Dallas — Like everyone I know, I’m flooded with emails. For some reason, lately in my private email, I’ve had a glut of messages from women (first names only) who are especially lonely. I’ve stopped opening those—it makes me sad to know what awful loneliness is out there.
But the subject of one email, now about six weeks ago, made me click right through. It said “des nouvelles de Paris” (news from Paris). It came from my friend John McLean, a Dallasite who has lived in Paris since the mid ‘60s but has come back direct two shows at Theatre Three. John’s news was that he was about to go into rehearsals to present Blind Date, a show we had premiered in Theatre Too about—gosh—six years or so ago.
I liked the play hugely when we did it and because its story had a couple meeting romantically in Paris, thought it might be a good show for John to think about producing there. I set him up, all via email, with the author, Mario Diamante (a South American now living in Florida). And voila! Six years later, the thearre gods (and an industrious American, John) had slated the show for a run in Paris!
I typed back to John “Gosh, I’d love to hop a plane and come over and see it!” And as soon as Tru closed here, that’s what I did, taking along my dear friend Connie Coit who had played brilliantly in our production of the show. I got us accommodations right at Pont Neuf (on the Seine) at an apartment-hotel where we each had a tiny kitchen as well as a quite modern bathroom in addition to the bedroom with a desk. As it turned out, we were less than a block and a half from the little Left Bank theatre just beyond the famous Left Bank book store, Shakespeare and Company.
Theatre Huchette is on a not-big-enough-for-cars street half block south of the Seine. It’s a tiny but comfortable space, probably seating fewer than Theatre Too. There’s no lobby; the audience assembles on the street. They don’t mind: the little street has drinks and food of all sorts.
Now get this: for 57 years this is the theatre that has played a double bill of Ionesco one acts The Lesson and The Bald Soprano. Yes, 57 years! It’s quite a Paris institution! The double bill played at 7 p.m. followed by a 9 p.m. performance of Blind Date. John met us at the stage door and took us into the cave-like basement where his actors were fortifying themselves pre-show with a bowl of soup in a cozy common area outside the dressing rooms. Gawd, it was sooooooooooooooo French there! The show had just received a superb review (especially citing John’s powerful staging) in a kind of pocket-sized magazine. Listed in the magazine were over 150 productions happening in theatres all over the city—unlike New York or London, the Paris theatres aren’t congregated in a special district.
The theater’s unique schedule and the scale of its stage requires simple sets. John’s designers (lighting, sound and sets) were masters at making very precise choices that perfectly took us into the play’s world. And what actors! I could appreciate that they were beautifully trained actors with interesting voices, great looks and immaculate stage diction. (My French isn’t bad—I lived in France for 18 months in my youth, courtesy of my military service, and I enjoyed three years of French with my most favorite high school teacher, dear Dorothy Snedaker.) All six of the actors were well cast, artful and wonderfully accomplished; the play really worked. The audience was clearly thrilled by it. After the show we all went out for drinks. What great, satisfying fun! A couple of nights later Joan and his wife, Catherine, had us over for a lovely dinner with friends (and with some glorious wines).
Though we’d gone for the play, we played tourist with the rest of the time there. The weather co-operated and stayed mostly in the mid-40s with only a little bit of rain one day as we waited outdoors for an hour and a half to get into the newly renovated Picasso museum. (Even with rain gear, including an umbrella, that wasn’t so cool.) We made special pilgrimages to Place des Voges and the Tuilleries— both are the settings for scenes in The Liar which is my next directing-designing chore. Maybe the best fun was touring the beautifully cleaned up Paris Opera whose interiors are the epitome of baroque decoration.
Back at Theatre Three now, we’ve opened Fellowship in Theatre Too, a spoof of “Lord of the Ring” movies that debuted in Texas at Circle Theatre. This is a cast that loves being wonderfully silly. And in Theatre Three we just opened Hot Mikado, which is the swing and jazz version of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Mikado. Bruce Coleman has cast it with singer-dancer-actors of every ethnicity, all pretending to be Japanese. Very exotic! Not quite Paris, but fun for sure!
I love my job.
» Jac Alder is the Executive Director-Producer of Theatre Three in Dallas. Look for his monthly musings in Bit by Bit, which run on the second Sunday of the month. Here is a list of previous columns:
- September 2013: Theater's unsung philantrophists
- October 2013: Theater artists and their critics
- November 2013: Ch-Ch-Changes
- December 2013: What the Audience Knows
- January 2014: What's New?
- February 2014: Upgrading to the Modern World
- March 2014: Not to Worry
- April 2014: If Not for Shaw
- May 2014: Back to the Future
- June 2014: 500 Ways to Remember
- July 2014: They're Alive. ALIVE!
- August 2014: Raise Your Voice
- September 2014: Playwrights I Have Known
- October 2014: The Bread and Butter
- November 2014: Music, Dance, Art, Architecture
- January 2015: Learning to be Civil
- February 2015: The Social Network