The Great American
Play Series was founded by Stephan Morrow, an actor and theater director to present special
event performances of classic American plays to the theater going public in Los Angeles and New York. With little in the way
of sets, props, or special lighting but with powerful performances by some of our finest actors, ten seasons of staged
readings have produced many extraordinary evenings of theater. The impulse to start the series was based on the spirit
of self-empowerment which Stephan Morrow passionately holds to. Instead of wallowing in self-pity and inactivity he believes
in the prinicple of getting an idea and just getting up and seeing it through. Mr. Morrow approaches each project with
the same kind of seriousness a full production would demand and spends a full month in rehearsal so that the final presentation
is nothing less than a 'performance on book'.
Two highlights of
the series were Arthur Miller's play 'Incident at Vichy' which was presented four times in N.Y. to tremendous response
and 'The Deer Park' by Norman Mailer. After Arthur Miller attended the first 'performance on book' of 'Incident at Vichy'
at The Houseman Theater with F. Murray Abraham and Austin Pendleton in the lead roles, Mr. Morrow was greatly honored
by receiving Mr. Miller's personal blessing to proceed in finding a major venue for a full production of the play. Mr.
Morrow embarked on that mission wholeheartedly and spent three years attempting to get the play to Broadway. The economic
climate of the commercial theater being what it is, it simply would not support a play with such a large cast that was not
With the sad passing of Arthur Miller, Mr. Morrow's work on the play went into hiatus. Even though Mr. Morrow did not
end up directing a full production of the play, the honor and exitement of heading up the mission that brought him together
with Arthur Miller and receiving his encouragement and support in the winter of his life will be one that he
will always cherish. Not to mention the fact that it is hard to imagine a more extraordinary set of actors being brought
together than the ones who volunteered for this series. Simply put, their work on the material of this difficult
play was unmatchable.
The following is a memorial to Arthur Miller that was read at the Actor's Studio West in
A Personal Tribute to Arthur Miller By Stephan Morrow 5/05 .
This has been a sad time, with the passing of Arthur Miller. There has been much written and spoken
about the power of his writing which was of course magnificent, but I would like to share something about the character of
the man. In November, the last time I talked with him, he seemed fine though he couldn’t see his way to making the trip
from his home in Roxbury to Hartford where I was putting on another special event performance of his play ‘Incident
at Vichy’ . This would be our fourth presentation of the play and the cast and myself all had high hopes that if things
went well, we might find backers for a major production of the play. I had thought of course, if Arthur could attend, it might
help our cause. Two years before Arthur had indeed attended a ‘performance on book’ of ‘Incident at Vichy’
and gave me his personal blessing to move forward toward a Broadway production - the height of flattery for any director.
But much to my chagrin, even though audiences embraced the play passionately, and even though, in its power and relevance
- dealing as it does with the collapse of civil liberties and anti-Semitism - it was very timely, no producers stepped up
to the plate. A cast of sixteen was generally considered impossibly large for Broadway unless it was a commercial entertainment
. In my conversations with Arthur his wry wit never allowed for rage but he was very aware that there might not be room for
his plays on Broadway anymore. And yet, because they believed in the merit of the project so much, my actors volunteered to
even travel to Hartford and put it on up there for one night, barreling into town like old-time barnstormers - and had
a brilliant evening. I had hoped to call Arthur with some good news, but after the enthusiastic crowd had gone home and the
dust had settled, still no producers materialized, and the next thing I knew Arthur was gone. One of my deepest regrets is
that I did not have the chance to repay Arthur for his loyalty and patience by sticking by me during the last two years. That
kind of integrity will remain with me for a long time. The world may be unfair, but sometimes some people do manage to do
the right thing. In the parlance of The Brooklyn Navy Yard that he was very proud to have worked in as a young man, he was
not only one of our greatest playwrights - he was a stand up guy..... Stephan Morrow Playwright Directing Unit, Actor’s
The other highlight of
the series was a staged reading of Norman Mailer's play 'The Deer Park' which Mr. Morrow both directed and performed
in March, 2007 in New York. Norman Mailer attended that 'performance on book' and based on the work that he saw was
quoted in Vanity Fair as saying:
“ 'Finally somebody understood the language
and what I was trying to say'... The interviewer than asked him why after all these years he was still obsessed with
this one book? and he answered "Because it's about the trouble men and women always have, dealing with each other. It's a
mystery. I still can't figure it out...”
Mailer then invited Mr. Morrow to co-direct and act in a film of the play and pre-production plans began to be made to
film it in the newly refurbished Provincetown Playhouse in Provincetown. Though Mr. Mailer never got the chance
to see this project come to fruition - something he wished very deeply - and with the enthusiastic support of his
son producer, Michael Mailer, we all hope the project will have a future.
Mr. Morrow was honored to have two pieces published in the Sept. 2008 Memorial Issue of The Mailer Review, a 'Requiem'
for Mr. Mailer and a large excerpt from 'The Unknown and the General' Mr. Morrow's soon to be completed memoir of
working on two plays ('Strawhead - A memory play of Marilyn' and 'The DeerPark' ) and a film (Tough Guys Don't Dance)
with Mr. Mailer. ).
In 2009, as a tribute to
Norman Mailer's legacy and to keep interest in the project alive, Mr. Morrow was very happy to resurrect the project at
The Nuyorican Poet's Cafe for a limited run over a three week period. Below are some comments from audience members:
(These remarks were unsolicited ):
I was glad I could come into the city to see your final
performance of The Deer Park. There was so much
energy, and you and the other actors were successful at bringing the characters to life. It was
especially nice to finally see you perform as an actor. Got to say I was very impressed with you. It must have
been difficult to direct, produce and play a significant role, especially with such a large cast. It must
also be hard to put so much effort into a short run of a complex show. Great work! Sincerely,
I wanted to send a quick e mail to say that I was able to see the
1st act of "The Deer Park"- really enjoyed it, and appreciate the invite. I wish I could have stayed for it
all, but had usual family stuff to get done- still, I feel lucky to have seen you, and the entire cast, on stage at Newyorican.
Lulu was especially good, as was the director, and you as that 20th century scoundrel!!!
Keep in touch, I look forward to the "finished product"!!!
Martin Haber (from the Gary Snyder reading!!!)
Maybe you are feeling a little let down
today. That's what usually happens when you
put everything you've got into a mammoth
project like The
Deer Park...and actually
it life.It was an incredible undertaking.
..and as actor, director and producer you
really take pride in what you have
Sincerely, Arlene Sterne
I wanted to take a minute to once again thank you for bringing
Norman's play around for us "Mailer fans" to enjoy ! I was observing and listening to those sitting around me and I must
tell you there was a pause of disappointment when intermission came - it was
one of the few times that I can remember when I was looking forward to intermission being over so we could get back to the
rest of the story... . Anyway, a big congratulations on what you accomplished! I still can't believe,
in a limited amount of time - you took on producing, directing and acting in this one. Your intensity for your work is
contagious and is always reflected in the enthusiasm of those actors you are directing.
At the risk of making you glow
- I think it was unanimous that with your presence and command of the stage you gave a gripping edge to the play. Norman Mailer
would be proud!
Even though I feel like I need to take a bath every time I see “The Deer Park”......You have done a Herculean
job with the play, and I do respect that enormously...”
- Norris Church Mailer
The Great American Play
Stephan Morrow, Founder and Artistic Director
Ten seasons of
special event presentations of classic American dramas. 1999- 2009:
The Deer Park by Norman Mailerdirected
by Stephan Morrow with Casey Spindler, Stephan Morrow, Lee Godart, Ken Schwarz, Daniel Pollack, Ana Roman, Angela Rauscher,
Arlene Sterne, Geoff Molloy, Bill Galarno, Alison Lory, Zak Kostro. Nuyorican Poets Cafe. N.Y.C. 2009
The Deer Parkby Norman Mailer directed by
Stephan Morrow with Larry Pine, Larry Block, Delphi Harrington, Stephan Morrow, Jezebel Montero, Justin Adams. Makor
Center of the 92ST.Y. (slated for film production). 2007.
Ten Blocks on the Camino Real (+1)by
Tennesse Williams. Adapted and directed by Stephan Morrow. with Larry Block, Betsy VonFurstenberg, Fred Kimble, Barbara Spiegel,
Gilbet Cruz, Marcia and Bob Haufrecht. Makor Center of the 92nd St. Y. 2006
The Balcony by Jean Genet with Angelica Torn, Bob Heller, Larry
Block, Larry Pine, Ron Rand, Todd Conner. (adapted to an American context). Makor Center of the 92nd St.Y. 2006
A Bright Room Called Day by Tony Kushner. with Judith Malina, Joan MacIntosh,
Henry Stramm, Angelica Torn, Larry Block, Hanon Resnikov et al. Performing Space @Barnes and Noble Union Square, New York.
Incident at Vichy (by Arthur Miller) with Peter Weller, Fisher
Stevens, Barry Primus. Makor Center of the 92st Y. N.Y.C. (2004).
Incident at Vichy (by Arthur Miller): F. Murray Abraham, Austin
Pendleton, David Margulies, Larry Block, Stephen Mendillo, Fred Kimble. The John Houseman Theater, New York City (2002)
Incident at Vichy (by Arthur Miller) w/ Richard Dreyfuss, Fritz
Weaver, Barry Primus David Margulies, Larry Block, Leo Burmester, Fred Kimble. The John Houseman Theater (2003)
The Price (by Arthur Miller): Judith Light, Barry Primus, Paul
Mazursky, Lyle Kessler. Ivar Theater, Los Angeles. 2000
After the Fall (by Arthur Miller): Rebecca DeMornay, Mark Rydell, Sally
Kirkland, Barry Primus, Stefan Gierasch, Lyle Kessler, Lisa Richards, Harrison Young, Dilia Salvi. Barnsdall Theater, Los
The Crucible (by Arthur Miller): Lisa Richards, Barry Primus. Odyssey
Theater, Los Angeles. 1998
The Deer Park (by Norman Mailer): Sally Kirkland, Stefan Gierasch. Glaxa
Theater, Los Angeles Theater - Los Angeles. 1998
Other Theater Projects in Los Angeles:
Cash Deal (by Michael Dinelli): Directed by Stephan Morrow. with Tony Russell
and John Cassini. Actor’s Studio West. (1997). (Play was subsequently made into an independent feature film)
The Ghost Sonata (by August Strindberg). Directed by Stephen
Morrow. Staged reading
with John Randolph. Strindberg Festival ( 1997)
The Bond (by August Strindberg). Directed by Stephan Morrow. Staged
reading . With Barry Primus, Rebecca DeMornay. Strindberg Festival (1999)
Love in a Graveyard (by J. Tompkins). Patchett-Kauffman (P.K.E.) Staged-reading
series, Dan Lauria, Artistic Director. Directed by Stephan Morrow with Sally Struthers, Pia Zadora. Geffen Playhouse
Stuck (by Rich Krevolin). P.K.E.; staged-reading series. Dan Lauria,
Artistic Director. Directed by Stephan Morrow with Ed Asner, Jo DeWinter. Cannon Theater ( 1993)
Dance For Me Simeon (by Joseph Maher). P.K.E.; staged-reading
series. Dan Lauria, Artistic Director. Directed by Stephan Morrow with Charles Durning, Peter Onorati, Alice Ghostley. Geffen
The Hundred Years War (by Earnest Kearney). Workshop presentation
directed by Stephan Morrow: with Salome Jens, Gene Dynarski. Actor’s Studio West, Playwright – Director’s
Unit ( 1999)
Forgiving (by Gloria Goldsmith). Staged reading directed by Stephan
Morrow : with Lois Nettleton. Actor’s Studio West Playwright-Director’s Unit
Theater - New York :
Play Time by Murray Schisgal - an absurdist tragicomedy about the financial shenanigans
of Wall St. focusing on the friendship of two denizens of the street. with Peter Riegert, Rosie Perez, Chip Zien,
Cynthia Mace, Kimberly Whalen. 45 Bleecker Street Theater. staged reading. April 5, 2010.
