Tuesday, September 13, 2011


In Short, A Stark Raving Theatre Brief

Written by Rod Harrel

©1998, 2004 by Rod Harrel, all rights reserved

all photos by Tammy Harrel-Fraley
           Portland, Oregon in the late 1980’s saw the Establishment concerned about the “leftists”. There were groups in the city which had ties ranging all the way from the “evil” Sandanistas in Nicaragua to the “evil” Democrats in Washington, D.C. Whenever Republican leaders like ex-CIA Director, Vice-President and eventually President George Bush or his stalwart Vice-President Dan Quayle came to town, protests naturally greeted their visits. Sometimes these protests were peaceful and sometimes they were not. The Reagan/Bush cabal referred to the city as “Little Beirut”. It kinda gave Portland a reputation.

           This was also reflected in the theatre scene: a conservative morass of art, dependent upon and unchallenging the corporate and state establishments. There were so-called fringe theatre companies, of course, as there are today. From those diverse and fertile wells came Stark Raving Theatre.
            I arrived in Portland in late 1985 after landing a part in Douglas Gowar’s “Daddies”, a two man character study performed at Portland Civic Theatre’s Blue Room. Directed by Douglas Mouw and co-starring Michael Kerras, it was the perfect tear jerker for the holiday season. Cathy J. Lewis, who was the assistant director and stage manager, and I became close pals. We had an absolute ball with that show.
            Soon after, in 1986, Cathy and I formed a participatory theatre company called The Jupiter Players. We produced five plays in two and-a-half years, four of them penned by yours truly. Our rotating set of actors included David Williams, Don Burns and Jimi Fogle. “Fatal Chemistry” (1987) was performed at the famous Pittock Mansion and an early version of “Trial By Error” (1988) was performed at the Clackamas County Courthouse in front of an audience of actual lawyers and judges.
            While working at the New Rose Theatre in 1988 I met EJ Westlake, and it truly was one of those life changing moments. We were both, ha-ha, looking forward to another four years of Republican rule and talked incessantly about art and politics and music, as we were both guitar players. EJ was a bit more radical than I, having also publicly protested, worked for various organizations and stared down a police baton or two.
            When it came to theatre in 1988, EJ and I saw before us a landscape which exploited liberals and liberal ideals while presenting a fairly typical conservative agenda. We both wanted to start a theatre company that would emphasize new work and reinterpret existing ones. Perhaps even genres, we mused. EJ had recently written and had produced with W.A.C.K.O., the not necessarily politically incorrect lesbian, feminist, mystery farce called, “The Foofy Open-Toed Shoe”. It was the first script of EJ’s I had read and it gassed my jets. Our writing styles were similar in using humor to soften the blows of the 2x4 messages.
            We decided to go ahead and create a new theatre company and enlisted our friend Robin Suttles in the venture. We both knew Robin through Portland State University and her stage managing work at Storefront Theatre. Robin was also a writer and a musician. She recently got together a group of writers, including myself, to create a revue called “Bushwacked”. This was produced at Playback Theatre in December, 1988. Playback was founded by Angela Meyer only a year earlier and has probably been most forgotten in the lineage of Stark Raving Theatre. For example, in October she produced a show I wrote and directed called “Jack: a trauma in seven scenes”. A modern re-telling of the Jack The Ripper story, mixing politics, gore and sex, I doubt it would have been produced anywhere else at that time in Portland.
            In December, 1988, Robin, EJ and I founded Stark Raving Theatre, or as it was first known, Playwrights Theatre (I know, yuck). Soon, however, a tentative space agreement was reached with a new acting school. It was near Stark Street I believe, so, in the ensuing free association, Stark Raving Mad Theatre was born. Unfortunately, the agreement fell through, I was told, due to our radical politics and/or sexual orientation, but the name remained nonetheless.
            After that wake up call, Robin found another space in Northwest Portland in the basement of the Bull Ring Restaurant. We found out it had been the home to the Pub Theatre, the Sumus Theatre and the Cubiclio Theatre. The ceiling was low. Really low. As low as six feet in some places. A long bar occupied one end of the space, a series of 4x4 supports went right down the middle. There were three entrances, none of them accessible, our first compromise. Yet, the deal was almost too good to be true. The Bull Ring would not receive a monthly rent, instead, they would take 30% of the gross box office per night including when we rented the space out to other companies. We paid the electricity and the phone. We could use the space 24/7. It was an amazing deal.
