In the Moment: Walnut Street Theatre’s Touring Company Brings ‘A Life in the Theatre’ to GMU’s Center for the Arts on February 6th

America’s oldest theatre, Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, PAalso has a touring company component. The touring company is a regular presence at the George Mason University Center for the Arts, Great Performances series.

Walnut Street Theatre will be bringing a production of A Life in the Theatre (1977) by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet to the local area on Friday, February 6, 2015. The show is a behind-the-scenes look at an older experienced performer and a newcomer to the stage who share a dressing room and the spotlight. The play is a glimpse into a complex, volatile relationship.

Bill Van Horn and Davy Raphaely. Photos by Mark Garvin.
Bill Van Horn and Davy Raphaely. Photos by Mark Garvin.

This article is about the touring aspects of putting on A Life in the Theatre. It is another in a series of pieces about professional touring companies who perform at the Center for the Arts.

David: How does the Walnut Street Theatre decide what plays to tour each year?

Bernard Havard, Producing Artistic Director, Walnut Street Theatre: We look for great plays, usually modern classics, which will resonate with audiences across the country. We also look for plays that will highlight the great talent that we have here in Philadelphia, PA.

Why did Walnut Street decide to tour A Life in the Theatre?

It’s a classic work, written by Pulitzer Prize winner David Mamet. Personally, I am a fan of this piece, which he penned early in his career. Setting this play behind-the-scenes of a theatre offers some wonderful comedic moments. The characters he has created are relatable, no matter what profession you’ve chosen.

What is the size of the touring company both cast and crew?

We have four people that will be touring this year. The cast includes two Philadelphia actors, Bill Van Horn and Davy Raphaely. We also have a tour technical director, Nicholas Gackenbach, and a tour stage manager, Kelly Schwartz.

How does Walnut Street Theatre travel about the country including transporting cast and crew, sets, props and costumes? What are the challenges for a touring company?

We use a van to transport our actors. The set, props and costumes travel separately in a 16 foot truck. The last stop for the tour this season is the Bermuda Festival of Performing Arts. Our touring company, the props and our costumes will fly out to Bermuda for this performance. A second set will be constructed on site.

How would you describe the acting “style” of Walnut Street Theatre?

We are a self-producing theatre company. Each of our productions within the season is cast individually. We begin our audition process with local actors first and find performers that are best suited for each role within our season.

Why are college campuses/venues a focus of the Walnut Street Theatre touring?

College campuses are not really a focus of the tour. However, many look for affordable, professional theatre to add to their seasons. We also provide mater classes with artists on the tour, which makes for more of a partnership between colleges and America’s Oldest Theatre.

Why do you want to be part of the touring Walnut Street Theatre?

Davy Raphaely, Actor: The Walnut Street Theatre is one of the best theatre companies in Philadelphia, if not the country, and I’m proud to be a part of this production and extend what Philadelphia has to offer to the many cities on our tour.

What part do you play in A Life in the Theatre?

I play the role of “John,” a young aspiring actor who throughout the play performs in a variety of roles ranging from WWI soldier to lawyer to doctor. It’s all performed from the perspective of backstage.

Bill Van Horn and Davy Raphaely. Photos by Mark Garvin.
Bill Van Horn and Davy Raphaely. Photos by Mark Garvin.

What are some of the greatest rewards in being in the Walnut Street Theatre touring company?

Being able to perform in many different types of theatre venues. I like the freshness that each venue brings to our performance thanks to the range of sizes and audiences.

What are some of the greatest challenges in being in a touring company?

We have a lot of down time driving from venue to venue. Let’s just say I get a lot of reading done. Luckily Bill and I get along very well so we won’t being getting on each other’s nerves!

If you could invite the audience to the Walnut Street Theatre performance of A Life in the Theatre, what would you say in your invitation?

If you have ever wondered what an actor’s life was like backstage on a day-to-day basis, come see A Life in the Theatre.

Being an actor is like any other job: it has its ups and downs. The only difference is that I get to change my outfit 26 times in 80 minutes — pretty fun!

A Life in the Theatre plays on Friday, February 6, 2015 at 8 PM at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts – 4373 Mason Pond Drive, in Fairfax, VA. For tickets, purchase them online. Here are directions.

Walnut Street Theatre Touring Dates


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