'Pieces of Paradise'by Tennessee Williams - (four one-acts
of the lost plays from the Mister Paradise collection. New York premier.). Produced and Directed by Stephan
Morrow. with Fred Kimble. Larry Block. Extended run for eight months as a benefit production for The Thirteenth
Street Repertory Company. 2007
Split Ends ( Three one acts on couples
going their separate ways.). Directed by Stephan Morrow. Blue Heron Theater. 2005.
Guest Director at The Company ( The Alumni
Repertory Co. of The American Academy of Dramatic Art:
The Queens of Richard III (by Normand Chaurette): Alumni Repertory
Co. of The American Academy of Dramatic Art (2001)
North Shore Fish (by Israel Horovitz): A.A.D.A. (2002)
Childe Byron (by Romulus Linney): A.A.D.A. (2002)
Other N.Y. Projects:
Symposium on the Life and Work of Norman Mailer. " From Stage to Screen and all places
in between". 2009
Panel included : Norris Church
Mailer, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Michael Chaiken, Ira Lewis. Moderated by Stephan Morrow. Nuyorican Poets Cafe.
Benefit Symposium for The Bleecker Street Theater Company @ 45 Bleecker.
'Are small theaters from Off Broadway to Off Off Broadway becoming an endangered species?' .
Panel included: Israel Horovitz, Murray Schisgal, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Quincy Long, Mario Fratti, Richard Vetere and
Produced and moderated by Stephan Morrow. Peter Zinn, Artistic Director, The Bleecker St. Theater Company, Elle Sunman,
Company Manager, Lou Salamone, Executive Director, 45 Bleecker St. Theaters.
Back Bog Beast Bait (by Sam Shepard): Directed
by Stephan Morrow with Paul Austin. Theater XII Repertory Company.
Dance For Me Simeon (by Joseph Maher): Directed by Stephan Morrow with Sudie Bond, Tom Everett, and Wyman Pendleton. American Theater of Actors (1982)
Best Production Off-Off Broadway Award - Show Business Magazine (1982) “Sudie Bond is a wonderful curmudgeon
who we meet, just off the road, during this bitter but ultimately sweet evening.” New York Times, Walter Kerr
The Choice (by Gene Ruffini).
Directed by Stephan Morrow (Play is about the search for a Nazi War Criminal who is now a Catholic priest): American Theater
of Actors (1984)
Messages (by John Ford Noonan). Three
one-act plays. Directed by Stephan Morrow. Staged reading with Paul Gleason, Jackie Bartone. American Place Theater
The Collyer Brothers (by Sid Thiel). Directed by Stephan Morrow. Staged-reading with Paul Austin, Tom Noonan. American Theater of
Spanish Confusion (by John Ford Noonan).
Directed by Stephan Morrow. Staged reading with Joseph Ragno, Phil Peters. Actor’s Studio - Playwright-Directing
Unit . Elia Kazan, Moderator
These Days the Watchmen Sleep. by Karl Weber.
Staged reading. New Dramatists, David Juaire, Artistic Director. Play was nominated for a national playwriting award.
Other Projects - originating from The Actor’s
Studio, Playwright-Directing Unit (1985-1987)
Tough Guys Don’t Dance(written and directed
by Norman Mailer): Canon Films (1987) with Ryan O’Neal and Isabella Rossellini. Co-starred in the role of 'Stoodie'.
Strawhead: Marilyn - A memory play (written and directed
by Norman Mailer) The Actor’s Studio, N.Y. (1986) Originated the roles of 'Rod' and 'Joe DiMaggio'. ( In this production
Kate Mailer played the title role of Marilyn Monroe.)
Bovver Boys (by Willie Holtzmann) Directed by Lenore DeKoven.
Originated the role of 'Allie'. Actor’s Studio, N.Y.
Cabal of Hypocrites ( by Mikhail Bulgakov) played 'Count
D’Orleans', supporting role. Directed by David Margulies: The Actor’s Studio, N.Y. (1985)
Actor’s Studio N.Y. Playwright-Directing Unit (2004-2008) David Margulies. Peter Maloney.Pete
Masterson. Carlin Glynn. Moderators.
Actor’s Studio West - Playwright-Directing Unit, Los Angeles (1997-2001)
Moderators: Mark Rydell, Lyle Kessler
Actor’s Studio East - Playwright-Directing Unit, New York City (1985
– 1988) Moderator: Arthur Penn; Sponsored by Elia Kazan
Training and Education:
Actor’s Studio- Playwright Directing Unit - Directing Technique and Dramaturgy: Elia Kazan,
Arthur Penn, Joseph Mankewicz, and Norman Mailer. (1985 – 1988)
Stella Adler (student scholarship)
Michael V. Gazzo
Lis Dixon (vocal acting coach)
University at Buffalo, Bachelor of Arts: Magna Cum Laude
Stuyvesant H.S. , N.Y.C. General Excellence Award. Sterling Jensen (Roundabout Theater,
leading actor) : Drama coach.
NYU Film - ( Summer Intensive Curriculum). Led to shooting two public
serivce spots for VASCA (sending needy seniors to the country for vacation. ). Played on New York public television for ten
Life Experience :
International traveler – circled globe for two years: Taught English on Amorgos,
Greece. Volunteered on Kibbutz Kisufim, Negev, Israel for 5 months. Trekked in Himachal Pradesh, India. Survived torrid love
affair with a girl named Boo during a five month stay in Bangkok. Recuperated from Malarial virus in a fishing village
on Penang Island. Studied Kabuki Theater in Kyoto, Japan. Volunteered on Japanese Agricultural commune in Nara,
Japan. Resided with aboriginal people on Lanyu Island. Lived off the land in Kalalau Valley, Kuai.
Summer Farmhand on Peter’s Homestead Farm, Sullivan County N.Y. Duties included milking 60
cows, putting in over 30,000 bales of hay, caring for livestock, fencing, horse wrangling.
Published articles: 1)"Inside the Soul of an American Director" in The
Soul of the American Actor. 2006.
2)'Beyond Sundance' ( Running with the dog at The Sundance Film
Festival). Humanist Magazine.
3)'A Requiem for Norman Mailer' and 'The Unknown and the General'.
Memorial Issue of The Mailer Review. Sept 2008.
Novelist: 'Rock Tavern' ( a farm story, climaxing with the mystical bonding
of three young men on a mountaintop.(recommended by Norman Mailer for publication).
Currently completing a memoir of his work with Norman Mailer. : 'The
Unknown and the General'.
Winner of the Silver Solas International Travel Writing Award for Adventure Travel.
2009 for the story 'Amorgos'. ( It is an excerpt from a larger one about living on an island in Greece
and what happened there. This episode is about getting caught unexpectedly in a snowstorm in the middle of a trek
through the mountains. Hadn't snowed there in thirty years. ) To read the full story follow this link: http://www.besttravelwriting.com/btw-blog/great-stories/adventure-travel%e2%80%94silver-amorgos/
Winner of The 2010 Gold Award Solas International Travel Writing Competition for Travel
Memoir ' From South Street to Simla ( India)'. A story that begins among the artists of The Fulton Fish
Market in Manhattan and ends with a harrowing experience in the foothills of the Himalayas.
Winner of The 2010 Siver Award Solas International Travel Writing Competition in the
Adventure Travel category. 'Herat, Oh My Herat. A story that takes place in Afghanistan when it was medieval and
before war, mayhem and modernization destroyed so much of the 'old ways'.
The following is a response to Dick Cavett's memoriam
for Norman Mailer in his column, written by Stephan Morrow. Stephan was very honored to have it included
for publication in Mr. Cavett's book 'Talk Show' (2010):
Response to Dick Cavatt Interview
in NYT. 11.14.07 :
That show with Gore Vidal and Norman was a little
before my time, and maybe that’s the point of this note, because those kind of celebrations too easily smokescreen other
dimensions of Norman’s character.
I had the good fortune to work with Norman on his play ‘Strawhead’ at The Actor’s Studio in New York,
his film ‘Tough Guys Don’t Dance’ and recently a staged reading of his play ‘The Deer Park’
which I directed and performed in, so I suppose you could say, I worked with him quite a bit - on more of his theater and
film projects than anyone else that I know of. And so I would like to add a personal note about the kind of character he had:
When I visited him on Oct.26 at Mt.Sinai it was pretty grim, but I was still hoping for a miracle. He couldn't
speak because of the tubes but gestured for me to return when he got a little better. So I kept my hopes up. He had sounded
so strong on the phone just a month before. Alas, sometimes old soldiers just fade away.
But I want to shout this from the rooftops: For
me, Norman was living proof that there is some justice in the world.
And I mean in the arts. Last June when he called me to ask if I would help him direct the film of "The
Deer Park" and do one of the characters, I was of course, moved and thanked him. It
had been a lot to take on, acting and directing it at the same time, but he seemed pleased during the discussion after the
performance and it seemed like everything had turned out well. Even though we had had a bit of a rocky start that night
- the actor who had the opening line had disappeared for some mysterious reason. I had planned a Sax solo for an intro to
the play and had the musician continue to play while we tracked the actor down, which we finally did. He was under the impression
the play was scheduled to begin an hour later. These things happen in live theater. Anyway, the performance then continued
without a hitch, and maybe even had a little more zing because of the near disaster we had skirted.
So I was especially thrilled by the phone call
from Norman. And like I said, when I thanked him for his kind words, he quickly
countered with, "I don't want you to confuse this with kindness. I'm not being
kind here, I just liked what you did with my play. I’ve seen it done badly too many times" It should be pointed
out here that in the Byzantine channels of producing or casting,that kind of thing is rare in the arts: choosing to work with someone
just based on the merits of their work - and why he's always inspired me. And finally, why I’ll miss him so much.
His greatness as a writer goes without saying and
he may have brought rambunctiousness to a new level on the tube, but to copy a phrase I’ve heard him use, ‘he
was a stand up guy’ as well. I think people should also know that about him...
So Cheers to you Norman.
Stephan Morrow, New
Dick Cavatt's reply to
this comment in his subsequent column in The New York Times:
Dick Cavatt Column. Dec.29.2007.“With Readers Like Y’all”.
You might not guess that at least half the fun of doing this column is getting to read your “comments,”
as they are called on the Web site.
But it’s true.
I don’t even mind reading things like, “Enough with the heavy stuff. Let’s get back to Groucho.”
(I am trying to remember one I recently heard. By the time we finish here, I might come up with it. Isn’t memory annoying
when you get past forty?)
In a moment I’ll glance back at mail about earlier columns, but I stand particularly amazed all over
again at the high quality of so very many of the recent Mailer-Vidal reactions.
They’re literate, funny, well-composed and, in many cases, what I would call “publishable.”
(With, of course, a real dumbo here and there for contrast.) I especially liked hearing from people who, as one man put it,
were “delighted to get the inside view of that remarkable show.”
Makes you wonder how, with such a high ratio of intelligent composition indicating so many smart and sensitive people
in this country, we got in the mess we’re in. (Feel free to forward that question to a residence on Pennsylvania Ave.)
Anyway, Mailer-Vidal. Lots of people were sorry that Norman came off so badly — sorry, as someone wrote, that so great a talent “could
act like such a lout.” Some related how kind Norman could be, based on personal encounters. “The nicest, politest, sweetest man I
ever met,” wrote one lady.