            For some reason I was chosen as the liaison between the theatre and the Bull Ring owners Laura and David Martinez. At the time it included signing our lease and establishing the electric and phone service. Later, this role would include far less mundane items, but at least they didn’t care about our radical politics and/or sexual orientations.
            In February, 1989, we formally incorporated what was now called Stark Raving Theatre. I do not recall why the “Mad” portion was dropped, but in retrospect, of course, it seems fitting. EJ became the Managing Director, Robin the Technical Director and myself, the Artistic Director. The original board members were invaluable in helping bring forth this new theatre. Cathy Lewis and David Williams, late of the Jupiter Players, came aboard as did a good friend of us all, actor Joel Applegate.
            As we planned meetings, the immediate task of cleaning up our new space took a great deal of time. Did I mention that sewage spill next to the far exit door? Well, that was a fun experience for all of us. The usual vacuuming, painting and hanging blacks ensued. David and I began to snoop around for a dimmer pack and a board for the lighting. In the meantime, everyone chipped in assembling light fixtures in coffee cans we painted black. Those coffee can lights served the theatre well as some of them were still in use as late as 1998.
            From the start, Stark Raving Theatre was to be political, to explode old stereotypes, to create new plays and to show no fear. To EJ and I, political meant humor, entertainment fer gosh sakes. Dario Fo was a then recent influence on my writing. Yet, there was a dark edge to the funny business going on. From our experience: the tedious office work, the street demonstrations, the police batons shoved in the back. I think Robin was a bit uncomfortable with our radicalism. That probably wasn’t helped by the fact that in the first two seasons of theatre, Robin, a co-founder and a writer, didn’t see any of her plays produced. But, I digress.
            Through our first series of meetings the SRT board had set up a mission statement, pay scale, admission scale and a workshop system for producing new plays. With the first season due to start in late March there was obviously no time to produce new works so, predictably, the recently produced plays by both EJ and myself, “The Foofy Open-Toed Shoe” and “Trial By Error” were picked.
            To me anyway, there seemed to be an unnecessary amount of time crafting SRT’s mission statement. Although it evolved a bit over time, it was essentially this: Stark Raving Theatre will produce new works and alternate interpretations of classics that explode old stereotypes and show no fear. The admission was based on a sliding scale of free to $15 and the actors and crew would be paid on a point system. EJ and I strongly lobbied the sliding scale as we wanted anyone, poor or rich, to see theatre.
            EJ’s “Foofy” certainly stood stereotypes on end. Opening as Stark Raving Theatre’s first show on March 25th, 1989, the “little lesbian detective play” as The Oregonian called it, was a bold statement. There could be little doubt that we were up to no good and the daily paper was being tactful in describing the play. In the gay press, however, “Foofy” was an unabashed hit. They seemed happy we were up to no good. One paper noted, “the cast consists of nine lesbians and a dog.” Among the cast were MacKenzie Wren, Holly Bennett and Patty French.
This initial success was largely due to EJ, having covered a majority of the expenses to put the show on and directing, and the rest of us for putting in time here and there. We were all very happy with the response.
            Laura Martinez was not happy. It wasn’t the show, she liked the extra business, it was the cigarette butts amassing outside the theatre’s back door, up the stairs and into the parking lot. She was damned tired of sweeping them up! Being a non-smoker at the time, I was unaware such a heinous activity was taking place. I assured her that we would sweep up the butts and an ashcan would appear. Otherwise, we would be out on our butts.
            After playing eleven performances, with our unique sliding scale admission, “Foofy” made $1,200. EJ apparently made her money back, the cast and crew were paid and the theatre was on the map. Then, Cathy got a job teaching in South Dakota.
            Cathy was the stabilizing force on the board and was due up to direct my rewritten premiere of “Trial By Error”. In no uncertain terms at the next board meeting, Cathy made sure that everyone would be involved in working on the production. She thought EJ carried too many responsibilities while directing “Foofy” and we agreed, establishing new roles for everyone to fill. Cathy’s departure in August would leave quite a vacuum.
            Being fringe didn’t mean we were isolationists and therefore we had joined the Portland Area Theatre Alliance. This was a loose confederation of theatres that held annual auditions and exchanged ideas. They also participated in an annual awards show at the time called the Willie Awards because of the sponsorship of the local Willamette Week newspaper. As Artistic Director, I was SRT’s liaison. With the theatre’s latest mission statement in mind, I attended the next PATA meeting.

