Scott Alan Evans talks about THREE WISE GUYS at the Beckett Theater, Theater Row, as well as his 25 year long rung with TACT.
Q: Three Wise Guys is currently playing at the Beckett Theater at Theater Row, can you tell us a little more about this production?
A: For TACT’s 25th Anniversary we wanted to do something really special. TACT is known for its focus on the word and the actor and its reimagings of under-appreciated works by great writers. For one of our very first productions at Theatre Row, however, we created a highly theatrical piece for the company about the Triangle Factory fire of 1911 – called the Triangle Factory Fire Project – which was based on first-person accounts and trial transcripts. It was an enormous success for us and is a play that continues to be produced across the country to this day.
For this special year we wanted to create another unique piece especially for the company. We came across these delightful short stories by Damon Runyon that all take place on Christmas Eve and we thought this would be a great basis for a work that would highlight the particular transformative talents of our company. The play features seven of our actors in a production that includes puppetry, shadow plays, projections and multiple roles for almost everyone in the cast. I’ve been fortunate enough to put together a dream-team of actors – all of whom I have worked with in the past multiple times – and some of my most favorite designers. Working on this piece has been a sheer delight. Together, along with my co-writer, Jeffrey Couchman, we’ve created a little bonbon of fun for one and all – and we couldn’t be prouder of the show. Come and see it!
Q: This show marks the final season for THE ACTORS THEATRE COMPANY (TACT), what have some of the highlights been for you over the last 25 years?
A: There is something so special in creating an artistic home for fellow artists who share a similar esthetic and then having the opportunity to work together over the course of time on many different kinds of plays. There is a sense of connection, short-hand, comfort, and trust that allows the work to deepen and grow right from the start. It creates a palpable difference in the experience of both the artist and the audience. Even when newer guest artists come in to join us – and we bring in new folks all the time – they are quickly taken in and folded into that communal artistic energy. So, that’s a long way of saying I have absolutely loved working with this amazingly talented community of artists that have come together to create TACT. Right from the beginning we approached things in interesting and sometimes unusual ways. Our company’s very structure, for example, allows a great deal of input from our artists. Though I have been sole Executive Artistic Director since the company was founded, we have always had multiple Co-Artistic Directors, including founding actor Maia Danziger, actor Simon Jones, director Jenn Thompson, and my longest collaborator and friend, Founding TACT member, actor Cynthia Harris who served as Co-Artistic Director for 21 years and continues to be a vital leading force with the company today. There have been many great productions and some lovely recognition from the public along the way – to say nothing of the amazing and loyal audiences who have come to know, and love and, most importantly, support us. Still, if I had to pick some of my personal favorites they would include Miller’s Incident At Vichy, Eliot’s The Cocktail Party, Holm & Abbott’s Three Men on a Horse, Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer and one of our very earliest Off-Broadway productions, Home by David Storey.
Q: What is it that drew you to ‘lost, forgotten or under-appreciated plays?’
A: We founded the company at a time when the popular focus of theatre was moving towards spectacle and highly conceptual productions. As a group of artists who loved language and theatrical literature, we felt dismayed by this trend – which was also reducing the role of the actor to something akin to a prop. Our view is that the theater we most value is created from nothing more than “a plank and a passion” – or as we like to put it: the word and the actors craft to bring it to life. That has been our guiding principal from the beginning. And with that came a desire to also champion great plays that were rarely seen on New York Stages. There must have been something in the air at the time, because we began the same year Encores started and they, of course, look at great underappreciated musicals. There have been other companies, too, that have come along to focus on lost and rarely-seen works and TACT has been proud to have been a crucial part of this important movement for 25 years. We’re proud of what has been achieved and proud of TACT’s part in helping to change the artistic landscape of our community. Now many companies have joined in that mission and the work TACT has helped launch is being carried forward with vigor and great imaginative energy. This makes us very happy.
Q: You also work as a writer and producer outside of TACT, can you tell us a little bit more about that?
A: TACT has certainly been my main focus for many years. Anyone who runs a nonprofit Off-Broadway theatre company will tell you that you don’t have much time for anything else! Still I have managed to fit in a few projects here and there when scheduling allowed. I have enjoyed working with the NYU Graduate Acting Program as a director of both their productions and their graduating class’ showcase. Most recently I had the pleasure of directing a new work by Kenneth Jones called Hollywood, Nebraska at the Wyoming Theatre Festival. I am looking forward to working on more new works in the future – which is a love of mine as both a director and a writer. And I have a few new writing projects in the works as well. So, lot’s more to come.
Q: What would you consider to be the greatest challenge for the New York Theater community?
A: Sustainability. Manhattan has been the center of New York and the theatre community for a long time, but beyond Broadway, smaller theatres companies in Manhattan are facing many serious challenges: space is more and more expensive and less and less available and costs are going up and up across the board. This makes it very difficult to take artistic risks or to find ways to innovate. It’s no wonder that much of the exciting new theatre can now be found in the outer boroughs, and the life blood of that is the influx of new young energetic talent that floods the city each year. With rents going up the staggering way they are it will be interesting to see how long the city can welcome these young artists and feed the cultural beast.
Q: What would you consider to be the greatest advantage for the New York Theater community?
A: New York’s enormously talented, amazingly diverse pool of dedicated theatre artists is without a doubt what makes working here such a joy. The camaraderie and the support of such a large generous community of artists cannot be underestimated. Certainly for us at TACT, this has been the case.