The entire experience of the 1976 NYC production of ASHES written by David Rudkin was ‘seminal’ not only for the gifted artists involved but it also it turned out to be the case for many members of our audiences.
I’ll begin at the beginning of one my life changing moments in ASHES. The production originated as a ‘work shop’ in a small venue on the upper east side in a fairly new minted theater venture called MTC. The Manhattan Theater Club. My co-star was my friend and colleague Brian Murray. The young artistic director Lynne Meadow was at the helm directing and if I am correct ASHES may have been her directorial debut. Well she was nothing if not courageous. The play was huge and had some extremely important things to say… It had had a very successful run in London and it was described as ‘a monster’ undertaking. I think John Lee Beatty our designer may back me on that. In fact without John Lee whose set provided the production with … Ah but no wait. That will be my next ‘seminal moment’ next week.
Anyway, ASHES on a very limited run, (and budget) was finally up on its feet, getting a tremendous response and also getting ready to close. On a Sunday morning before a matinee my phone rang. “Hello?”…“Is this Roberta?” … “Uh huh” I said … “This is Joe, Joe Papp calling … (pause)… and I’ve decided to move ASHES down to The Public Theater.” (Big, big pause.)
“Why are you going to do that Mr. Papp?” I asked. And Joe Papp said, “Because good work should be seen. Good work should be rewarded.”
Well we all knew he could be a man of few words but these words, these words really, really counted …To be continued.