If you missed it, look back at the replies to the first Mailer column for a moving letter from Stephan Morrow, who had directed and acted in Norman’s work and knew him from The Actors Studio. Mailer had called to thank Morrow for his work on a film version
of Mailer’s “The Deer Park.” Thrilled by the call, Morrow in turn thanked Mailer “for his kind words,”
but the author, Morrow writes, “quickly countered with, ‘I don’t want you to confuse this with kindness.
I’m not being kind here, I just liked what you did with my play. I’ve seen it done badly too many times.’
” (I can’t wait until the next time I commend someone and they say I’m being kind.)
Maybe I should have included one or two of my own such “positive” Mailer experiences. (For instance:
he was on an earlier show of mine, during which he said to Muhammad Ali, “I came to sit at your feet.” Ali was
Programs and Program
Notes from the presentationsof The Great AmericanPlay Series:
2007 Season of The Great American Play Series:
"The Deer Park" byNorman Mailer
Produced by The Great American Play Series and The Makor/Steinhardt
Center of the 92nd St. Y.
Directed by Stephan Morrow
March 25, 2007
with Delphi Harrington, Larry Block, Larry Pine, Justin Adams,
Stephan Morrow, Bernard Rachelle, Jezebel Montero, Judith Jerome, Marina Squerciati, Nic Tyler, Chris Shyam/ Kerson,
Meghan Fluitt - announcer
Bob Feldman- saxophone.
from the Program Notes: A trip to Purgatory
morphed into Palm
Springs of the 50’s where denizens of the film colony go about their trials and tribulations.
A down and out film director who is short on cash and long on integrity falls in love with a Carmen, but one who is full of
hurts. She goes off with an edgy but younger character who is not above setting up men with women for a price - but when her
ex-lover director saves her from the brink of suicide, they end up settling down to a less than satisfying luxe, suburban
life-style. They argue, he suffers a heart attack and dies. So goes life in the
film capital. Or Purgatory -as the souls therein look for their salvation.Hard-ball, hard-core Hollywood of the
fifties - a stand-in for all the towns in all the world…Mr. Mailer, who has just had his latest book published, "The
Castle in the Forest" (about Hitler as a child) attended the "performance on book" of his play and participated in a
lengthy and jubilant post-play discussion with the director, Stephan Morrow and Makor's Head of Theater Programming,
Produced and directed byStephan
Morrowby special permission of the author.
with Judith Malina, Angelica Torn, Joan
MacIntosh, Henry Stramm, Larry Block, Jody Carter, Anya
Migdal, Alexandra Eitel, Chrisopher Kerson and Hanon Resnikov.
from the program notes: 'Taking place from 1932 - 33 in Berlin, it covers the period of the rise of the Nazis to absolute power and the demise of democracy, culminating with the
infamous Reichstag fire. From then on, civil liberties were crushed, the Communist party outlawed, and the first concentration
camps set up. The play follows six friends - bohemians, artists, and Marxists who try to save their souls and their lives
during this tumultuous time.When the play was first presented twenty years ago,
during the Regan years, it seemed to some far fetched to compare the end of the Weimar period to present day America, but
as we have moved into the uneasy period in which we live - when there is widespread concern about civil liberties,
wiretapping, and foreign invasion - the play has morphed into nothing less than
a stunning tribute to Kushner’s prescience, with the Weimar Republic standing as a dramatic metaphor for a state
of things that could quite possibly arrive at our own doorstep.
Director Stephan Morrow reassembled some of the members of the original N.Y. casttogether with other seasoned N.Y. stage actors, and Living Theater icon Judith Malina. Not seen professionally in N.Y.
for over fifteen years, the play is not just the first play written by one of our most provocative playwrights but a superlative drama
that stands on its own and has gained in relevance to present day society.'
"The Balcony" by Jean Genet
Produced and directed by Stephan Morrow
The Makor/Steinhardt Center of the 92nd
October 22. 2006
Cast: Larry Block,
Larry Pine, Angelica Torn, Ronald Rand, Bob Sonderskov, Bob Heller, Matt Fraley, Todd Conner,
Alexandra Eitel, Christina Doikos, Elizabeth DeSantis, Kit Paquin.
from the program notes : "In the midst of
a war-ravaged city, a brothel caters to the elaborate role-playing fantasies of its clients who are from all walks of life.
When the Chief of Police impresses them into service to play their real life counterparts ( a Bishop, a Judge and a General)
in his attempt to defeat the revolutionaries and take control, Genet presents a stunning string of macabre scenes, all of
which reflect his caustic view of man and society. The play is timeless in the way that it presents the archetypal
characters of its landscape yet, in a mysterious way it seems very fresh and contemporary. That is to say, it could be
a world that is right around the next corner. " Stephan Morrow, Dir.
Blocks on the Camino Real (+1)" by Tennessee Williams
Produced by The Great American
Play Series and
The Makor/ Steinhardt Center
of the 92nd St.
Dec. 3, 2006
and Directed byStephan Morrow
with Betsy Von Furstenberg,
Larry Block, Barbara Spiegel, Frederick Kimble, Harry Kimbel, Gilbert Cruz, Sonia Ohara,
Justin Adams, Alex Shaklin, Casey Spindler, Bob Haufrecht, Marcia Haufrecht, Doug Rossi,
Rafael Petlock, Timothy Lee and Corrinne Wu.
from the Program Notes:
version of Williams’ epic ‘Camino Real’ shows the origin of the later work while introducing much of the
same kaleidoscopic vision. The Camino Real is a terminal road, a dead end, a police state in a vaguely desert country,
in this version, a Latinate one, but the sand of its despair could easily be relocated to the deserts of the Middle East,
making his vision especially relevant when one considers the naive Yankee, the soldier of fortune, with a heart ‘as
big as the head of a baby’ who stumbles into it. Williams in his prescience gives us a nightmarish vision tinged with
the humor of irony which is astounding in its accuracy of the despair of today in the same locale.
The Great American Play Series
in association with The Makor/Steinhardt Center of the 92st Y presents Arthur Miller’s "Incident
at Vichy" an extraordinarily
powerful investigation of the political persecution that can happen once civil liberties are destroyed….
March 29, 2004
and Directed by Stephan Morrow
“….The day starts as any other - walking to work, a man turns into a quiet
street. Suddenly, a car pulls up alongside him and four men in plainclothes jump out and surround him. One is in a uniform
he doesn’t recognize. They demand identification. An order is given and they grab him by the arms and hustle him into
the car. Everyone is silent and they stare straight ahead. He feels invisible, ghostlike, as if he is already dead..’’
Is this a death squad in El Salvador, or right in our own nation of ‘Homeland Security’ in a Kafkaesque near
future? No. It is during the Nazi occupation of France in Vichy, in 1943 – but truth be told, it could be any one of
these. **scene suggested from Incident at Vichy
Cast: Peter Weller Fisher Stevens Barry Primus Larry
Block John Rothman Bob Heller Bernie Rachelle Bob Sonderskov Ronald Rand Lazaro Perez Bennes Mardenn Michael
Hadge Lucas Blondheim Matt Fraley Jason Robards III Michael Arkin
Here’s what the audience
the Reviews are in and -- you're a hit!!!’ Congratulations!!! I got an e-mail from Elaine Papas last night saying the
reading was terrific -- and one from my sister this morning saying: "The reading was outstanding -- Stephan did a great job
-- and the actors were superb…. From : Dimitra Arliss, Actress (The Sting)
“We really enjoyed
the reading...it was our first one and just great...good luck with it!!” Barbara and Jennifer Howland
Stephen: I enjoyed the reading. It was very well done and you are to be congratulated. Best, Gene Ruffini, (Playwright)
Stephan, ‘Thank you for arranging tickets for me to see INCIDENT AT VICHY last night. Your vision for this play was
very insightful and helped to make the play feel very timely and fresh. It remains a stirring piece of writing and I was happy
to become familiar with another of Mr. Miller’s plays. Daryl and I discussed the play this morning and she asked
that I thank you on her behalf for inviting us. We both wish you great success as you continue with this project.’ Warmly, Greg
Raby Assistant to Daryl Roth, Broadway Producer
Hi stephan ’Wonderful show again last night - in fact,
I thought even better than the first time. I hope you are proud!’ Sabrina Ricci
Stephan, The show was very
powerful and everybody was happy about it. The play was very well read and felt. Fisher Stevens seemed very taken to it, Larry
Block was wonderful. And Barry Primus really warmed up. I hope you can transfer it elsewhere, stage it, or do another play
of this caliber soon. My only suggestion is that I think next time you do the play - in a cabaret, a barroom a warehouse,
an "urban" setting for sure - you should write a short text about it and include it in the program to explain the context
Miller was writing in. Best, Soti Triantafillou . (Best-selling novelist. Athens, Greece)
Stephan: It would
be nice to chat at some point. Again, you did a great job with the reading. I hope you had some response that will propel
you forward in some way . You most certainly deserve it. Best, Barbara Spiegel.( N.Y. Actress/Director)
, This was my third time at your play and I must say....very good. As it turns out the stuff I hear (and read) of
late, bring the issues that this play kicks up to the forefront every day it seems. All the best with this valuable project,
“Hey Stephan: ‘Good
words about your show even reached the other side of the Ocean. As we say in Greek, Panta tetoia,” Lots of kisses, Anastasia
(Athens Vogue Editor)
Dear Mr.Morrow, I greatly
enjoyed the reading last night. I had never seen 'Incident at Vichy', and I think it's one of the clearest treatments of 'how
Evil takes root' and 'individual responsibility is the only way out' in play form that I have encountered. Recently, I visited
Auschwitz for the second time, taking my fourteen-year-old daughter with me. This time, with the Russian brand of Communism
out of the way, and an excellent tour guide, I was able to focus on the 'Diabolical Plan' that organized this Hell on Earth.
Best regards, Caroline
with Barry Primus, Lyle Kessler, Paul Mazursky, Judith Light.
Produced by Carol Anne Eisenrauch.
Directed by Stephan Morrow.
Ivar Theater, Hollywood. 2001.
"The Deer Park" by Norman Mailer.
Directed by Stephan Morrow
with Sally Kirkland, Stefan Gierasch, Shelley Desai, et al.
Glaxa Theater, Los Angeles. 2000
"After the Fall" by Arthur Miller
Directed by Stephan Morrow
A staged reading with Mark Rydell, Rebecca DeMornay,
Sally Kirkland, Barry Primus, Lyle Kessler, Dilia Salvi, Lisa Richards, Stefan Gierasch, Harrison Young, Todd Connor et al.
Barnsdall Theater, Los Angeles. 1999
From the program notes: Not seen in public in over twenty years, Arthur Miller's play encompasses his
marriage to Marilyn, the McCarthy period - its truth and its ugliness, and contains the second act which in director Stephan
Morrow's opinion is one of the great second acts in the canon of American dramatic literature where we see a woman start from
the humblest of beginnings rise to the zenith of a career and then tragically self destructs ending up in a drug induced
suicide. On the way, she engages in a marriage that at first is blissful and humane but that also descends into
the hellish depths of antagonism with that perfect husband. Arthur Miller wrote this second act at the behest of none
other than his erstwhile friend and colleague, Elia Kazan who insisted that he re write the first version he had presented
to the cast for the innaugural production of Lincoln Center in New York. The result is stellar.
with Barry Primus, Lisa Richards, Stefan Gierasch, Julie Garfield, Todd Connor, Cynthia
Ruffin et al.
Two performances of a staged reading at the Odyssey Theater, Los Angeles was the
innaugural offering of The Great American Play Series.
from the program notes: The Crucible, originally written out of the rage Arthur
Miller had for the McCarthy hearings, today has a different resonance. It could be said that when out most intimate privacies
are dragged into the public arena, forces may be unleashed that victimize everyone, from private citizen to president.
