fbpx Friday Phone Call # 31 | HowlRound Theatre Commons

Friday Phone Call # 31

Mark Clayton Southers of Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company

Portrait of Mark Clayton Southers.
Mark Clayton Southers (Photo by Chris Chapman)

Today I talk with the very busy Mark Clayton Southers who is both the Artistic Director of Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company and the Artistic Director of Theatre Initiatives at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture. Mark is a really good story teller and he spent significant moments in his life in the presence of August Wilson. I loved hearing his stories about Wilson here, but he's a natural "bright spotter" and the call is full of interesting writers and performers who have influenced and his work in Pittsburgh and around the country. This is also a man who has supported most of his career in theatre through day jobs—until recently a long stint in a Pittsburgh steel mill—and is raising a young family; all the while putting in the time to create and manage these resources and environments for other Pittsburgh theatremakers. It's refreshing, inspired, and inspiring to hear him talk about how he handles that.

Listen to weekly podcasts hosted by David Dower as he interviews theatre artists from around the country to highlight #newplay bright spots. You can subscribe to the series via iTunes or this RSS Feed (for Android phones).


David Dower: Hello, Mark.

Mark Clayton Southers: Hey, David, how are you?

David: Great. I'm talking to Mark Clayton Southers, who has two titles, actually, the Artistic Director of Theatre Initiatives at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture in Pittsburgh, but also Founder and Artistic Director of the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company. Yes?

Mark: Yes, sir.

David: All right. We're doing this week that's focused on Pittsburgh and the new play activity in Pittsburgh. How long have you been in this community?

Mark: My whole life I've been in Pittsburgh. I'm a Pittsburgher. I left for a year and worked as a photographer in the Virgin Islands for about a year and I worked at a carwash in Detroit back in the late '70s for about a year. Other than that, I've been in Pittsburgh my whole life. Oh, I went to the Tuskegee Institute for a little while.

David: How did you come to theatre, Mark? What were the doors that opened for you? What were the "ahas" for you that this was where you were going?

Mark: In grade school we used to do little skits and write little skits and stuff. From that point on, I really got into sports. I was asked to do a play in high school but I opted to play baseball instead and I started doing photography. I was a photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier for many years and I was also a photographer for the Kuntu Repertory Theatre. It wasn't until the ripe old age of thirty, I believe, that I happened to ... I was watching Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and I was videotaping it for the Theatre company. I was sitting in the back row, probably on my bag phone, because they had bag phones back then and Levee started cussing God out and I stopped like, "What the heck?" It made me sit up and pay attention, because you're not supposed to do that. You're not supposed to cuss God. I don't think you're supposed to be cussing God out anywhere. It was the first time that I really felt moved by theatre.

Then a few years later I was asked to fill in for an actor as a reader for a new play by Rob Penny called Among the Best. I ended up getting cast and that's how I got into theatre at the ripe old age of around thirty. I started doing plays with Kuntu. I did some stuff with New Horizon Theatre. Then I went to South Africa in 1998 to perform one of Javon Johnson's plays, along with Derrick Sanders, who started the Congo Square Theatre in Chicago.

We went down to do one of Javon Johnson's plays in the Grahamstown Arts Festival. When we first got there, we were staying in an all-girls dorm of all places. Then we opened up the local paper and it said August Wilson was teaching a master class in playwriting. We jetted out of the building and ran down this long hill and got to the bottom of the hill and this guy says, "You want a ride up to the college?" Which was at the top of the hill. We rode up and it turned out to be a South African jitney, we're giving like two rand. We went in and August was there teaching this master class on playwriting. There was probably about 200 people in the room and it was packed. Two people got up and left the front row and Derrick and I ran up there and sat in the front row. Afterwards, we start talking with August and telling him we were from Pittsburgh. We developed a great relationship. Later that summer we attended the Edward Albee Theatre Festival in Valdez, Alaska and performed alongside August in six of his plays and readings with Delroy Lindo and Ella Joyce. It was a great ... We got into a great relationship. That's how I really got knee deep into it.

