The Boston Globe
March 16, 1980

   ART Actors Debut
Thomas Sabulis, Globe Correspondent

And here's a marvail's convenient place for our rehearsal." - Quince in "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

By naming his troupe the American Repertory Theatre (ART) instead of the Harvard Repertory Theatre, Robert Brustein has, at least, forestalled the wrath of the New Haven Chamber of Commerce.  His players may not be so lucky.

"How do we feel about leaving New Haven?" asked Robertson Dean rhetorically.  "Let's hear a round of applause, please." he laughs, answering his own question.

In interviews last week, the good-humored emigrants from Yale were glowing in their praise of Boston, Cambridge, Harvard University and the Loeb Drama Center, their new Arden.

They are happy to be here, and they tell you what any hardy thespian would about the job: It's six good months of work and a steady paycheck.

It's also a big commitment.  As Dean, a 26-year-old Tufts graduate, put it: "Most agents get nervous when you tell them you're going to be out of town (New York) for six months.  But for a company like this, doing such quality work, it's fine." Mark Linn-Baker, 25, said: "Boston is quite receptive to this kind of theater.  It's important theater.  It gives you work.  Sometimes when you pursue an acting career you spend as much time pursuing as you do acting.  This theater gives you time to work and that is rare."

And, they will remind you, this is not New Haven.

There are 18 fulltime members of the ART.  Ten members of the company are graduates of the Yale School of Drama and, consequently, veterans of the Yale Rep.  Three members - Brustein, Jeremy Geidt and Carmen de Lavallade - are former faculty members at Yale.  (One of the graduates, Mark Linn-Baker also taught mime at Yale.)

"It's going to be different up here," Jeremy Geidt understat-ed. "For 13 long, hard years we sowed the seeds in New Haven and now we're reaping some of the goodies.  But we're not resting on our laurels.  We don't have any Boston laurels yet."

Geidt, an Englishman, is a charter member of the ART.  He served as professor of actingat the Yale Drama School for 13 years.  He trained at the Old Vic Theatre School and has appeared in more than 300 television shows in his native country and some 40 productions at Yale.

He and his wife Jan, the agreeable director of press and public relations for the ART, are still getting settled in their new home.  They've bought a house on Garden street near the Loeb and enrolled their two children, ages 11 and 7, in the Peabody School.

"How was New Haven?," he mumbled, "What could be worse?  Well, Bridgeport, maybe.

"I like the idea of living here much better," he said, thumbing the bridgework that he damaged on a piece of steak the previous night.  "I've lived here six months, helping with the changeover.  I think the city works, the subway works."

He lighted another cigarette in his late morning chain.  "From the reception we've already received I think we're going to get a better and, I think, a younger audience, an audience of undergraduates."

Opening night for the ART's debut season is Friday, with a performance of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," incorporating portions of Henry Purcell's score for "The Faerie Queen," scheduled for 8 p.m. at the Loeb on Brattle street in Harvard Square.  (The ART will present three other plays during the 1980 season: the world premiere of Mark Leib's "Terry By Terry," Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's "Happy End" and "The Inspector General," by Nikolai Gogol.)

Adrenalin is geysering for the 18 Equity members of the company, including Brustein, who is playing Theseus in the Shakespeare play.  Sixteen of them were interviewed during a hectic day of rehearsals and movement classes last week.

Cambridge theater life is a new routine for all of them, whether they are buying homes here, as many members of the technical staff have done, renting apartments or commuting to and from New York.  They speak of playing in the ART in terms of "opportunity."

Actor Max Wright, a New Yorker, joined the discussion.  "I'd like to make a statement," he says - and does.  "Nearly everybody on the street here almost always looks as distracted as I always feel.  The people are more preoccupied up here."

Geidt: "Everybody thinks of this as their spiritual home."

Wright: (looking out the window) "It's these meandering streets, Jeremy, these cowpath avenues.  New Haven isn't nice. This is a village."

Wright is a former Brustein associate from New Haven who recently appeared in the film "All That Jazz" and is in the upcoming "John Reed Story" and "Simon," respectively the projects of Warren Beatty and Marshall Brickman - the latter being Woody Allen's longtime collaborator.

He is one of the commuting members in the ART, which he has joined for its first season.  He lives on Manhattan's West Side with his wife and daughter and travels to Boston by train on Tuesdays, after spending weekends with his family. He describes his weekly departures from home with a slightly modified version of a Ring Lardner story.  "Every Tuesday, when I leave, I tell them I'm going out for a stamp."

Carmen de Lavallade, who has performed as a dance soloist with the Boston Pops, Metropolitan Opera and American Ballet, and who choreographed many production's for Brustein's company at Yale, arrived from a movement class she was conducting downstairs.

Kenneth Ryan, a ruggedly handsome actor, accompanied her. De Lavallade is married to Geoffrey Holder, the director of "The Wiz" and "Timbucktu," among other plays (television viewers will remember him from the "This-is-a-cola-nut" TV commercial).  She is appearing for the third time in the company's production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," playing Titania, as she did in the original 1975 production, to Ryan's Oberon.

Neither has had time for sightseeing.  "What's the North End?" she asked, seriously, when it came up in conversation.  She is renting an apartment in Harvard Square.  Ryan is staying in what he politely referred to as "theater housing" on Chauncey street in Cambridge, a house the theatre is renting.  Several members of the ART are living in Harvard University housing.  Mark Linn-Baker, for example, is staying in Dunster House.

Among the company are three New Englanders - Marianne Owen of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, and Robertson Dean and Mark Linn-Baker, of Connecticut.  Eight members are from New York; two from Canada; one each from Pennsylvania, Lexington, Ky., Washington D.C., Utah, and England.  Five non-Equity actors from Boston have been employed for minor parts for the season.  Barbara Orson, a member of the Trinity Square Repertory Company in Rhode Island, will join the ART for its production of "The Inspector General."

Richard Grusin, Yale Drama School class of '79, recently finished a season of work at the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis.  He is "living with the boss," at artistic director Robert Brustein's house in Cambridge, "doubling as a houseboy," joked Jan Geidt.

Two years ago, Grusin performed in "Sganarelle" and "The 1940s Radio Hour" in Boston with several other members of the ART.  At the time, they were all students at the Yale School of Drama.

"The thing I remember about it was that the audiences were wonderful," he said.

"The response was more enthusiastic than anywhere we ever played.  It was like they were starved for it."

Phillip Cates' memories of Boston are not that good.  An New York University graduate, Cates was in the cast of "Golda" when its set burned inside the Wilbur Theater in October, 1977, forcing the production to move across Tremont street to the Shubert Theater and perform sans sets. "A real horror story," he remembered.

Stephen Rowe, 31, from Pennsylvania, is a graduate of Emerson College and "available for honorary degrees."

"We're all hoping this will make us a little more famous," he said, half seriously.