Monday, February 27, 2012

Doing theater for the “right reasons”

Contributed by Mark Finley

When I was in college I got to work with Rosemary Harris. She’s one of the world’s best actresses. Period. She’s also the most gracious and classy person I’ve ever met. I wanted to be her when I grew up. When I moved to New York City, I started to idolize Charles Busch. Without question, he’s one of the funniest (and most glamorous) men on the planet. More importantly, he’s built his own unique place in the theatrical landscape. When I actually started to grow up – that is, realize that my way as an artist wasn’t going to be a traditional one--his work became especially inspirational to me.

Rosemary Harris is a huge star. I’d read about Charles Busch in the New York Times long before I ever saw him on stage. But my theatrical hero is someone I’d never even heard of before I met him; Doric Wilson.

I was introduced to Doric by a friend who knows I love theater stories. Anyone who knew Doric knew that he had millions of ‘em. He didn’t tell quite that many on the night the three of us first got together but we were up till 4 am at the Film Center Café yacking away. I knew what the Café Cino was, but Doric was one of its first playwrights. I knew about Circle Rep but Doric was one of the founders. Stonewall? Doric was there all three nights. (It was three nights?) Somewhere along the line, I’d told him that I was an actor and a writer but had just discovered directing and felt like that’s where everything came together for me. The next day he called me and said he wanted to me to be his director of choice. “The way Marshall was Lanford’s director”. I told him I was very flattered but didn’t he want to see some of my work first? Didn’t need to, he said. His instincts about people were always right and I was doing theater for the “right reasons”.

I didn’t know really that Doric was “somebody” when we started working together. I started working with Doric because he treated me like I was “somebody” –and slowly I started to believe him.

Doric passed away last May and the loss feels real to me now. I can’t adequately describe the many things I learned from him. As one of the pioneers of Off-Off-Broadway, we all owe him a debt.

Webster’s defines “hero” as “a man of exceptional quality who wins admiration by noble deeds esp. acts of courage”. Did I want to be him when I grew up? No. Was he my idol? Not exactly. But was he—and is he—my theatrical hero?



Mark Finley has directed Off and Off-Off-Broadway. He’s also a writer, an actor and the Artistic Director of TOSOS (The Other Side of Silence)—the LGBT theatre company he co-founded with Barry Childs and Doric Wilson.

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