David: Do you think you would have come to playwriting yourself if it had not been for the introduction to Wilson, both as an artist and the person?

Mark: Oh no. To be honest with you, I was really inspired by the work of Rob Penny, Rob's work, because Rob does a lot of teaching in his plays. By acting with Kuntu, I really got sucked in. Being around August is like ... The way I see it, it's like probably a Caucasian playwright saying that he was hanging out with William Shakespeare. This was a great feeling that I don't see happening again in my lifetime. Writing plays myself, I hate to say it, but I don't see anyone reaching the plateau that August reached. I don't take that as a setback at all. It's just a reality. He devoted himself to playwriting and that's why his plays are just so rich and so good. You have to make that sacrifice.

David: It must have been something for you to watch the August Wilson Center get built and then come into your life, both professionally just as an artist in the community and then to become somewhat your responsibility in the Theatre side. That must have been a kind of surprise in your ...

Mark: Yeah, it was a surprise how it all went about. I was working in a steel mill at the time and I was there for eighteen and a half years. I would write in the bathrooms on my ... I actually wrote a play on my iPhone. It's like the stormtroopers in Star Wars, the guards in the mill, the armed guards come around and you would act like you're working or doing something. It was actually good, artistically, to be in a really racist place, a routine type place where everybody took showers together at the end of the day. It was just ... For a playwright, it was a great experience to see all these different cultures, although we're all Americans, but the Irish and the Italians and the Polish folks talking about each other where growing up it was just black and white for me. It was a great experience to be in that way writing, to do writing and stuff.

Coming to the Center, I actually applied for a job at the Jubilee Theatre, an artistic director job in Fort Worth, Texas and I was one of three finalists. I was told by several board members and the managing director that basically I was going to be the one to get the job. That felt pretty good because I wanted to move out of the city. I wanted to do something different. I went to the mill and I said I was going to give my two week notice and as the day wore on, it turned into a week notice, and by the end of the day I just went out and signed my papers and didn't come back, so I quit anticipating getting this job. Then when I found out I didn't get it—a good friend of mine actually got it. I found out I didn't get it and I was like, "Oh boy. Wow. Okay, now. That's a wakeup call." I was offered a job here the same day, the same exact day, so that was a relief.

Coming into the Center, the Center is not really designed for a theatre program. It's going to be a while to really get it to where it needs to be and get the proper funding in place, getting the staff to understand the importance of theatre and what it takes to run a theatre. You can't just have one little office and expect to do theatre. You need a staff. But we're working and hopefully we'll get there soon. It's a wonderful facility. There's a lot of great folks working here. It's just the funding is key. You know that.

David: Yeah. All through this time, you've been managing, basically, the Pittsburgh Playwrights as well.

Mark: Right, right, right.

David: And you had your job at the mill up until this.

Mark: Yes, which paid for the Playwrights. Don't tell my wife that.

David: Let me ask you this about Pittsburgh, just more like the ecology of it. Is that kind of typical that these companies the size of Pittsburgh Playwrights, they're not full-time gigs for people, they aren't that size yet, people are putting their lives together involving other ways of earning money?

Mark: Yeah. It's really a celebration of our artistic community. No one ... We're in our ninth season. No one, including myself, no one gets a salary. It's per show. We do pretty good with the funders for our level. We've never really tried to go past a budget of $150,000 a year, but we make it work on that budget. We do a full season of three plays plus a festival I've started called the Theatre Festival in Black and White. It's really a mixture of amateur community and professional. We actually bring in professional actors. Anthony Chisholm has worked with us. Eugene Lee has worked with us. Stephen McKinley Henderson has come in and done some stuff. It's a mixture of folks that make it work and it's a really good ground for local actors to get a chance to work beside seasoned Wilsonian actors and veterans. It's a good mix. Our festival, we give directors a first time opportunity to direct plays, one act plays, and it's just a great rush. I know the rush that I got when I had my first play produced at ETA Theatre in Chicago with Abena Brown. It was just a great feeling to see people coming and see it work.