This new take has been taken by none other than the playwright. Arthur Miller himself, as revealed in the recent
article he wrote in The New York Times on the Clinton impeachment trial. ( The confirmation of Stephan Morrow's
take on the play led to a correspondence with Arthur Miller and eventually the important work done on 'Incident at Vichy'.)
'INSIDE THE SOUL OF AN AMERICAN DIRECTOR' by Stephan Morrow
What is this cross
we bear called ‘the desire to do great theater’? What draws us up the Sisyphaean mountain again and again? Is
it that rare moment, that electric moment, when we are launched? When all the forces of the theater gods combine and pull
us up from the darkened house of a theater into some Olympian chamber of cosmic revelation? I can say that for me, it happened
recently, directing a workshop performance of Arthur Miller’s Incident at Vichy. Unfortunately it can be a very
long time until rare moments such as these happen again. But we drive on. Why? Even when civilians (those whose lives do not
obsessively revolve around the theater) think we’re crazy, or our family and friends look at us sideways with the doleful
glance of pity that one gives to the ‘slightly tetched in the head’, to use a phrase by Mark Twain. It’s
a reasonable response, coming from a culture that is itself obsessed only with material gain as the final arbiter of value.
And one which actively dislikes any attempt at providing introspection, which certainly is theater’s strongest suit.
So how do you, in fact, convince someone of the value of a life in the theater, in the cultural climate we live in?
Simple. That in spite of it all, there is that special moment in a theater when the hair on your neck raises up as you are
taken somewhere out of the realm of everyday experience and into some kind of visceral understanding of non-ordinary reality;
when you experience your inner emotional landscape shift and you are renewed on some level. And actually transformed into
a slightly better individual, “if only for the fifteen steps past the exit of the theater,” as Harold Clurman
once said. To him that was still of definite value. And since the life of the theater artist is more endangered now than ever
before, for me, its become an anthem: Make a difference on the planet, whether large or small, by contributing to the consciousness
of the body politic. And I don’t mean by presenting some kind of agit-prop skit that advances a political agenda. There’s
probably nothing more well meaning and more deadly than ‘political’ theater’. After all, we get enough propaganda
from the deluge of commercials we have to suffer through. No, I mean by raising the flesh and bones of great live drama that
reaches across the footlights and touches our very souls. That’s what makes the struggle worthwhile.
also ask why theater artists on occasion wryly refer to theater as ‘my habit’ - as if it’s an addiction?
Well, in a way, once you experience one of those rare moments, I suppose it can feel like that, pulling you back again and
again, though it does something much more profound than any drug. I prefer to see ‘a life in the theater’ as being
a monk without a monastery, a calling, and when the elements in a production combine to create an altered reality on the stage,
I see it as being more related to a religious experience than anything else. Although, it might be said that even in the most
dire and dark moments of drama the humor of irony often emerges which is as sacred as anything else. So while your psyche
is stretching faster than a speeding bullet and your soul is leaping over the tallest mountains, you definitely enter a zone
of Olympian twilight and experience a dress rehearsal for all the issues that life confronts us with. The price of admission
is high, no question, but for the chance to participate in the mysterious process of putting up a play so that it works to
the best of the ability of the writing - there’s nothing like it, and a price well worth paying with the currency in
sacrifices that it costs.
But, there’s the rub: the play. It all starts with the writing: if it has the power
to create an authentic experience; if it raises issues of real significance; if it is emotionally cathartic and moves you
on the deepest level. Arthur Miller’s play Incident at Vichy does that for me.
A few years ago I created what
I called ‘The Great American Play Series,’ to present ‘performances on book’ of important plays of
our time, plays with ideas of size that we should be hearing. I began without funding, costumes, sets, or lighting, but with
the best actors I could get, and put up special event presentations of the plays. I began with Arthur Miller’s
'The Crucible'. And it was at that very moment Arthur Miller himself wrote a long article in ‘The New York Times’
saying how the play had changed for him, from issues of informing, to issues of the invasion of one’s privacy. What
he said meant a great deal to me, and I decided to continue investigating his work, and so proceeded to have his play, 'After
the Fall', as part of the Series. With the moral support I received from Shelley Winters, who had seen a staged reading I
had directed of Norman Mailer’s 'The Deer Park' at The Actor’s Studio, I was able to enlist Mark Rydell, Rebecca
DeMornay, Sally Kirkland, Lyle Kessler, and Barry Primus (who also took part in several other of my presentations, and who
had been in four premiers of Arthur Miller’s work) for the ‘performance on book’ of ‘After the Fall’.
During the performance, it was if the actors “caught a fever from one another” – a burning determination
to do the writing the justice it deserved. Perhaps it was because as actors, they so seldom had the opportunity to work on
material of such power, but whatever it was, it launched them. And at the end of the performance, it was as if they each left
a little piece of themselves behind on that stage. The audience’s deeply passionate response to what had occured, spoke
to me of a hunger for yet more great plays to be investigated by more terrific actors.
I had planned to move on to
explore Tennessee Williams’s work, when the world suddenly shifted in many ways, both personally and globally –
9/11 happened. Traumatized by that horrific event as profoundly as everyone else, nevertheless, as time wore on, it seemed
to me new issues started emerging that had a disturbing resonance. At that time, by the thinnest thread of a memory, I recalled
that Miller’s play, 'Incident at Vichy' might be related to what was occurring. From that nether land of the subconscious,
I had an image of the play as being a dark, nightmarish world where innocents were persecuted and arrested for unknown reasons.
When I re-read Vichy I was almost shocked to find out how site-specific the play was, and how much it was a slice of an important
history that should never be forgotten. And yet, as I returned to the play over and over again, I marveled at how the play
in fact, did bring out the plight of innocent victims being arrested by an omnipotent police force in a universal arena. So
I felt it operated on two powerful levels: one, a drama that looked at the historic persecution of Jews during WWII, while
the other worked as a dark harbinger of things to come. As someone who often feels vaguely subversive just sitting on
a subway if I don’t have a suit on amongst commuters who do, it was not a long leap for me to imagine being an attractive
target somewhere down the line, as all artists might be, by being one of the ‘antennae of our race’. What if with
various justifications, citizens started getting arrested without due process of law, or without access to a lawyer, and what
if they were then held indefinitely? While I can appreciate our need for protection, where were the safeguards, the checks
and balances of these new policies of protection? It was hard not to miss the fact that in the larger scope of things we might
be standing on a very slippery slope that could end up depriving us of the very civil liberties we prided ourselves on leading
the world with. What better bulwark of protection could there be for our freedoms than to exercise our right to free speech,
by indeed speaking up: in the passionate debating that a powerful evening of theater could ignite? And out of passionate discourse,
might not some clarity be achieved in the best democratic tradition? What better purpose for putting on a play, and what better
reflection of the merit of a play if that is what it inspires – a passionate response from its audience. I immediately
set about to gathering a cast and a theater for a workshop performance of 'Incident at Vichy'.
As it turned out, the
first workshop performance, had a cast that included of F. Murray Abraham, Austin Pendleton, Larry Block, David Margulies,
Stephen Mendillo, and Leo Burmester, among many other excellent actors. To my deep satisfaction, the reading received a thunderous
ovation from the audience that seemed to go on for longer than I had ever personally experienced in the theater. Cries rang
out for the author as if it were a new play. And finally, Mr. Miller did ascend the stage because he had in fact, attended
the performance. Shortly thereafter he gave me his personal blessing to try to get a full production up. Heady stuff for any
At first, I was a little stunned when my attempts to have the play produced - even though it was written
by one of our greatest living writers in the winter of his career - were rebuffed. While the cast is not small, a revival
of this play that seems more alive and vital today than even when it was first written, seemed completely appropriate. Unfortunately
this didn’t happen, and so to keep momentum of the project going, I did another workshop staging, this time, with Richard
Dreyfuss and Fritz Weaver, in the leads, and with Barry Primus coming into town to be part of the cast. Again, it was an evening
of theater that relied on only great acting and great writing and rivaled any in its power. People had turned out in large
numbers on a night of sub-zero temperatures to virtually fill The Houseman Theater. Not only that, but this time a post-play
discussion that went on for an hour and unleashed a whirlwind of heated debate, seemed like a town hall debate on the state
of things in the world. 'Incident at Vichy' is a play that should be seen and heard today by thousands of people. And
even though I remain optimistic, so far there still has only been a deaf ear from the movers and shakers who would make it
possible to bring the play into the major arena it deserves. What can I say? We’re still looking. The Sisyphaean mountain
Published in The Soul of The American Actor
'The Unknown and the General : Notes on Norman Mailer's production of 'Strawhead - A
Memory Play about Marilyn', 'Tough Guys Don't Dance' and 'The Deer Park'.
Published in The Memorial Issue of The Mailer Review. Sept. 2008 By
Stephan Morrow. copyright 2008.
My black T-shirt feels painted onto me with sweat
and my fingers are slippery inside the black leather motorcycle gloves as my chest heaves from the exertion, desperate for
oxygen. I am going eighty mph on my Harley - and giving it to Marilyn at the same time. Her back is arched
to get as much of me as she can and as she hits a peak, belts out “Gee Rod, it’s like fireworks on the fourth
of July.” This is how it goes. in my mind. Except this is no dream; I’m in a church.
No. It’s not a church anymore. It’s been converted. into a theater : The Actor’s Studio.
And I have just finished performing in a scene from Norman Mailer’s play ‘Strawhead’ about Marilyn
Monroe. There is a pause and into this gap rises a husky matron who, with a piercing voice, suddenly launches
into a loud harangue:
“ You don’t know she
did that . I was her first roommate in Hollywood. You should be ashamed of yourself....”It is Shelley
Winters.She seems ready to ream Norman at full blast for quite awhile, but before
she can and completely bring the performance to an untimely halt,an older, bull-necked
manalso stands up, turns to her and says“Shelley.Shut up.Sit
down.” And instantly, she does.It is Elia Kazan, the moderator of the
Playwrights and Directors Unit. But it doesn’t stop there.Ellen Burstyn
decided to take up Shelley’s banner and continue the attack.I remember
her as being very subdued in her tone, but her remarks carried the weight of a velvet sledgehammer.“...nothing new is revealed here... why write a play, if you have nothing new to say about her. ...we’ve
seen so much of this before...the writing is good but it’s so chauvinistic.”Well, Norman who was usually pretty cool during these kind of discussions, just bristled -his silver hair seemed to have an electric current running around it. He slowly stood up and with great
poise, said:“If you think that this
is chauvinistic, my God, then this place, (the Actor’s Studio)is going
to end up being run by a bunch of Stalinoid dykes...”There was a long,
thoughtful, perhaps uneasy pause, as some, if not all of us, were launched into a reverie of what brave new world we might
be approaching.Then, incredibly,Shelley
Winters again.With a deadpan delivery, she asked“ Norman, what’s the difference between Stalinist and Stalinoid?” It brought the house down.And Norman, with no condescension, almost humbly, answered her.“Well,
one is of style, and the other is of a period.”The studio audience roared
again.End of discussion. I had
always heard about something called a perfect moment - when things fell effortlessly
and perfectly into place.For me, that was one of them.
