Saturday, January 3, 2009

Pausing to Take Stock

Two consummate artists I had the pleasure of meeting passed within days of each other. Much has been written about the more famous of the two (both Brits), and I can't say I knew Harold Pinter intimately. But Alison and I did meet him following his performance in No Man's Land, a 1990s West End revival of a play he had written many years earlier. I was pleased that Orange County Register theater critic Paul Hodgins reprinted his piece on Pinter of a few years ago in which I recounted the story of my encounter with the great writer.

The other, Adrian Mitchell, was a noted poet and playwright, among whose projects was a stage adaptation of Dylan Thomas's A Child's Christmas in Wales, which I staged in the 90s at Laguna Playhouse. The play with music had been produced by many theaters over the years, and I first encountered it when I was managing director of the Grove Shakespeare Festival/Grove Theater Company, where it was reprised each year. One year, the director took some liberties with the script, framing the story with a prologue scene in a pub where we meet the poet Dylan Thomas as an adult.

When I planned my own production, I contacted Adrian Mitchell and told him about that concept and that I hoped to re-create it in some way. He graciously offered to pen a handful of lines for the pub opening. I invited him to come see it, and though I can't remember exactly how we did it, arranged for him and his wife Celia to visit. The exquisite Surf and Sand Resort in Laguna Beach kindly provided a complimentary room--their best corner seaside view room, no less--and we gave a warm Southern California welcome to them (despite experiencing very English rain & chill during their stay).

A year later, Alison and I found ourselves in London, and the Mitchell's insisted on our coming over to their home in Hampstead for breakfast. Celia was gregarious and opinionated while Adrian was soft-spoken--though no less opinionated.

The New York Times ran a substantial obituary on Christmas eve and I learned much about him that I had not known--for instance, that he collaborated with Peter Brook on the legendary production of Marat/Sade in 1964.

Over the years, I failed to keep in touch with the Mitchells, and was saddened to learn of his death through the newspaper. He was a remarkable man.

Until next time...


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