I wanted to replicate that here in the city, so I took a home equity loan out on my house and bought this guy out in this Theatre as he was shutting it down. I paid way too much for it, but it was turnkey. We were able to go in there and do work right away. The first play we did was Christmas is Coming Uptown, which isn't written by a Pittsburgh playwright, but it was the first thing we did in that space. Our first production we did for the Pittsburgh Playwrights was August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and August actually came to see it. It was a success. Eileen Morris directed it. At the time, she was the Managing Director for the Kuntu Repertory Theatre. She came and directed it and we were on our way to producing his work and he has been a cornerstone of our seasons, along with George Kaufman. We do a lot of George Kaufman stuff.

David: Let me go in there for just a second. What did that feel like? You're producing your first play in your space and August Wilson comes and sees it.

Mark:Well, it was great for the actors. Of course, I wanted to make sure everything was just right.

David: The pressure.

Mark: Yeah. August pulled me aside and said, "Hey man, you don't have my bio in the program." I just sunk. It's like remember when Fred Flintstone was taking ballet lessons and all his buddies were watching him through the garage door outside of the room? That's how I felt, like Fred Flintstone with a tutu on. But the young lady who did the programs was right there so I called her over and introduced her to him and she took the heat. You know, it was an experience. Those are the type of things that make you stronger. I mean, he wasn't mad. He just was ... He was like, "Hey, okay, I appreciate you doing it, but give me a little play here now." But it was cool.

David: Did he ever see any of the rest of the work? Pittsburgh Playwrights, have you done them all? Did you do all ten?

Mark: We're up to number nine. We're in our ninth season. We've done them in the order in which they were produced in New York.

David: Okay, so you're on to what?

Mark: We're on Gem of Ocean right now, yeah. With the exception of Jitney, because Jitney went through a rewrite process and was reintroduced. We'll finish the cycle next season with Radio Golf.

David: Radio Golf, yeah. So Gem just opened?

Mark: Last weekend, yeah.

David: Okay. Congratulations. Sorry, I cut you off. Go ahead. Sorry.

Mark: I was just saying he was funny because he stayed and he talked with all the actors. One other thing, when Toledo dies, our actor that plays Toledo did this elongated death and he made sure he rolls over to the right where August was sitting and looked up at him like, "I'm dying for you, August." It was hilarious. You had to see it. It was a really good production. I asked August afterwards, I said, "August, how do we get our community into the space?" because not a lot of African Americans come out to see August's work like we would hope for. He says that him and Rob used to do plays at a place in Hazelwood and he said, "We did a play one time ... We wrote a play together called Superfly based on the movie." He said, "Everybody came out. Everybody and their mother came out and then we would pass out fliers saying, hey, come back and see this play, come back and see this play," because you have to really tap into the community. It's a tough nut to crack. Tyler Perry certainly has done it. Folks have different ideas and opinions about the work and what he is, but our community is our community and we have to find new ways to usher them into coming in to see August Wilson plays.

David: Yeah. Does Tyler Perry have a following in Pittsburgh?

Mark: I think he has a following everywhere he goes.

David:Yeah. He is programming in Pittsburgh?

Mark: He's done some stuff here, yes. Yeah, he does pretty well.

David: It's really interesting to try to make that bridge, isn't it? He has such a brand and he has such a style, not just the brand, it actually delivers on the style and vice versa. How to build a bridge from the kind of energy and interest that he's able to generate to a broader.

Mark: I went through this whole metamorphosis. We'll call it the Tyler Perry metamorphosis. I think you have to really have an appreciation for art, however it come at you. I think that we put too much emphasis on what's Theatre and trying to label theatre. That's where the problem comes in. We try to label theatre. I don't see any ... I've never heard of white Theatre before, but we know that it exists. I think we worry about it and we talk about it too much and we beat it to death. People go see what they want to see and that's what folks have to realize. They're going to go see what they want to see and it's not about the ticket price.