So we continued. But the next
time we presented it, at just about the same moment, another heckler stood up and started a harangue repeating Shelley’s
rant almost verbatim and the play again broke down. Except this time it was Norman who had written it - he had planted
her in the audience and was now investigating that uneasy but fascinating theatrical territory of where make-believe ends
and reality begins. Talk about turning a disaster into a victory. Whew.
knows about Norman as a novelist and prose writer, but almost nowhere is there more than a scant line or two mentioning his directing
in theater and film. And if it’s true that being a good director is related to some psychological zone of
leadership, as it happened, Norman had it in spades. In his presence there was an amazing aura of commitment - one had the
feeling of participating in something of great import, ground-breaking, historic even, and you gave one hundred and ten percent
of your stuff as an actor. We met
whenI was playing a Scottish gang leader trying to go straight
and in some mysterious way, a Scottish accent was terrifically liberating. Maybe the distance it created from my own personal
reality, gave me a mask, behind which I could leave my particular self behind, and be free -unless it was the terror I felt in front of such an audience of heavyweights - that put an extra zing into my performance,
but suffice it to say, if there had been any scenery to chew I would have had a
feast.And when it was over, with people milling around the way they do
after a main-event bout at the Garden, Iknew in my bones, that it was one of
those times in my life where it had indeed, been my night.Now it was fortunate
that I felt this, because I happened to catch sight of a large flock of white hair next to me.It was Norman. Like I said, the adrenalin pumping through me that night, had given me a little more bravado than I might otherwise
have had. So I planted myself in Norman’s path and be damned.Sure enough, he turned, and as if it was all in the plan, said “And you.There’s a role for you.Not the
lead, but a role I think you might find interesting.He’s a stuntman, and one thing he does is, take Marilyn for a ride.”You’ve already heard about that scene. But what’s really significant here is that he offered
me a role in his play only because of the merit he saw in the work - he didn’t know me from Adam. A gesture of that
kind of fairness is almost unheard of in the Byzantine casting channels of theater and film. To give a young actor a break,
without asking for credentials, or who he knew, or was connected to, with the only consideration being the work itself, seems like it is almost looked upon as heretical by the powers that be.So that was my first sense of Norman, that he was a stand-up guy -a fair man.Rare indeed.
"Traveling to Theater (The Making of a Theater Director)"by Stephan Morrow
to reproduce this article in any form must be given by the author.
I had the pleasure and honor of working
with Arthur Miller for three years trying to get his play 'Incident at Vichy' to Broadway. He had attended a ‘performance
on book’ I directed and gave me his blessing and permission to continue trying to bring it to a full production in a
major venue. During that time we occasionally spoke on the phone and while we naturally talked about the nature of the project
- for example, casting and the rehearsal process for the other stage readings
I was planning ( We presented four of them and they included actors like F. Murray Abraham, Fritz Weaver, Richard Dreyfuss,
Austin Pendleton, Barry Primus, David Margulies Stephen Mendillo, Fred Kimble and Larry Block), our conversations were often
wide ranging .
In one of our early conversations, after complimenting
me on the work I had done with his play, he not so subtly asked 'Why don't I know you? What's your background in theater?'
Well, I went through a couple of featured projects on my resume which probably didn't loom too large in the world class arena
that he was used to but he was pretty kind about it and that part of the conversation petered out. Fact was, I hadn't
scored any points on that account with him - that was clear. In desperation - I suppose at wanting him to know
who I was and where I really lived - I blurted out that I had spent two years traveling around the
world. That got his ear. 'Where had I gone? In which places did I linger? Why?' and so forth. After
a story or two from my travel tales there was a pause on the other end of the phone line. Finally, he said in a
voice that was gravelly with the experience which comes from disappointment with the world, he said 'You know, I have
a theory....' He felt that theater - especially in the institutional camp, had succumbed to what he called 'The
Hothouse Effect'.That those individuals inside the hothouse -however they got there - by charm, credentials or connections, were nurtured and brought along, just like
the plants in a hothouse. But if you spent most of your waking hours in a black box or around a producer’s office you
might make the contacts necessary for moving up the chain, but what experience in the world did that give you? Serious life
experience that would inform your work in the theater? Not likely.
And if you became a bistro denizen
obsessed like so many Manhattanites with ‘eating out’, and terrifically skilled at ordering from a menu say, at
one glance; or if your worst trauma was that the kitchen was out of your favorite on the brunch menu, how would that
enable you to bring depth or deep understanding to the great dramas?
But at the same time he said, those
independent spirits who were operating outside the hothouse, where they would be buffeted by the trials and tribulations of
the real world - those mavericks - rough
around the edges perhaps and less able to make nice with producers and administrators - would remain outside. And
as a result, his conclusion was, theater had become anemic. What a statement. And
story. Miller was not Miller for nothing.
As for myself, I have indeed often
wondered how trekking with a knapsack around the world at the end of my teenage years impacted on my work in the theater afterward.
With a miniscule amount of funds - having a hundred bucks or so extra at any
given moment - and no safety net - there was no plastic in India then, I can
assure you, the sense of distance from the familiar was so great that it seemed like you had not only traveled galaxies’
distance, but back in time as well. Stepping off an ancient bus painted like an elephant in Herat in the middle of a dark Afghani
night was like stepping into the land of The Arabian Nights. No electricity. No lights. No sound but the wind of the desert. And little huts with kerosene
lanterns throwing their orange glow on little stacks of fruit. If you saw a speck of light moving toward you in the dark and
heard a clip clop you knew that it was up to you to jump out of the way of a donkey cart because he certainly wouldn’t
see you. So there I was, a young pilgrim, searching the world for what the old ways could tell me, or just wandering until
I felt satisfied with my ‘comprehension of reality’ - globally or
otherwise - such as it was in the 70’s. I think at the time I would say - to myself mostly - that to challenge myself
by not knowing where I would put my head at night for almost two years - there might be some value in that. That such a journey
would push me outside my conventionally bourgeois comfort zone and that might be a sufficient challenge to break the bonds
of that conditioning and upbringing and open my eyes to some kind of deeper experience of things. Later, the idea to go ‘full circle’, crept into my thinking - that might be significant. Some
mystical significance that a Sioux shaman mentioned, Black Elk I think, was the power of the circle, so to close the loop
and end up where I had begun without repeating anything would be somehow sympathetic with the laws of the universe and rewarded.
Those were my preoccupations at that age, and though now sometimes I shudder
to think of the kind of things that dance in your head when everything is ahead of you and time is insignificant, still there
was something to the atavistic instinct that led me to them so that I feel lucky to have been able to follow it. Of course,
that I am here to look back with nostalgia at the things that happened means that at least I survived and truth be told, that’s
saying a lot. There wasn’t the dire jeopardy of combat - and I saw myself in direct contrast to that - a self appointed
‘soldier of peace’ trying to embrace the many people whose path I crossed - but
being on the road beyond the beyond in the outback of Afghanistan or in the mountains of India took its toll on many a young
traveler who just disappeared into oblivion. A brief letter from a consulate office, if there was an official report, but
that was about all.
But the question that begs to be asked,
what value has that had in my work as a theater artist? Is there a direct line from the mountains that I climbed both metaphorically
and physically, to the truth that I could bring to the stage?I can’t say
absolutely, but there a few things which inform your outlook and that stay with
you from traveling:One is a sense of scope - the
sheer immensity of the earth - when N.Y. and L.A. can seem to subsume the entire planet, how far the mountains of Afghanistan were from
the Rockies. Or the
gray hills of Korea from the green hills of the Catskills.So space - that would be something. The global gauging of it. A sense
of proportion of the vastness of the entire globe.
when you have no safety net and you are seven thousand miles from home - if you even think of the U.S. as home anymore -
and eating becomes something that there is no guarantee about, surrounded as you are, by strangers in the south of Taiwan say, and haven’t
spoken English in a week - the loneliness is profound. That dimension of the
human experience is something that you can’t imagine unless you’ve been there -no matter how alienated you have been in your adolescence. Or when an extra djapati (something akin to an Indian version
of a tortilla) found squirreled away in your knapsack seems like manna from heaven
when you are trekking in the mountains in Northern India where there are no shops at all much less those monstrous food distribution
centers we call Super Markets. Think about that. SUPER markets. Markets that are beyond normal so that eating more than normal is de rigeur. But if the only thing you can do is hope to see a farmer and further hope that
his cow is dispensing extra milk that day, not week, day - obviously there’s nothing remotely like refrigeration to
keep milk from spoiling so it has to be fresh from the udder. Or even if the giant pine trees up near the Rhotang Pass in
the foothills of the Himalayas are so beautiful that you and your traveling partner exhort each other to keep going because
‘Yes. Yes. We made it. We are in God’s country!’, you still have to carry food with you or beg to buy
whatever a local villager has extra of. I might add that a woman’s protectiveness only extends to her family, and it’s
the husband who wants to strut his stuff and brandish his hospitality by bringing a stranger home to eat with the family.
And added to this was an ancillary
principle to my traveling regimen, which was that I felt I was cheating myself out of another experience of the world, if
I had to pay for lodging. Better to engage in conversation with a villager and throw myself on the grace of his hospitality.
For a bit of shelter, whether a space on the floor for a sleeping bag, in an empty school room for the night, or a Sikh temple’s
veranda. Even on a cement railroad platform in Chandigarh waiting for a train - much to the chagrin of the more well-heeled nouveau riche Indians who stared
with disbelief at a Westerner lounging like the lowest castes on the ground and with them ( what can I say, it made sense
staying with people, you would meet the wife, the kids who were usually awed by the sight of a young Westerner willing to
engage with them. And you really get to see who people are this way, as opposed to the fawning hoteliers all over the world.
As someone’s guest you’re on equal terms with your host and people level with you. You’re actually asking
them to dip into the reservoir of their generosity if they have one. And I found generosity an overwhelming currency wherever
I traveled. Never had a problem in all that time. And many many doors opened. It’s so different in the West when civilization
alienates citizens enough so that each person is left to his own devices to find shelter for the night and it becomes a commercial
endeavor. People in less developed countries understand the need for a roof without paying for it and willingly share theirs
most of the time. I was welcomed everywhere from salvaged castles in Wales to a monastery on Cyprus that I had hiked
to, to The Golden Temple in Amritsar, to a Japanese Tendi Kyo Buddhist temple in Kyoto to Kibbutz Kisufim in the Negev to another kibbutz at Yamagishi Kai in
Nara, Japan, and on and on. Once in the boondocks of Taiwan I knocked on the door of a brick making factory and gestured
to the man and his family that I wanted to lie down and ‘seep seep heah’ and gestured what I meant - and they
welcomed me in without hesitation even though it was about 2AM when I had been stranded out on the highway.The only time I remember having a problem was at a school compound on Lanyu, an island offTaiwan where the aborigines of the island, the Yami,sent
their children to learn English and where I had been told I could stay. There was nothing even like a hotel even if I had
wanted one. I had already spent a week as a guest with some prisoners on a farm - it turned out the island, beside being inhabited
by aboriginal people was also a low level prison island. I was intractable because
I had been told people had stayed there and eventually the principal gave in and accepted my presence. Because it was typhoon
weather I ended up staying for more than a week waiting for the ferry, teaching English and even sharing a jar of pickled
vegetables from my pack, when the islands food supply got dangerously low. But that was the only time.
And then of course, there are the moments
of extreme hazard when traveling with ‘the people’ either hitchhiking or by bus or train. Or on the back of a
motorcycle with the weight of your 35 kilo knapsack swaying the whole rig like a drunken driver was steering, which he wasn’t
- just a generous soul who was not used to having a boulder on the back of his
cycle as you both proceeded along the switchbacks through the gorges of the southern Taiwanese mini-mountains. So there were
hairy moments. Certainly you didn’t have to go 12,000 miles to twist the tiger’s tail, but moments like that just
seemed to occur with more frequency than in the safety of high civilization. It’s not so much the wild west as the wild
Thus far, we have space, hunger and danger. Well, these are no small things.
