Well, it’s here at last! Tonight I make my formal Asolo Rep debut as we open Frank Galati’s eloquent production of Brian Friel’s early masterpiece, Philadelphia, Here I Come!
Working with Frank has been a quiet revelation. His rehearsal room is a nurturing environment for organic collaboration; all ideas are given genuine and gracious consideration, and notes to actors are provided with generosity and supportiveness. Not since working with Peter Amster (as Fate would have it, Frank’s partner, and dance consultant on this production) have I felt so respected and appreciated as an actor. I firmly believe that Frank and Peter should be leading Master Classes for young directors on how to get the best out of actors, and scripts.
Frank’s perspective is remarkable: he does so much homework, and simply knows so much already; yet right up to yesterday’s final rehearsal with the company, he was still revisiting and rethinking, exploring and honing moments even further with the innocence of a wise child, conferring with his actors every step of the way. The performances he has drawn from us all, and the seamless, cinematic storytelling he has created, are nothing less than extraordinary.
Frank has also had the support of a host of superb artists to bring our version of Friel’s mythical town of Ballybeg to life: Russell Metheny (set design), Mara Blumenfeld (costume design), Paul Miller (lighting design), Kevin Kennedy (sound design), Michelle Hart (wigs & make-up), and Patricia Delorey (dialect coach), as well as Asolo Rep’s superb resident tech and costume teams, and dramaturg Lauren Sasso–not to mention Stephanie Klapper Casting and Simon Casting! Our Stage Manager Patrick Lanczki has guided us all through rehearsals and tech with grace and assurance, ably aided by ASMs Lauren Batson and Mary McElroy. The list is a long one. And the result of all this collaboration is nothing less than magical.
I don’t come on until near the end of the play, so on the night of our first preview earlier this week, I was able to tiptoe out and watch most of the performance from the back of the audience. The work onstage by my fellow performers was so lovely I had trouble tearing myself away to make my entrance! Laughter and heartbreak go hand in hand in our Ballybeg.
I am honored to be Canon O’Byrne in this beautiful production. Happy Opening to all!