We get wrapped up in thinking it's the ticket price. It's not the ticket price. People spend money for what they want to see. People say, "Okay, if we charge more than twenty dollars, people won't come." Well, if they want to come, they're going to come. People are paying sixty dollars to see plays, ninety dollars to see plays. Kenny Leon, they did very well with the readings series down in DC and the ticket ... Those were readings and the tickets were what they were. You had a lot of name people in them, but they were what they were. The ticket prices were as if you were going to a production. People will support what they want to see. I think we get caught up so much in trying to replicate other people's successes and try to do things. I'm not getting stressed anymore about ticket sales.

I do want our community to be exposed to August Wilson. I do want to see more of our community folks in there and we just have to find ways to get them in there. The quick fix is to have somebody in there with a name. That's the real quick fix for it, but sometimes, budget-wise that's not necessary. It's going to be an ongoing discussion.

David: Yeah. Certainly you guys have kept August Wilson's work alive in the community. Has his presence in that community, both as an artist and as a native son, has that impacted more broadly? Obviously, it has shaped your life, but has it impacted more broadly on Pittsburgh in the Theatre or art world?

Mark: Yeah. He left us too soon.

David: Oh yeah. Oh yeah.

Mark: I don't know what the politics are. I've heard stories about movies, movie deals and Eddie Murphy. I've heard all these stories. I think the culture of the world which we live in is film. I know that had that had happened, we would have seen more of him on talk show interviews or whatever, but I think what's important to understand is that his work is going to be around forever. 400 years from now or 600 years from now, unless that big meteor comes, they're going to be doing August's work. It's just going to last the test of time. There's not a competition with anybody coming up or whatever. I just think that just like Shakespeare's stuff is being done, August is going to be done. I'm really so happy that he completed his cycle, that he succeeded what he planned to do. Of course we know that he had an abundance of material out there about the things that he was going to work on, but he left us too soon, but he left us a wonderful gift. He left us a wonderful gift and it is going to keep people working, excited, learning about hour history, our culture through his work for years to come. I'm really pleased to be involved with it.

As far as the impact it has had on a national level, certainly on the Theatre scene. I was at an airport one day. I was going to direct Gem of the Ocean up in Dayton and I went to the airport. There was a guy setting me on his laptop and he saw some stuff I had and said, "August Wilson, who is that?" I explained to him who August Wilson was and he went online and Googled him and he must have asked me twenty-five questions about August Wilson. A lot of folks haven't been exposed to him. A lot of African Americans don't go to the theatre, don't have season subscriptions, their parents didn't take them for various reasons. We know all the different reasons. We don't have that lineage of going to the theatre, knowing about etiquette and all those different things. I didn't have it. It's something I learned at a late age. So it's going to continue to be a growing thing for us. Certainly if August Wilson was not African American, he probably would be celebrated a lot differently throughout the world. He's the man and I'm glad to be able to have been exposed to him.

David: Yeah. You're ... I have two questions for you. I'm going to ask the first one. Are you still able to write in the time that you have? You're running this theatre, you're trying to build this program over at the August Wilson Center and you're directing. Are you still writing plays?

Mark: Well, my wife and I were talking about this this morning, about being more selfish. I hate to say it like that, but to actually take the time out to work on your own stuff. Andre Guess, the CEO here, was telling me the other day as well, "You've got to get back into your writing." I haven't written anything for about three years. I have some stuff I started on. I'm not disappointed about it. I don't have writer's block. I just think that I have to stay focused on the projects that I wanted so they can be the best that they can be. I'm not in that routine environment like I was at the steel mill where I know every day from eleven to twelve I can take my lunch and go write or on night shift I can take two hours and write. I haven't taken that time to set that time aside because I'm working on projects now that really depend on my survival. I don't have the income at the steel mill anymore, which was a great job. I have to make sure that the stuff that I am working on is the best it can be because there's no excuse. I haven't taken the time off to write.