One might ask how you can work on a play like 'The Lower Depths' if you haven’t felt real hunger? Well you can, but
I would wager it’s with a different approach than if you’ve had your stomach growl and had absolutely nothing
to calm it with. Nada. More emptiness. What happens of course, is you get light-headed and have to fight the inclination to
sleep. So it might change how you see the behavior of half starving denizens in a rooming house when there wasn’t even
what we call ‘work’ available for most folks to earn their bread. It’s a tiny example but that’s where
your sense might be different. How the actors would move in that world. Or wouldn’t move. And in fact, I had been in
moments like that, and to this day on the rare occasion that I am in a posh restaurant and see perfectly good food being bussed
from the other tables all around me while diet conscious pencil blondes push their plates away with disdain, I have to fight
the urge to jump up and stuff it all into a bag, maybe to feed more hungry denizens of the street, whatever, anything to save
it from being so utterly wasted. Call me crazy. Call me Ishmael, but it seems so unthinkingly criminal and that is also the
kind of perspective traveling gives you. It’s true that I have on occasion seen some folks leave their doggy bags next
to a guy sleeping in a doorway, but I can’t help but think that’s like pissing in the ocean. Can’t help
it. When you see people not in Africa, but all over the world, from Turkey to Taiwan, frequently thin. For example, one thing I know is that there are nothing but empty plates in
Kandahar in Afghanistan when folks may not use forks to eat with, but they sure wipe the plates clean with their pan bread.
I’m not trying to sound like some bleeding heart, I often felt like a traveling eyeball. Bearing witness, not so much
to turn the world upside down, but to at least KNOW.Observe. To go outside of
the parameters of the box that one was conditioned by and see with new eyes.
want to make a point here. Especially to all the academics who spend their time theorizing amongst the forest of advanced
degrees. It turns out that -to name only a few - Arthur Miller himself, Norman
Mailer, Eugene O’Neill, certainly Ernest Hemingway all fled from the halls of academia. For Norman, even after the diligence
and brilliance it took to for a young Jewish kid from Brooklyn get to the hallowed halls of Cambridge, he sensed that there was a bitter truth waiting for him in the jungles of the Pacific in WWII
and voluntarily put himself there. And Miller worked as a master shipbuilder in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and by all accounts
felt as proud of those accomplishments as anything else he would do, including playwriting. In O’Neill’s case,
it was a miracle that he made it back from several years on the ships, after being down and out, utterly broke in places like
Buenos Aires. He wasn’t just slumming, gathering material for his plays to come, he was battling his demons and figured he
had gotten to the end of his rope in Argentina. That was it. Hemingway of course, whose college was the streets of the Toronto Star beat he was
given, brought ex-patriate experience to his art like nobody else. Made it the main subject of his work, alongside war. So
I’m not under any illusion that I’m inventing anything with this exhortation to get out and see the world. Just
stating the case for engaging in a rite of passage that tears down an inherited comfort zone and in the process gives you
a heft of the world that is adult and deep. It could be boiled down to a question a Welsh trucker who had given me a ride
once asked me in the middle of a downpour -I forget what we were talking about
exactly, something about how to turn into a vehicle into a skid on a slicked highway not away from it, but he suddenly blurted
out‘ Do you know what you’re talking about? You know what’s
what? Or are you some kind of a paper arse hole? You know, that you read about it...”
There are two other directors that
I personally know, from another generation, who fit this profile. One is Jack Garfein, an early director at The Actor’s
Studio and who directed ‘End as a Man’ which started as a workshop, made its way to Broadway and then into being
a watershed film. Jack was a living survivor of the camps and I think the story goes that as a child he had been arrested
in the Warsaw ghetto sneaking in and out of the ghetto trying to ‘organize’ food.And Ulu Grosbard,director of much theater and independent film (‘True
Confessions’) was a refugee from Europe and after fleeing through half a dozen countries ended up in Cuba for the duration
of the war. My question is, are these the kind of credentials being asked for from directors today? Unfortunately,I don’t think so.
Notes from The Deer Park. 2009:
The Great American Play Seriesand
The Nuyorican Poets Café
‘The Deer Park’
Goes to Hell’)
directed byStephan Morrow
Sundays and Mondays - June 14, 15. June 21, 22. Sundays @ 5PM. Mondays @ .
Nuyorican Poets Café-236 East Third Street (Bet. Aves B&C).
Info: 212-505-8183 or www.nuyorican.org for more program details. AEA approved showcase.
Some background notes on The Deer Park and
wrote 'The Deer Park' as his
major novel after having his book 'The Naked
the Dead' become a global phenomenon.
Naked and the Dead' was written as a
to what a soldier's life was like in a
on a Pacific island but went far deeper
the human condition than most war novels
the time. In fact, there was almost no combat
it, and instead revelations about the character
the soldiers in the squad and the existential
of climbing a mountain were its
'The Deer Park' was rejected by
publishers in 1955 because Mailer
to censor portions of it that
felt were honest, if graphic. The novel
eventually published to a solid if not
reception. But the story
Hollywood that he encountered in the
never left him and several years later
returned to the subject adapting it as a play
bracketing it with a new concept: it
took place in Hell.
Finally produced in the mid 60’s it ran for over one hundred performances
Theater de Lys
(The Lucille Lortel) featuring Rip Torn in the cast and was considered a solid success. Then it was all but forgotten. After
working with Mr. Mailer on his play ‘Strawhead - A Memory of Marilyn’ and his film ‘Tough Guys Don’t
Dance’, Stephan Morrow discovered the play after it fell out of a bookshelf he was scanning in a Venice Beach, California
used bookshop. This fortuitous event led to Stephan directing two staged readings of The Deer Park, first in L.A. (with Sally
Kirkland as Elena) and then in New York at The Makor/Steinhardt Center of the 92nd St.Y , Daniel Gallant, Program
Director. After reading as political activist, Allard Lowenstein in Hank Myerson's Play 'Allard', Mr. Mailer suggested that
Stephan play Marion in 'The Deer Park' which he did while also taking on the job of directing it as a staged reading
at Makor. After attending that presentation Norman Mailer invited him to co-direct a film of ‘The Deer
Park’ and perform in it. Mr. Mailer was quoted
in Vanity Fair in an article by Patricia Bosworth as saying about Mr. Morrow’s presentation at Makor:
“Finally somebody understood the language and what
I was trying to say,” Mailer said.
His plan was to shoot the play on a stage in Provincetown. We spoke about
the project again at the Paris Review tribute to him, on April 23. He was
frail, on two canes, but his blue eyes sparkled. ‘Why, after all these years, are you still obsessed with this one book?’,
I asked.“Because it’s about the trouble men and women always have, dealing with each other,” he replied.
“It’s a mystery. I still can’t figure it out.” - Patricia Bosworth,
Leading up to the 2009 presentation of 'The Deer Park', Mr. Morrow was
seen in a wide variety of roles over the past couple of seasons. First, as passionate and idealistic if closeted,
politico Allard Lowenstein, then as conflicted writer Hank Teagle in love with his best friend's wife in Clifford Odetts'
play 'The Big Knife' in a staged reading for The Actor''s Legacy Group, next in a staged reading of Jordan Buck's
two character play 'Refugees' as a southern redneck survivalist who channels dead relatives and is near suicide. Then as Fritz,
the de facto leader of an Italian American WW II internment camp in upstate New York in Joanne Tedesco's play 'Perfidia'
about this little known chapter in American history in a staged reading of it for The Lark. And finally, in
the U.S. premier of noted Italian playwright Marco Calvani's play 'Beneath the City' in a staged reading of it at The
Sage Theater, playing the leader of an underground Arab conspiracy who is
caught and murdered.
Special thanks to Daniel Gallant,
Anna Lisa Lazzaro, T. Pope Jackson
and Elijah Schiffer.
Full Bio of Stephan Morrow -
Stephan Morrow is an actor and director who has been laboring in the trenches of non-commercial theater in New York and Los Angeles for over twenty five years. A staunch proponent of the Off Off Bway arena, it
is in that cauldron of creativity that he finds the work to be most compelling and interesting. He came to this calling after
surviving a two year global pilgrimage that took him overland from Istanbul to India and then on through Asia.
He has directed the plays of some of our most outstanding
writers, working personally with Arthur Miller, Norman Mailer, Murray Schisgal, John Ford Noonan, and Leonard Melfi. A member
of the Playwright-Directors Unit at The Actor’s Studio (East and West), he has also worked with member playwrights Gloria
Goldsmith, Phillip Hayes Dean, Michael Dinelli, Gene Ruffini, and Earnest Kearney staging many works-in-progress.
The first production he directed was the critically
acclaimed revival of Sam Shepard’s play ‘Back Bog Beast Bait’ with Paul Austin in the lead. The Soho
Weekly News was exhuberant in its praise. In a peculiar twist, in a recent conversation with Sam Shepard at The Bowery
Poetry Club, Shepard jokingly rerred to
it as one from his 'alliterative period' while Mr. Morrow countered with a passionate
defense of the poetic, if eccentric power of the darkly apocalyptic play and how remarkably well the production had turned out.
Next, Showbusiness Magazine awarded
his production of Joseph Maher’s
play ‘Dance for Me Simeon’ at The American Theater of Actors“Outstanding
Production of the Year” and Walter Kerr of the N.Y. Times claimed “ …it was a gem passing in the night -
literally…”.Also at The American Theater of Actors, he directed
Gene Ruffini’s play ‘The Choice’, a disturbing play about a Nazi war criminal.
In Los Angeles at The Actor’s Studio West he directed
a production of Michael Dinelli’s play ‘Cash Deal’ with Tony Russell.For Dan Lauria’s Patchett Kauffman Entertainment Series he directed six staged-readings of new plays working
with actors Ed Asner, Sally Struthers, Pia Zadora, Alice Ghostley, and Charles Durning among many others.
He has had a long collaboration with John Ford Noonan
as well, directinga staged reading of his trio of one acts
entitled ‘Messages’ with Paul Gleason and Jackie Bartone. Later he presented a staged
reading of Noonan’s ‘Spanish Confusion’ with Joseph Ragno and Phil Peters for Elia Kazan,
as the moderator of the Playwright Directing Unit at The Actor’s Studio.
As an actor, he has performed in many Off Off Bway productions : He first performed in Jean Claude Van Itallie’s
historic and enormously powerful play‘The Serpent’ in Buffalo, New York whose investigation of the roots of violence from
the Bible to the JFK assassination lingered in the public mind for years there. His performance in that as Abel,
the innocent brother and also as Lee Harvey Oswald, led him to be invited to join The NOW Theater Repertory Company under
the direction of Gerald Miller and with which he performed at La Mama in New York City in the controversial production of
‘Sabbat- Mass of Darkness’.
As a member of The Spectrum Theater Company he appeared at The Van Dam Theater in Anna Marie Barlowe’s civil
war epic ‘Glory Halleluhah’as Preacher, a soldier who believed
passionately in the rebel cause, and in ‘The Trial of the Catonsville Nine’ by Daniel Berrigan, as one of the major witnesses giving testimony to the brutalities
committed by the dictators of Latin America.
He appeared as Mark Antony in the site specific production of 'Julius Caesar' directed by Darryl Croxton at historic Federal
Hall in downtown New
And at The Actor’s Studio he played the unfortunate Count D’Orleans (caught cheating in cards against King
Louis XIV) in David Margulies’ epic production of Bulgakov’s ‘A Cabal of Hypocrites’.He also created the role of ‘Allie’ a Scottish gangleader trying to go straight, in Willie
Holtzmann’s play ‘ Bovver Boys’ at the Actor’s Studio and which led him to be invited by Norman Mailer
to perform in his play ‘Strawhead (Marilyn…A Memory Play)’ playing Rod, the stuntman.Subsequently he played Stoodie, a biker/tattoo artist, appearing opposite Ryan Oneal in Mr. Mailer’s
film ‘Tough Guys Don’t Dance’.
