York Daily News
July 26, 1990
Inspires Theatrical Growing Pains
Daily News Staff Writer
There are a few students wandering around
the Vassar campus at this time of year, but not many. It's vacation time,
and they're off doing whatever it is students do in the summer.
But that doesn't mean the college is
empty. Far from it. Behind its ivy-covered gates is the aptly named
Powerhouse Theater, a beehive of work and activity.
It's been that way for the last six
summers, ever since the New York Stage and Film Company, founded by actor Mark
Linn-Baker (on hiatus from his hit TV show, "Perfect Strangers"),
director Max Mayer and theatrical consultant Leslie Urdang (all former Yale
students), decided Vassar was the perfect place for them to spend the summer and
work on plays -- try them out in front of an audience, see if their legs are
strong enough to stand on.
Last year, they had their first major
success: Jay Presson Allen's "Tru," with Robert Morse, had its growing
pains there, ending on Broadway with a Tony in its pocket and other awards on
This year, seven plays are on the
schedule. One, "My Mother Never Said I Should," starring
Patricia Wettig and directed by Ken Olin (both of TV's "thirtysomething"),
is set for off-Broadway; another, "Hearts Desire," a musical
with Peter Gallagher (of "sex, lies and videotape"), is headed for
Broadway. "Local Politics," by Richard Vetere, ends the season
"Signature" was playing the
night I spoke to Baker. It's by Pulitzer Prize-winner Beth Henley, and
while the work puzzled some, the reception was enthusiastic.
Why not? The actors included
Linn-Baker, Carol Kane, Christine Lahti, Kurtwood Smith and O-Lan Jones; the
audience was made up of people in the nearby towns, and a theater contingent:
actors Diane Keaton, Katherine Grody and Josef Sommer, and Lynne Meadow of the
Manhattan Theater Club.
With the play over, Linn-Baker sat down to
talk. About why he's there, for one.
He, too, is on vacation, but only from
TV. He's still working, however, so he's here trying out new plays,
working with other actors and, in essence, enjoying himself.
"My partners and I were looking for a
place to start a theater a few years back," he said. "At the
same time, Vassar was looking to hook up their apprentice program with a
professional troupe in a summer theater.
"It was just what we wanted, too, so
we got together.
"I'm always looking to work as an
actor," he continued. "And this is a place where one can focus
in on just the work alone.
"We spend the fall and winter holding
readings to decide which ones we'll do, then spend the spring putting them
together, then put them on, one after another, over a five-week period."
In addition, Linn-Baker and Mayer lead a
directing class. "I've taught acting and I've taught Shakespeare
here," Linn-Baker says. "But my first love is acting. My
father was a founder of the Open Stage in Hartford, where we lived. He was
a director and an actor in it, so my background's in theater management, too.
"But we all like coming here.
It's pleasant, relaxing, no pressure. A chance to work without the
And if more turn out the way "Tru" did last year, all the better.