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Pittsburgh Public Theater



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Ted's Take

FROM THE DESK OF TED PAPPAS

August 20, 2015

Dear Friends,

I hope you enjoyed a happy summer with family and friends. I’ve had myriad adventures myself, which included concluding our 40th season at The Public, several trips to New York City on business, and a few dramatic weeks overseas in Greece.  More on that.

After The Public’s fundraising Gala, THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT!, which garnered a lot of much-needed cash for the company, I headed to Manhattan for my annual Equity actor auditions for our upcoming season of shows.  I saw 178 actors, all in one day, performing speeches and songs from pieces as varied as Euripides’ The Trojan Women to Meredith Willson’s The Music Man.  So much fun. So much talent. 

While in the Big Apple, I took in some shows as part of my duties as a Tony Awards voter.  Saw The Audience with Dame Helen Mirren (outstanding), An American in Paris in an absolutely ravishing production (highly recommended), The Visit starring the astonishing Chita Rivera (who made her Broadway debut in the 1950s!!), Fun Home (a wildly original musical which took home the Tony), The King & I (gorgeous, and the kids are adorable), Doctor Zhivago (closed quickly), Something Rotten (hilarious, and boasting something I have never witnessed before – a standing ovation in the middle of act one), and finally Wolf Hall Parts One and Two on the same day (six hours of fascinating, dishy British history, made all the more remarkable for me because I was sitting directly in front of Angela Lansbury, one of my idols, who seemed to be enjoying the two plays immensely.  I eavesdropped.).

Lunches and dinners before and after performances were at many of my favorite Manhattan joints:  Artisinal, Joe Allen, Café Un Deux Trois, Molyvos, Rosa Mexicana, Angus’ and Victor’s.  I recommend every one of these restaurants.  All are in the theater district, except Artisinal which is in the East 30s and Rosa, which is across the street from Lincoln Center.

Then back to Pittsburgh for auditions for our upcoming season, including Guys & Dolls.  After the massive success of our My Fair Lady the bar is set extremely high, I know.  But, I am not cowed or intimidated.  I am excited about getting started on this fabulous show, my all-time favorite American musical. I played Nathan Detroit in high school, and was terrible.  Years later I played Society Max at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, and was a bit more convincing.  I promise to stay off-stage for The Public’s version.

Then board meetings. More fundraising. My annual physical (all good). And attending the high school graduation of my goddaughter Anna. Very proud of her.  Finally, off to Greece to visit my Mom and sister.  I caught one more show in NYC, en route:  An Act of God, a comedy starring Jim Parsons who plays Sheldon on TV’s The Big Bang Theory. He played the title role of God in this one. Deeply funny stuff, and he’s right at home on a live stage. It was Standing Room Only for the entire run.

Flew Delta from JFK direct to Athens.  (My seat was in Coach, but in Delta Comfort Plus, which added an extra 4 inches of leg room.  Do this.  Big difference.)  I spent 35 days in Greece, all on the island of Aegina with my family.  If that sounds like a long time with one’s mom and sis, remember I only get to see them once a year.  Every day feels truly precious.  So, how did I spend the bulk of my time there?  WATCHING THE NEWS 24/7!!! I arrived just as all the fur started flying among Greek politicians, members of the European Union, creditors, bankers, and everyday citizens.  I was there for the referendum in which Greeks voted to lessen austerity measures.  I was present for Europe’s response, which was basically:  “Nothin’ doing. It’s austerity, or you’re out of the Union.” I witnessed the EU’s disgust with the behavior of the Greek finance minister’s absurd and inappropriate lecturing of his European colleagues, and his subsequent resignation.  I listened as the Greek prime minister did an about-face from Leftist to Centrist thinking.  I observed the smaller nations, such as Estonia, wagging the finger at the Greeks, and telling them that retiring at 50 was not an option (Is retiring at 50 ever an option??).  I saw demonstrations and near-riots.  And then the banks slammed shut.  For three weeks! I was fine, by the way.  Had plenty of cash, and was able to access ATM machines with both my bank card and my credit card.  God Bless America.  Needless to say, my fluency in Greek has never been better –those newscasters and politicians talk REALLY FAST!  And none of this spoiled a terrifically lovely trip.  Greece was as beautiful as ever.  In fact, I highly recommend a vacation there in the near future.  The Greeks will welcome you with open arms, the dollar is strong against the euro, and the food and landscape and beaches are unmatched in the world, in my humble Greek-American opinion.

While there, I read a lot.  All books I had never read before, including: I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves; MRS. PALFREY AT THE CLAREMONT by Elizabeth Taylor (not the actress); two books by Truman Capote since I am directing TRU this spring – OTHER VOICES, OTHER ROOMS and IN COLD BLOOD (phenomenal); THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE by Muriel Spark; THE SECRET AGENT by Joseph Conrad (chilling); THREE MEN IN A BOAT by Jerome K. Jerome (funny, and a good book for guys); THE WARDEN by Anthony Trollope; GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN by James Baldwin; and THE PURSUIT OF LOVE by Nancy Mitford. And more.

Returned to New York, after tearfully leaving my family, and launched right into design meetings and auditions for The Public’s A Servant to Two Masters. We’re setting it in Venice, circa 1965.  A really fun play, and a spectacular cast.  Very excited about this one. And indeed, all of the productions coming up:  The Diary of Anne Frank is not only a Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning play, it is a great family drama full of heart and heartbreak, and an absolute essential for audiences young and old, and everyone in-between.  Disgraced won the Pulitzer Prize.  The Public’s production, directed by Tracy Brigden, will be your opportunity to see why.  And then there’s Venus in Fur – provocative, funny, and a chance to leave the kids at home and have dinner and a show.  Seriously, leave the kids at home.  Servant will be the 50th play I will have directed for our beloved Public Theater – a very joyous landmark for me personally.  Then, right after Christmas and The Second City in January, I will direct and choreograph Guys & Dolls starring Kimberly Burns (our spectacular Eliza Doolittle) as Miss Sarah.  Then, in the spring I will stage TRU, the one-man play about the gregarious and troubled genius, Truman Capote.  I’m the luckiest man in the world.

So, my dear friends, thanks for reading this.  Thanks for being a special part of my life and the life of our Public Theater.  I look forward to the start of a brand-new theatrical season at The O’Reilly.  Let’s have some FUN!

Ted.

Ted Pappas
Producing Artistic Director