Friday, March 26, 2010

Miracle on Main Street - by Marc Weil

My name is Marc Weil and I've come to refer to The Montgomery Theater as 'The Miracle On Main Street." Because a miracle it truly is. This amazing establishment residing in a tiny Philadelphia suburb has consistently been a sort of mystical magnet pulling in some of the most astounding talent (locally) and presenting productions of such impossibly brilliant quality that one cannot help to be utterly stunned by the experience. Folks, this just doesn't happen in small regional theaters.

You may be able to count other theaters of real quality in suburban locals across the country such as this on one hand! ...Maybe!

More miraculously all of this was originally developed and engineered by just two people -Hope deFrenes- Co-founder with Tom and the MT's Director of Production. Two people I admire beyond any words I could muster.

Some weeks ago I received an email from Allegra Ketchum -The Managing Director of the theater asking me if I'd like to be involved in creating a Blog for The Montgomery Theater. "Yes", I said. "Of course, love too!" After sending back that message, I had somewhat of a panic attack as I realized I wasn't quite sure what a blog actually was even though I'd heard the term many times. I narrowed it down to - it's either some sort of elaborate, progressive editorial thingy or some gook from an alien or science film picture.

After pondering this question for quite a while I settled on "editorial." Fortunate, since not being an alien myself-(even though my wife claims I constantly alienate her) - I'm totally 'gookless' and the only alien I know is my Uncle Sid who has a levitating nose...(a definite alien give away) but that's a whole different Blog.

This 2010 season marks my 14th year association with MT and Tom Quinn (The Artistic Director) told me yesterday--just two more years and he'll let me in the theater.

Actually, truth be told, I've been doing shows at MT since 1996 and first stepped inside the theater in 1993 to see first, my two Daughters and then my Wife perform there.

I could not believe what I was seeing!

I come from a Show Biz family. My wife is an actress, my two daughters are actresses, my son-in-law is an Actor/Musician, Composer and my three dogs think they are cats. So they are either great canine actors or completely insane-(I'll find out tonight when I chuck a mouse into the mix).

At that time Montgomery Theater consisted only of what is now called the 'Project Stage' which resides below the Main Stage and only seats about 70 odd people. It was a stunning revelation on many levels. And I don't just mean the thrill of my seeing Daughters suddenly mature into actors of genuine substance under Tom's gentle guidance, unparalleled passion and profound craft--but also transforming this tiny empty room with elaborate sets and atmosphere beyond belief.

Three years later I appeared in my first show at MT "All In the Timing" and since then and the subsequent shows I've worked in there hasn't been merely a joy but rather a life altering experience. Since then I have the privilege of working with some of the finest actors I've ever seen all of whom have played a major role in the quality of my performances and have been delighted by seeing so many more perform I have yet to work with--but hope to.

I've lost track of how many times I've said to Tom, "Well, I don't think you'll be able to top that one." Then the next production goes up and he does--over and over and over again.

As a fellow who has primarily built a reputation as a kooky/wacky comic, clown, comedy script writer/doctor, and comedy playwright known for making ridiculous entrances through windows, seducing tape recorders, running up walls, backflipping over tables and diving into washing machines my work with Tom and Montgomery Theater has taken me on an ongoing journey into the world of straight acting as well and performance theater experiences that will be with me for the rest of my life such as; Playing opposite my wife in "Same Time, Next Year and opposite my Daughter, Liza in "Proof."

I can't think of any other director who would take a chance of casting a clown in straight roles of this magnitude and complexities.

I owe so much to this theater far beyond what I can contribute in just appearing in MT productions over the years.

From MT, my Daughter, Liza went on to star Off-Broadway, play the lead in a feature film, appeared in supporting roles in other films, appeared in numerous network TV shows including a 7 year run on the "Gilmore Girls." and much, much more. It all began at MT with Tom and Hope.

In the 35 years I have been working as a professional in show business and worked with countless Directors and Producers in Theaters, Nite-Clubs, Art Centers/Theater Festivals, TV/Radio Commercials, Industrial films, and a bit of TV and Film all over the world--I can honestly state I've only come across what I consider 2 genuine genius's of directing--Ken Campbell, the man who discovered me and hired me at 19 for my 1st professional work in his comedy troupe based out of London which lead directly to me founding my own Comedy Theater Company--The Madhouse Company of London...and the other -- Tom Quinn.

I am constantly blown away by his innate understanding and instincts for drama, comedy and musicals. Almost all Directors can only do one of those really well. He does it all -- plus builds the sets too and on occasion--does my laundry....

All of us at MT do this work not for the money but for the pure pleasure of taking the audience away on a journey for a couple of hours providing towering tales, laughter, tears, insight and even a bit of knowledge.

Montgomery Theater is a miraculous and truly crucial organization for our communities, our world and our souls and must continue to grow and thrive.

Only a small portion of its operating costs come from ticket sales and while I urge all of you wonderful subscribers and audience members to continue to attend all of its thrilling productions, I also most humbly ask each of you to send in just the mere cost of a cup of coffee each day so this Miracle On Main Street may continue to deliver to you it's divine delights.

I sincerely thank you and look forward to seeing you all again soon.

Marc Weil