Do I miss it? I miss the solitude. I miss the exploration, but I also am willing to set it aside right now so that I can produce other playwrights plays and build our theatre company up and also build up the Center's ideas about theatre.

David: You know, I had the great benefit, more than ten years ago now, of working with kind of a personal coach, a person who had been involved with the organization I was running at the time and she convinced me that it was important for me to have a personal mission statement. I kind of went through this process with her and came up with a statement that's true today—I use it all the time—that what I am doing, what I exist to do, we put in these big terms, is to create the environment, the circumstances and resources for Theatre artists to succeed. In a way ... Because I've done a lot of what you're confronting right now where my primary role as an artist is in directing work and most often in new work, but for the last number of years, my focus has really been on building environments.

I was building this big program at Arena and we built this big building at Arena Stage and now I'm here at ArtsEmerson for the new program, big ambition. I find it a very creative act. I find it very much on point. It keeps intruding on my opportunity as an artist for myself, but it seems right in line with who I am as a person and what I mean to leave in the world, so I can kind of not get anxious about it, not strain against what is right in front of me. It sounds like you're having the same journey, in a sense, that what you've got on your plate is exciting, needs you and expresses you differently than your writing does, but still is you.

Mark: You can't escape it. Theatre is my other woman. I cheat on my wife with theatre.

David: Remember, this is on ... I'm putting that right out on the website there, mister. You might want to talk to her about it.

Mark: She knows who the other woman is. She was down there today, she was at the theatre for opening night and I was just getting like ... It was like she was helping. We were getting set up and I'm getting irritated and stuff and I'm hoping a lot of people were coming in and I'm saying to myself, "Why am I so irritated? Oh, she's invading on my privacy of me and my woman on the side." Sometimes you've got to step back and look at things. I just turned fifty and I have a four year old son, I have an eighteen year old daughter and I have a one year old son, yes.

David: Oh my.

Mark: Yeah. Yeah. Life is great. It's really great to ... Because I stepped back. I look at with my father. I love my father to death and I look at ... I never gave the artistic around him. We were cutting trees down, fishing, hunting, shooting little rabbits and stuff. I never ... The week after he died, I started writing poetry. Actually, I wrote a letter to my brother and Javon Johnson, the playwright, said, "Oh man, that's a nice poem." I said, "It's not a poem. It's a letter to my brother." He said, "That's a nice poem." So I started writing poetry. This was in 1998. We were doing Blues for an Alabama Sky. He was playing Guy and I was playing Doc for Kuntu Repertory Theatre. We had a really great relationship and he really got me into playwriting. It's a mixture of Javon Johnson, Brad Penny, August Wilson and Dr. Burnett Lily.

I started writing, but my dad passed in 1998 right while we were in rehearsals for Blues for an Alabama Sky. I wrote this letter and I started writing after my dad passed. It's not that he didn't want me to be expressive. It's just that I felt that it wasn't the manly thing to do, that I needed to go cut a tree down or some stuff. I found out many years later, my mother told me that my dad had wrote a play. We can't find it. We haven't found it, but she told me and I never knew that. He taught me photography at a young age, like at ten. I never knew that he was a writer. She told me that he had a little typewriter and all this stuff. It was just a great feeling, but it was after he was gone.

You have to carve out the time to do this stuff, but I don't miss it. I've written ten plays. I've written six one act plays. I've had just about all of them produced, because I produce most of them myself. I just had a production up in New Jersey that I went and saw. A college did a play of mine called Ma Noah that won the Theodore Ward Prize back in 2004 and they did a really great job. Woodie King is talking about producing it Off-Broadway and he's still fundraising for that.

I look at folks like Woodie King, these iconic theatre figures, and I know that Woodie has made sacrifices to do the stuff that he does. I don't mind making the sacrifices. I look at Eugene Lee who runs a Theatre conference out in Texas and these are folks that are artists that are doing stuff on the national level, they're touring on Broadway, but they're also doing things to help assist playwrights.

