Life in the Theatre is one of David Mamet’s earlier plays, but its age has only added to the play’s potency. The playwright drags us backstage into the dressing room of a small town repertory theatre, where two actors are preparing for their next production. Robert, portrayed by Dudley Sauve, is an old hand at the theatre, an actor who has spent years in the theatre perfecting his craft. Joe Brown plays John, the young and ambitious rising star, who is eager to learn everything that Robert can teach him.
In the play, Robert and John go about their lives both onstage and off, growing as the years and the plays roll by. Their relationship, as with all things, changes during the play from the first blush of John’s awestruck wonder at meeting Robert, to a more mature relationship, and then to something more. Over the years, they find themselves looking at the other in a different light, and reacting much differently than they would have at a previous age. It is an amazing piece, and even more lifelike than one might have imagined.
Years ago, when Dudley was teaching a theatre class at Nottoway High School, there was this one student in the back of his class who seemed completely uninterested in theatre and plays and he acted as if he was only there because he had to be. After the class had gone on for a while, Dudley decided to, if nothing else, use the boy as a warm body, and he promptly cast this boy, one Joe Brown, in a walk-on role for his upcoming play. The young Mr. Brown took to the theatre like a fish to water, with that one moment on stage spurring him into a brand new world.
For the past few years, Joe has been helping out the Waterworks Players not only as an actor, but also as a stage technician, and he has grown under the tutelage of Dudley. Their relationship may technically be that of mentor and pupil, but it comes closer to father and son, in reality. Each has had much to learn from the other, just as their characters in Life in the Theatre do. Because they have had this relationship in real life, it helps them to better transfer it to the stage, giving us new insight into the characters and injecting a certain quality of truth that turns a play from merely actors on a stage into a true, real experience.
Life in the Theatre will be performed on January 27 & 28 and February 3 & 4, 2006 at 8 pm. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under.