At The Public Theater he appeared opposite Anne Jackson and Roberta Wallach playing mother and daughter in a workshop
performance of ‘New World Monkey’ by France Burke which took second place in the P.O.W. Festival. In that he played
a young husband struggling against the domination of a mother in law determined to sabotage his marriage. The Professional
Older Women Festival was a series of plays commissioned by Joseph Papp with women over 40 in the title role.
He has also had a long and fruitful collaboration with playwright Mario Fratti, performing in his internationally acclaimed
play ‘The Cage’ at The Manhattan Theater Club with Anne DeSalvo and William Russ, and later in a bill of three Mr.
Fratti's one-acts called ‘Her Voice’ at The Quaigh Theater.
He has worked closely with Victor Steinbach on his award winning adaptation of Dostoevsky’s epic ‘The Possessed’
and a newer play about an out of work KGB assassin living as an exile in New York.
In Los Angeles, he had the pleasure of performing as Bluntschli in G.B.Shaw’s play ‘Arms and the Man’. And at The West Coast Ensemble he played one of his favorite
roles, Phil in ‘Hurly Burly’. In Nikolai Gogol’s ‘The Overcoat’ he played the Narrator for Alexandra
More’s L.A.Celebrity Staged Reading Series.
But his most noted achievement there was creating The Great American Play Series
for which he has produced and directed ten years of ‘special event presentations’ - staged readings -of neglected
American classics, beginning with ‘The Deer Park’ by Norman Mailer,
with Sally Kirkland in the lead role. Followed by ‘The Crucible’ by Arthur Miller with Barry Primus and Lisa Richards
( set in the White House during then President Clinton’s impeachment trial and which led to a fruitful relationship
with Arthur Miller ), ‘After The Fall’ by Arthur Miller with Rebecca De Mornay as Maggie opposite Mark Rydell
and Sally Kirkland, ‘The Price’ by Arthur Miller with Judith Light, Paul Mazursky, Barry Primus, and Lyle Kessler.
In 2001 in N.Y., he staged ‘Incident at Vichy’ by Arthur Miller
with F. Murray Abraham, and Austin Pendleton in the lead roles and for which Mr. Miller, after attending that performance
on book, gave his personal blessing for Stephan to seek a venue for a major production. During the time of what turned into
a three year mission, Mr. Miller’s loyalty never flagged and it ended only with his sad passing.Stephan staged three more ‘performances on book’ of the play first, with Richard Dreyfuss and
Fritz Weaver in the leads, then with Peter Weller and Fisher Stevens and finally bringing the full cast to Hartford for
one evening’s performance in the hope that backers could be found. Alas, in the current economic climate of Broadway,
not enough backing could be raised for a play with such a large cast that wasn’t a commercial entertainment.
Mr. Morrow moved on to another staged reading of Norman Mailer’s play, ‘The Deer Park’ which he directed
and played Marion Faye in, one of the leads, and was mentioned by Mr. Mailer in the Vanity Fair of March 2008. Mr. Mailer said, after attending the performance on book : ‘Finally, someone understood the language
and what the play was all about.’ Subsequently, Mr. Mailer invited Stephan to co-direct a film of the play and play
one of the leading roles. With the sad passing of Mr. Mailer that project has been put on hold, but continuing with the project
remains one of Stephan's most cherished ambitions. One production that he is especially proud is ‘Pieces of Paradise’ by Tennessee Williams, a benefit production to save the historic ‘Thirteenth Street Theater Repertory’ which was threatened by real
estate interests. By staging four one-act plays by Williams that had been discovered in a box in 2000 and never been
seen in New York, the production ran for eight months and raised enough
funds to help save the theater. Martin Denton of N.Y.Theater. com gave it rave
reviews and it may very well have been the last premier of a Tennessee Williams play ever to be seen in New York.
Over the past couple of seasons in New York he
has been very active in the burgeoning arena of staged readings ( the economic climate of producing theater being what
it is, staged readings have become the presentation of choice for many independent theater artists such as Mr.Morrow), and
in which he has been directing as well as playing a wide variety of roles - from Southern redneck to urbane writer
to Muslim conspirator to bisexual pimp.This began with his reading as idealistic
if closeted politico, Allard Lowenstein in Hank Myerson’s play ‘Allard’. After
that, Norman Mailer suggested that he play Marion Faye the bisexual pimp in ‘The
Deer Park’ which he did as well as direct the production at
St. Y. Then he
played tortured writer, Hank Teagle who is in love with his best friend’s wife in Clifford Odetts’s ‘The
Big Knife’ in a staged reading for The Actor’s Legacy Group.In a
rehearsed reading of ‘Perfidia’ by Joanne Tedesco at The Lark Theater, in addition to directing a cast of seventeen
actors, he also performed in the lead role of Fritz, the de facto leader of the Italian American internees in a POW camp in
upstate New York during WWII. This season he created the role of ‘the man’ a tortured southern farmer who channels
some of the relatives of his past and is saved from suicide by a black woman refugee, in Jordan Buck’s play ‘Refugees’.
Finally, he had the privilege of performing in the American premier of Italian playwright Marco Calvani’s ‘Beneath
the City’ in a staged reading at The Sage Theater as the leader of a Muslim conspiracy in a city similar to Sarajevo who is caught and murdered. He finished 2009 by again directing ‘The Deer Park’ by Norman Mailer at The Nuyorican Poets Café and in which he again played Marion
At the end of 45 Bleecker Theater's existence he presented a howlingly funny staged reading of Murray Schisgal's
play 'Play Time' with Peter Riegert, Chip Zien, Rosie Perez, Cynthia Mace and Kimberly Whalen. This was followed by
another stagedreading of the play at The Playwrght Director's Unit of the Actor's Studio with John Ottavino and Michael DiGioia.
His collaboration with Murray Schisgal continued on his play 'The Japanese Foreign Trade Minister' which Stephan directed
a concert reading of at the Playwright Director's Unit of the Actor's Studio in early 2013 and which is slated for a full
production at Theater for the New City in January 2014.
2010 - 2011
Season was a very busy one for Mr.Morrow. He directed four productions:
'Trio' by Mario Fratti (Nine) at
Theater for the New City
'Triangle (The Shirtwaist Factory Fire)' @ 59E.59St Theaters by Daniel Czitrom and Jack Gilhooley
(in a sold out run).
'Quartet' by Mario Fratti @ Theater for the New City
'Dogmouth' by John Steppling.
(Acted and directed by Stephan Morrow) @ Theater for the New City. Aug 21 opening. Nov 27 Closing.
From Mario Fratti:
I’m back in town and I finally have the time to
thank you for the excellent direction of my three one acts (‘Trio’). Perfect casting. I observed you work with
the actors. You know how to talk to them, how to obtain the best out of their personalities. You’re a wise, well prepared
director. Wereceived 13 raves out of 13 reviews. It’s also thanks to your
brilliant direction. I look forward to working with you again. Cordially, Mario Fratti
Comments from the
"Thanks so much for the
performance of Dogmouth. It was really very well done. All of the actors were very good. The choice you made for the
character (Dogmouth) was so bold and interesting and had such weight to it, it was really exciting to see. And it worked for
the play. It was really terrific work.
L.B.Williams was very striking in his role.
I hope the play has a longer life. Ulu agrees. Thanks again." Rose Gregorio, Actress (Tony Nominee, Shadowbox).
Ulu Grosbard, Director (‘The Subject was Roses’. ‘Straight Time’ w/ Dustin Hoffman)
“Stephan Morrow commands the stage in his incandescent performance as Dogmouth in Steppling’s
grippingly evocative play. And L.B. Williams as his adversary is wonderful in this as was the whole cast. Morrow’s
direction fully realizes the beauty and terror of Steppling’s End of the Line vision. Some of the best theater
I've seen in a long time". Lyle Kessler ("Orphans")
"Stephan Morrow is mesmerizing in the role of Dogmouth. The most enhancing
moment came when he stood behind his young wife and touched her naked arms - at last a moment of insight to explain her unfathomable
love for a vile, depraved, paranoid, homicidal reprobate. But he held my attention throughout the play. As did the rest of
the cast - L.B. Williams who had a mystery and aloofness that was compelling.”
Murray Schisgal (Broadway veteran - ‘Luv’. Academy Award Nominee ‘Tootsie’.
What a powerful piece!
The characters were so well-drawn. I loved the style of it. There was a certain kind of lyrical poetry to the words.
Dark, scary, insightful. Wonderfully acted. I was so wrapped up in Dogmouth because everything about it was so in the
moment. Bravo to the cast and the playwright. Thank you for this. June Ospa, AMAS. Executive Director
'Stephan, You have
no idea how happy I was to have been proven wrong, having read the play, and thought it impossible to bring to life.
Philip Goodman (playwright PDUnit/ Actor’s Studio), Janet Conrad (playwright) and I talked about it for two hours
(always a great sign) and we all agreed it transcended the genre. Although in lesser hands that would not have been
the case. Bravo!! You channeled Johnny Cash!! And L.B. Williams had such clarity in his interpretation of his character.
The cast as a whole was so strong - a real ensemble effort.' Joanne Tedesco (playwright/ PDUnit /Actor’s Studio)
"...Such a wonderful play.
The writing was complex; the characters were very well defined, each very distinct from the other.
long monologues bother me, but the writing was so good, and
the acting so believable, that the monologues flowed seamlessly... beautifully. From
the moment the lights went up on Dogmouth, (Stephan Morrow) my attention was captured and remained throughout the
entire piece.His presence was so strong, and the complexity of his character
fascinating. " Sandra Nordgren, Managing Artistic Director, 13St. Repertory
"As an actor
myself, I find many of the shows I attend leave me disappointed, bored, and wishing I hadn't spent the money on. This
did Not disappoint; kept my attention; re-inspired me in my career by the acting and left me with a huge appreciation for
John Steppling’s work.(Dogmouth) acted by Stephan Morrow pulled me
into his world of dog fighting which was both disturbing and fascinating. His monologues, which would make most actors
flinch, were presented effortlessly and with painful passion. The
pregnant girlfriend, Nyah, played by Kendra Landon was a character that immediately made me cringe, disliking her naivety,
questioning her intelligence but in the end pitying her and gaining my sympathy. And Becker, played by Ray Wasik, was
an absolute delight. Don't miss this play! " Deborah Pautler, Actress
thoroughly enjoyed the play. Stephan Morrow was great as Dogmouth. And the actor that portrayed Becker was also terrific.
I have known many Vietnam vets with and he was it. Overall the play was true to real life. Traveling across our nation and
teaching in inner city schools, I have come across the life style(s) portrayed in the play. This is true life, realty plus.”
Joanne Borberson, Clifton, New
Wed. Nov 23. Stephan
- Thank you for a provocative evening of theater and bravo on your choice of character. It’s a wonderful part
for you. Thank you again. Angelica Page Torn.
Hello. A friend and I attended last evening's performance(Sun. 11/27). We thoroughly enjoyed it. I was thrilled by the growth in the
lead characters and, to be honest, preferred this interpretation of Nyah -still so vulnerable but with a strange thread
of strength running through her. Your DM continues to bubble, boil then erupt like a volcano - yet with a quiet simmer
of regret. Surely, he/you will continue to howl. Mary Miller, Connecticut -------------------------------------
Sat. 11/26 This show is a tour de force! And it's led by Stephan Morrow as ‘Dogmouth’.