One thing August told me, I started this reading roundtable. When we were in Alaska, I was so excited. It's like you want to say, "I wish my boys could be here. I wish my friends could see this." I'm up here, I'm on stage with August Wilson. He's reading with us. And Delroy Lindo. I'm excited because I'm a steel mill worker. How the heck did I get here? I'm excited so I go up to Delroy Lindo and I said, "Delroy, can you do a video that I could take home and show our local theatre folks and talk about the importance of August Wilson?" He's like, "Man, I don't know. Uh..." After the awards ceremony, someone tapped me on my shoulder. I turn around and it was Delroy Lindo. He said, "Hey, man. Come on, let's go do that video."

So I took my big giant one of them VHS camcorders back in back room and I videotaped him. He talked for about seven minutes about the importance of knowing August Wilson's work. I took it back home and I started this reading roundtable at my house on Mondays on the first Monday of each month. They would send me scripts from Seattle. August's assistant, she would send me all the scripts I needed and we did a reading roundtable of his plays. August called me one day. He said, "Hey man, you going to be reading tonight?" I said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah." He said, "Okay, I'm in town. Is it okay if I come for reading?" I said, "Yeah." We were reading Jitney. He caught a jitney up to my house. I live up in the hills. He came up and came in and I had actors there that were shocked. He did Turnbo and it was funny as hell. I'm sorry. I don't know if anyone ever heard him read. He has these characters down to the T. I kind of put him on the spot afterwards. I asked him could he do a poem and he did a poem that he wrote about the house across from where he grew up. There was a house of prostitution, I guess, or whatever. It was such an elegant poem, man. I wish I could have recorded it or whatever. He stuck around, took pictures with everybody and hung out, smoked cigarettes on the front porch with some actors. It just was a great experience. It just was wonderful.

We did this reading roundtable to expose the local actors to his work, because a lot of actors never get a chance, locally, to do his work. They bring a director in from Denver and he'll bring his people in if it's a regional level show. It was a great exposure for them and to have August there was just wonderful.

David: Yeah. A lot of those actors who would come in to do those jobs never had the opportunity to sit with August Wilson.

Mark: Yeah.

David: I bet that's a benefit. Wow, that's such richness for you and for the local community from him, such generosity too. It seems like he was really at home with you.

Mark: Oh yeah. He was a very generous, generous individual. That's what I was getting at, meeting these kids and, "Hey man, don't just read my plays. Read other people's plays," which was major to hear him say that. That was major, because he really cares. He really cared about the local ... Not local, but the black playwrights. We started the reading roundtable here at the Center on the first Monday of each month and I alternate it. We read an August Wilson play and then the following month, we'll read another playwright from the national level. We're reading one of Eugene Lee's plays in August called Lyin' Ass. Lyin' Ass. It's called Lyin' Ass.

David: Okay.

Mark: Eugene is going to come in. We just-

David: Tell him I said hello when you see him.

Mark: I will. I will.

David: He's a sweet, sweet man.

Mark: Every Tongue Confess, we just produced his play here. He came in to see it.

David: You staged Every Tongue?

Mark: Yeah, yeah. Tre Garrett came in, the guy who got the job in Texas that I didn't get. I brought Tre in to direct it. He did a marvelous job with it.

David: You know, I was involved in the opening production of that play at Arena and Eugene Lee was in it.

Mark: Yeah, I know. He's the one that got me on the play, yeah.

David: Great. And Marcus came?

Mark: Yeah, Marcus came in and went and saw it and called me up and was telling me about it as well. Chisel is a good friend. We had ... We brought in Samm-Art Williams and did his play. We premiered a piece of his called Last of the Line with Montae Russell. Montae is a Pittsburgher. He's doing Jitney right now. They're out on the west coast doing Jitney. Ron OJ Parson directed it with Marc Masterson out there at the new rep out there. It's moving to the Pasadena Playhouse. It's going to go there now. A good friend of mine is in it. Montae is in it, but also a guy named Rolando Boyce. I'm sorry, I'm messing it up, but he's a commercial actor. He has done commercials. He was in my first play at ETA, When the Water Turns Clear. He's out there now. He's doing Jitney out there at the Pasadena Playhouse.

