirmation in his 
scripts and essays about art. Critics ferret out fodder for either the salvation or damnation of contemporary theatre.  Academics uncover references, revelations and philosophies to scrutinize in thesis work. A sampling of comments follows.  

"I'm beginning to see David Mamet as the Andy Warhol of theater. They are, of course, outwardly as different as a crew cut is from a lopsided wig, but they link in the superficial essentials. Both, for example, claim that their art reflects the culture, or America, in this convenient way: if you find nothing there, so much the better.  Mr. Mamet explained to the New Yorker recently, 'As Bettelheim says in The Uses of Enchantment, the more you leave out, the more we see ourselves in the picture, the more we project our own thoughts onto it.' It's a trick that works." 
-John Heilpern

"Much of A Life in the Theatre looks humdrum on the page; the theatrical parody scenes, where Robert and John perform their repertory roles to unseen audiences, sometimes seem niggardly, strained and unfunny. In fact, they give directors a wonderful chance to parody not only old-fashioned dramaturgy 
and 'classic' plays, but also styles of acting and staging. Humor for educated theatre buffs, perhaps....Thus Mamet's minimalism does incorporate-as any first-rate playwright's-the kind of 
situations in which, though the text looks sparse, the staging will bloom." 
-Dennis Carroll

"David Mamet is a national treasure as a playwright and as an inspired teacher. His writings on theater are dead practical since he deals only with the truth. To add joy to the shock of
recognition, there is Mamet's humor, which startles us and makes us laugh more often than we expect with a true philosopher."
-Mike Nichols

"This is a professional actor's greatest challenge.  How do you juggle the mysterious balance between the felt and the faked?...In 1997 David Mamet published a typically forthright book called True and False, in which he argues that an actor's so-called 'feelings' don't, or shouldn't, come into it. An actor, 
he says, is no different than a carpenter. He is out there to do a job.
...Say the lines audibly, says Mamet, and leave the audience to interpret them for you....Mamet's book is a provocation. It's graffiti, scrawled in anger over the excesses of the kind of method 
acting which can often be unassimilated in American work....
However, if the truth were as practical as Mamet pretends, then acting would be a much easier business than it is....
You also can't help remembering that the most indelible Mamet performances - as from Al Pacino in American Buffalo - 
have been given by actors who believe the exact opposite to what Mamet argues. Their method juiciness brings vital moisture to Mamet's clinical dryness."
-David Hare

"Mr. Mamet's attraction to lying, in other words, reaches beyond theme, and beyond drama per se, to much more fundamental questions about what makes theater theater....Mr. Mamet is drawn to the sham and pretense of such situations not only because he likes tricksters as people, but also because he prefers to view human behavior in terms of acting-acting treated not cynically, dismissively or as a specialized activity...but with broad sympathy for the discipline as a rich world of experience in itself."
-Jonathon Kalb

"Mr. Mamet proves in (A Life in the Theatre) that he is an eloquent master of two-part harmony....He brings new life to the theater."
-Mel Gussow
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