Sunday, October 21, 2007

Mr. Mann

Theodore Mann, co-founder of the Circle in the Square Theatre, gave a lecture at the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center on October 20, 2007 before 50 or so theater lovers. He touched on as many highlights of his career as a producer and director as you can fit in an hour and change. The Circle is credited with starting the off- Broadway movement in the 1950s.

Ted has just written an excellent memoir, Journeys in the Night, which I had the pleasure of working on as a production editor for his publisher and my former employer, Applause Books. My favorite stories in the book have to be the George C. Scott tales, which could have filled their own book. Ted told the audience how he hired George C. Scott after one meeting. Not exactly a meeting, the book reveals he was totally taken by Scott’s bearing just by seeing him sleeping on a dressing room cot! Scott was hired to star in the Circle’s Children of Darkness with Colleen Dewhurst and became an integral part of the Circle as star, director, and benefactor.

He told more stories about Jason Robards, “Dusty” Hoffman, Geraldine Page, and the time Raul Julia met Ray Bolger. Ray had created the role that Raul was playing in the revival of Where’s Charley? I got goose bumps, even though I already knew the story, hearing again about Bolger leaping to the stage after Julia’s performance, tap dancing and taking a twirl around the set with the leading lady.

I started off the Q&A session by asking Ted how he made the transition from producer to director, which, if not a total rarity to try, is exceptional to excel at both. Ted revealed that during preparations for The Balcony in 1960, director and Circle co-founder José Quintero took a lesser role and Ted stepped forward in casting the roles and cutting text. Working closely with José, he morphed into his second career as a director, picking up the language of directing from José and others.

I was laid off from Applause Books in March 2007 in the middle of production of the book. Ted asked me to come over to the Circle to help him edit the figure captions for Journeys. He also gave me some plays recently sent to him. I read them and I wrote some comments for him. I thought of the hundreds of people he must have helped over the years for one reason or another with work and a check.

Going to the Circle during that brief period restored my self-respect after losing the Applause job to outsourcing. Applause told me I did a great job, but it’s just business. It hurt to lose the only paying job I ever loved or from which I even took work home. Ted reminded me I still had value as an editor or even as a human being. Maybe that’s what theater is supposed to do.

Thank you Mr. Mann.

Ted Mann, autographing a copy of
his book for his production editor.

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