David: What other writers are you most excited about?

Mark: Well, you know, I've been trying to do a Walter Mosley piece here. He's on the radar. We've just got get our funding together, man. It's just tough, man, to really stage it the way it needs to be staged. There's a playwright in town now named Edwin Lee Gibson. He's an actor. He's an OBIE Award-winning actor. He just came in Pittsburgh and did Jesus Hopped the A-Train with Derrick Sanders directed it for Bare Bones Productions. He's in town now. He's actually helping me out at the Playwrights. He's going to be teaching a class this year at the Center and he has a new piece called Five 'Til that he's working on. I don't know if I should be able to talk about it, but it's going to be at the Public in New York. They're working on a reading for the public and we're going to help him develop it here as well.

David: Wow. There's a lot going on in Pittsburgh.

Mark: Yeah, well you know—

David: I knew you were there and I know the August Wilson Center was there. I knew the Pittsburgh Playwrights was there, but this whole week is, it's just really great to see this community.

Mark: Pittsburgh is a livable city as far as wage-wise. People can ... It doesn't take a lot of money to live here. It's close to a lot of major areas, so it's a good place to struggle up and then go out and do some stuff. There's a great theatre scene. We have the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, who is really supportive of a lot of small theatres in town. Our space is in their building now. We just moved into their building. Bricolage Theatre is on the first floor, run by Jeff and Tami, Jeffrey Carpenter and Tami Dixon. I just directed The Dutchman for them last month. It's just a nice little ... We're trying to start a little Theatre row here on Liberty Avenue and the Trust has been very ... There's No Name Players with Don DiGiulio and Tressa Glover. They do really great work. A good friend of mine just started a company called 12 Peers Theater. They're doing readings right now.

There's just a lot of artists here. There's a lot of professional artists. There's a lot of schools here. One of the things we need to switch off onto now is getting the management side firmed up. There's a lot of people getting their degrees in management and moving to other cities when we really could use some of those folks here. It's really tough to get management.

David: Very interesting. We'll leave that out there for people who are listening to this call. There's an opportunity there in Pittsburgh for people who are managers to come make a difference in a community. That's interesting.

Mark: Yeah.

David: Well, Mark, we could talk for hours. I have so many questions, but this is sort of the length of these calls. Good luck with all of what's happening. I keep an eye on what's going on with the August Wilson Center. I know it has been finding its legs and it keeps evolving and evolving. It's such an important institution and thank you for continuing to work at that.

Mark: Yeah, we're trying to get this festival together. We want to do an August Wilson Festival. It's just a matter of getting all the key people in place to make it happen. But one of the things that I'm going to start here for next season, hopefully, is that we're going to do ... I'd like to do the cycle with high school students, with a college director, someone who is studying directing from one of the institutions locally to direct an all-student production. Maybe in February before they really get into their high school plays. We plan on doing probably Radio Golf or even Joe Turner's Come and Gone next season. We're in the process of getting that set up. I'm still speaking with several principals and folks in the schools just to make sure it doesn't upset their boat and how they do things.

David: Yeah. Well, good. Thank you for your time. I know it's a busy day for you so I really appreciate you squeezing us in.

Mark: Thanks for having me, David. I appreciate it.

David: Okay. Good luck to you. I'll watch what you're doing.

Mark: Bye bye.

Bookmark this page

Log in to add a bookmark
Thoughts from the curator

Listen to weekly podcasts hosted by David Dower as he interviews theater artists from around the country to highlight #newplay bright spots. You can subscribe to the series via Apple iTunes or RSS Feed.

Friday Phone Call


Add Comment

The article is just the start of the conversation—we want to know what you think about this subject, too! HowlRound is a space for knowledge-sharing, and we welcome spirited, thoughtful, and on-topic dialogue. Find our full comments policy here

Newest First