Bravo! Gene Ruffini, Playwright, Playwright Directing Unit, The Actor's Studio. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
With your steely concentration, you likely missed my face in Wednesday night's audience (11/23/). When I saw
you as director, I figured you'd have a supporting
role on stage. I didn't expect to see you carrying the load in this work-out of a play.
Your focus and stamina are impressive, Stephan--there
is that faint whir of a dynamo in your gut filling that great space even as you quietly stare, a tension that radiates and
commands attention. To give a strong performance before a packed house is one thing; to let it all hang out when the
audience barely outnumbers the cast is the mark of a serious professional. People like you keep a vital craft alive.
Good luck with that final performance.
Keep in touch. Sal Cetrano. Writer and colleague of Norman Mailer
Sat. 11/26. To Stephan Morrow : “You were brilliant!!! Your performance was absolutely stunning.
I am so glad that we came”. Robin Lane, Producer. Actor’s
Wed. Nov 23 - “
In a time when Broadway theaters are full of Hollywood movie stars, musicals, and those who the elitists of the theater world
call 'proven' theater artists; along comes Stephan Morrow choosing great theater works and putting high quality lesser known
actors alongside stage icons. NY stage needs Stephan Morrow. He fights in the trenches finding new material, true talent,
and reminding us why NY stage is an art form that needs to be preserved and cherished. He risks and God knows this Industry
needs risk.” Chris Kerson. Lead actor of Relativity Media's and AMC theater's "Cost
of a Soul". ----------------------------------------------------
Fri. 11/25 Hi Stephan . It was great to see you on
stage - I'd really never seen you in a role - and I thought you really nailed it, which did not surprise me! Bravo, Stephan.
You took on a difficult character and captured our interest. Melody Bryant, 13St Repertory Documentary Filmmaker -----------------------------------------------------------
I attended Saturday's performance 11/26 of "Dog mouth", and I would like to congratulate you for your riveting performance.
Kudos. Orestes Varvitsiotes --------------------------------------------------------- To the Dogmouth cast : Thanks so much! You guys handled some really difficult roles
with amazing strength and some humour at the right times. WOW! I knew someone was going to get killed but I was still shocked!
Thanks again, Paulette ( audience member who attended our opening on Tues 11/22). ---------------------------------------------------------------------
"Great performance, Stephan!
Denise and I were so glad we made the trip in to the city to see this play. We talked about it the rest of the way
back. Best of luck for the rest of the run!" Susan Taylor. Newburgh, N.Y.
(Tues. 11/22 opening night) ----------------------------------------------------------
A note from the
director on "Dogmouth":
What started out as a small, personally fulfilling project, 'Dogmouth'
has turned into something much more significant. All due to the power of John Steppling’s writing. ( Steppling was the
mentor ofJon Robin Baitz (who has ‘Other Desert Cities’ currently
on Broadway where it was moved from its successful run at LincolnCenter last Jan.). Steppling’s writing is challenging and
dark and makes people squirm but as he is oft quoted as saying ‘Art is Not Your Friend...’. For myself as director
and actor, it is the sheer power of the writing, the fact that as off putting as the characters are, the events in the play
unfold on the stage organically, in the moment - and audiences have felt like it may have been a nightmare they were glad
to wake up from - but one they would not have wanted to miss. It’s theater at its peak when everything is happening
on the high wire without a net and it’s all too rare that writing of this caliber hits the stage, so it’s not
surprising that it has ignited long conversations by those who have seen it and the effort as a whole has been embraced by
some of the most seasoned professionals in the field - such as Murray Schisgal, Ulu Grosbard, Lyle Kessler, Rose Gregorio
and Margaret Ladd - some of the few who were surprised at the power of the production and then deeply moved. (See Comments
the first run at Theater for the New City we were invited by Joanne Tedesco producer of the St. Malachy’s Actor’s
Chapel Play Series where we played to a full house of an enthralled audience for a special event presentation of the play.
And then, based on the merit of the work Crystal Field, Artistic Directordecided to invite us to restage it at Theater for the New City in the same theater,
the cavernous Johnson Theater (so appropriate for the deserts of Arizona) for a run during Thanksgiving week Tues. Nov.22
to Sun Nov 27, 2011 .
From the 'Dogmouth' Program
is the 80's. Does a group of Viet Nam veterans - not unlike the Hell's Angels -really
exist hoboingaround on the rails and is it as large and powerful as it
is portrayed by journalists - or is it a media creation drawing the heat for every murder on the rails from Arizona to California?And has its leader become a changed man
dedicated to his young wife - or is he an unrepentant racist criminal bent on plotting to murder
a rival who's
moving in on his turf? These are the things that come up in John Steppling’s dark and controversial play ‘Dogmouth’. The
fact that he focuses on the depth of war veterans’ alienation - the ones who
drop out, -not into some utopian world of therapy groups - but rather into some
nightmarish arena where murder is reflexive -is what makes this play so riveting.
And that he also manages to deftly slip inruminations ondeath
and dying, the gap between those with money and those without, even survival of the fittest on the streets of Phoenix -is what makes this play dark and riveting - and as John Steppling often proclaims
"Art is not your friend'....” This is a nightmare that you want to wake
up from but one that you won’t forget.
“If you make
an audience think they’re thinking, they’ll love you; but if you really make them think they’ll hate you...”
A note from the director about Steppling’s ‘Dog Mouth’ :
.....When I saw ‘Dogmouth’in L.A. in 2000 at the New Works Festival of The Mark Taper in
cooperation with Tim Robbins’group The Actor’s Gang, it haunted
me with its power and mystery and even though it was very dark I never forgot it. It was done once more in 2004 at ‘The
Evidence Room’ in L.A. and has never been seen in New York.
John Steppling is one of our best, if neglected playwrights and one who
writes with the same kind of power and mystery that Sam Shepard does (who he was a colleague with at The Padua Playwrights
Conference, so the similarity of style may not be coincidental.). But John’s power is unmistakable and this is not an
exaggeration. As someone who has worked on many new plays, including some byour
best playwrights (e.g.Arthur Miller, Norman Mailer and J.F.Noonan), I believe
it is a great shame he is not produced here in N.Y. more often.
‘Dogmouth’itself is a play with real danger and focuses on
characters from the fringes of our society.It deals with a mysterious mafia
of racist, violent, Viet Nam Vets living on freight trains who are obsessed with (of all things) dog fighting. I don’t think you could find
a more repugnant set of people but as John has often said, ‘Art is not your friend’ and that is certainly true
with this play which is sure to disturb and provoke the audience that sees it. Of course, to portray is not to promote, but
it’s this kind of writing where we are forced to ponder people who we would more likely than not, find repulsive - is
where the power of good theater lies.When the audience is made uncomfortable
and forced to examine their preconceived notions about certain kinds of people, then theater has achieved something valuable.
And while a conversation about racism is always valuable in our culture, the most important aspect of his work is just the
sheer quality of the writing. If he wrote about flounder fishing I would find it intriguing because of the power of the dialogue.
John has recently returned to L.A. from a long self-imposed exile
in Poland where he taught film at The Polish Film Institute and worked on an adaptation of King Lear for Polish TV which is
something that promises to be exciting if it is as good as his other adaptations have been. (I saw an adaptation he wrote
and directed in L.A. at The LATC of ‘Faust’ where Mephistopheles
was a pony-tailed junkie in a dirty raincoat and it was fascinating. Also, his ‘Meditations on the Tempest’ which
at one point included the actors sitting around a child’s swimming pool and which was amazing).By the way, John was mentored by Gordon Davidson but Jon Robin Baitz who was more mainstream, always seemed
to get the play. Eventually John got disillusioned with the American theater scene and went to London, then Poland where he lived for a decade.For more information on
him and his work you can google The LA Weekly for an article by Steven Leigh Morris which came out Sept. 16, 2010. Stephan Morrow, Director
Dogmouth continues to howl: Because of the success of the two theater runs, we have decided to attempt the unthinkable
- with the most minimal of funds but with great determination we will be shooting a low budget film of the script - summer
2013. You can go to the Dogmouth page on fundme.com for more info on that. And by all means if you are moved by what you've
read come out and support us! Please follow the link for more info on our fundraising efforts.
- John Steppling was first championed by Robert Egan at The Mark Taper Forum with his play “The Shaper” and the
Taper did produce Steppling's The Thrill in one of its new-works festivals. His characters were from, and remain
in, the margins of society, not unlike Steppling himself. Steppling's other plays include Teenage Wedding, The
Dream Coast and Neck.He mentored Jon Robin Baitz at the beginning
of his playwriting career. Steppling also adapted Elmore Leonard's 52 Pickup for director John Frankenheimer. He has just completed an 11-year stint in Poland (where he taught screenwriting at the Polish National Film School in ód). and created his own adaptation of King Lear which he describes as a sliced-back and ‘fairly traditional’
version ( - with Goneril and Regan spoken in Norwegian and the other roles in either Polish or English. ) He has also presented
an adaptation of a modern day ‘Faust’ at Los AngelesTheaterCenter. Steppling is currently Artistic Director of the theater company Gunfighter
Nation and has had a new play, Phantom Luck produced
last fallin Los Angeles.
Education - Stephan Morrow graduated from Stuyvesant H.S.
in Manhattan with an award for General Excellence and The Latin Award.
Most notably, he traveled around the world for two years. On that trip he went overland from Istanbul, through Afghanistan, and trekked in the Himachal Pradesh in India for four months, volunteered on kibbutz Kissufim in Israel for five months, lived on LanyuIsland in the South China Sea with the Yami, a tribe of aboriginal
people and lived off the land for a month in Kalalau Valley on the island of Kuai, before returning to New York and the trenches
of Off Off Broadway theater.
He has a Magna cum Laude Degree in English from The University of Buffalo. He also studied
filmmaking at New York University where he worked on several graduate program film projects. (One was shot and directed
by Ken Kelsch, Director of Photography for many of Abel Ferrara's films).
Mr. Morrow was very fortunate
to have studied acting when many of the great acting teachers were still alive and teaching in New York. He studied with
Bill Hickey, Mike Gazzo, Stella Adler ( awarded a scholarship by Ms.Adler), Uta Hagen, Wynn Handman and Elizabeth Dixon. At
The Actor’s Studio he was mentored into the Playwright-Directors Unit by EliaKazan.
In addition to his ongoing work in theater, he is currently working on three books: Recently completed, he has expended his
article on his experiences working with Norman Mailer,‘The Unknown
and the General’ into a full volume. The other is a memoir of the global pilgrimage he
made as a young knapsacker before war, mayhem, and modernization destroyed so many of the old ways of indigenous culture
around the world.
Because of his unusual exposure as a teenager to life among several artists that extended from The Fulton
Fish Market to Haystack, Maine to Berkeley, California and included such figures as New Museum founder and critic, Marcia
Tucker, sculptor Mark di Suvero, installationist Brian Oneill, sculptor Norm
Lofthus, water colorist Fred Miller and reknowned potter Ron Burke, he is working on a piece about that episode
of his life as well, entitled ‘Portrait
of a Non-Artist as a Young Man’, dealing with his experiences in the trenches with working artists.
He was honored to receive The 2009 Silver Solas International Travel Writing
Award for Adventure Travel for his story 'Amorgos' - about an episode that occurred on a Greek Island
he had lived on for a winter. And in 2010 he had the unique honor of winning
both a Gold and Silver Award in The Solas International Travel Writing Competition for his stories 'Herat, Oh my
Herat' and 'From South Street to Simla (India). 'Herat Oh my Herat' is a story of his misadventures and observations of Afghanistan
when it was basically medieval. South Street to Simla begins with a disillusioning look at the Disneyland on the pier
that The Fulton Fish Market became in Manhattan and ends with a life-threatening episode in the darkness of a Himalayan night.