            This meeting was concerned with the news that the Willamette Week had pulled its funding from the Willie Awards, therefore, no awards. I assumed it was an open meeting to discuss different options. It wasn’t long before I realized the true purpose of the meeting was to use funds to start a new awards show! Well, that wasn’t what I thought any funds should be used for and as the meeting wore on I think I actually became stoney-faced. At one point I was jolted from my perplexity when the floor was opened for comments and questions. I commented that I came to this meeting on behalf of Stark Raving Theatre to ask them to use part or all of the funds to create an emergency fund for actors and crew. I also mentioned being a little disappointed that they had already decided to start a new awards show.
            Back at the theatre as early rehearsals for “Trial By Error” had begun, news of the first clash with the establishment was met with mixed emotions. Robin was furious I had made such statements on behalf of the theatre, certain we would never win any awards. EJ and I were puzzled to say the least, as it was no secret what I was going to present to PATA. Perhaps it was the slightly berating tone I used at the meeting. Well, things settled down and rehearsals continued.
            Cathy had put together a rather large cast and pulled off a polished hit show. She worked us silly. When costume changes ran a bit too long I found myself sitting backstage writing new dialogue to cover. I think we all had a blast. Joel, David and I appeared along with Kevin-Michael Moore, Michele Maida, Tony St. Clair, Laura Lundy-Paine, Jeffery Jacobs, Elaine Garner and Liz Russell.
            Cathy got everything she wanted from the cast and crew and importantly, the board. All the local papers were very generous to show and played up the Perry Mason meets Citizen Kane angle. “Trial” was extended a week and I recall in the cramped space several standing room folks. “Trial By Error” grossed $2,900, an apparent record held until 1993 or 1994 or whenever the $0 part of the sliding scale was essentially abolished, but, again, I digress.
            We went into a planned summer board retreat with our heads in the clouds. An earlier call for scripts had by this time netted quite a few, most of which were pretty much crap. Discussion ensued and a tiered listing system for the new scripts and classics was devised. We established a Gold List for plays to be produced; a Silver List for plays in the play reading and development series; a Bronze List for plays to be workshopped and a special Lead List for, well, you know. Even with our consensus board, as Artistic Director, I had the first if not the last word on SRT’s second season.
            My recommendations to the board were “The Adding Machine” by Elmer Rice, “From Here To Absurdity” by EJ, “Titus Andronicus” by Wm Shakespeare, “Cold Hands” by Paul Bernstein, and an unfinished script I was co-writing. Well, everything went over fine except that unfinished script. And rightly so! It took place on a submarine that eventually flooded. My friends showed me the error of my ways. I hastily included “Dancing In The Dark”. The first play reading series was to be in late September, two weeks before the 2nd season opener. I planned to announce those two shows in about a month.
            There was more good news that summer as an independent group rented out the theatre for a dozen performances. That income, plus a yard sale held by the theatre, gave SRT quite a decent bankroll for an upcoming daunting season.
            “The Adding Machine” would be SRT’s first royalty show and for the planned performances that amounted to $260. It was one reason I had to lobby for this show, a dream production if you will, my SRT directorial debut. It perfectly fit the political satire SRT had been presenting. EJ’s “From Here To Absurdity”, which she also was directing, was a completed script, a Stark Raving world premiere. “Titus Andronicus”, with Robin directing was quite the undertaking from a technical standpoint and also a dream project. “Cold Hands” had been submitted by Cathy, originally premiering in the Bay Area. Terry Nelson was selected to direct. So, the new plays weren’t “our” new plays in the sense of having been workshopped and then produced. There was a sense that the Play Reading Series could bring about a new show to produce so we decided to make the last show a TBA for now and one that I’d direct.
            EJ began seeking out new subscribers’ lists after we designed our 2nd season brochure which used subscriber tiers with names like “daft”, “pixilated” and “stark raving”. She soon had to leave for a trip to Nicaragua and Cathy left for her new job in the mid-west. Robin agreed to take over the business side of the theatre in EJ’s absence. We also had increased the board by adding two new members: Michele Maida and Rich Burroughs. I announced the two plays for the first Play Reading Series: “I Live At The Gas Station” by Susan Tone and a death penalty/flag burning farce, “Frying Allegiance”, a new one act I had written over the previous month to replace flooding submarines.
            The auditions for “The Adding Machine” commenced and the turnout was pretty good and I cast all the parts except the lead in short order. No one seemed right for the part of Mr. Zero. There was some talk of me doing the part, but I felt I was busy enough designing and directing the opening show and putting together the Play Reading Series. Mark Layman, who looked perfect as Mr. Zero but had little experience, was chosen. He and I worked out a plan where he would stay an extra 90 minutes after every rehearsal for some private work. Other cast members included Sarah Dresser, M.L.E. Young, Richard Wiltshire, Heidi von Schoonhoven and Mark Twohy.
            The first of SRT’s Play Reading Series opened the second season on September, 23rd, 1989. Michele Maida directed my script while I directed “I Live At The Gas Station”. A juju-folk band called Clap Hands completed the evening’s festivities. The attendance was good and we were all pleased with the results.
            In keeping within our budget constraints I designed a simple forced perspective set. Instead of flats, inexpensive painted white sheets weighted at the bottom were the plan. Robin thought sand would do the trick. So, all seemed to be going swimmingly as rehearsals progressed, but unbeknownst to me this was not the case.
            There is a scene in “The Adding Machine” where Mr. and Mrs. Zero have a dinner party for some guests. After a vicious tirade of xenophobia and racial slurs, everyone suddenly stands and begins to sing, “Oh, say can you see…” Flag burning was in the national spotlight and I decided that as they sang, one of them would pull out an American flag and they would set it afire. The freedom of artistic expression and the “no fear” that Stark Raving Theatre was founded on came crashing down with this one bit.
            Word of the bit filtered out to members of board and to Robin. EJ was still in Nicaragua and didn’t know about what was now known as the “flag burning scene”. A couple of weeks earlier, a local art gallery announced that as part of an art installation the flag would be burned. A biker gang showed up to stop the burning and police then showed up and there was a problem. Instead of being excited by this event, some SRT members were scared shitless. Robin was certain that the biker gang would show up at a performance. I thought that was the kind of publicity money could not buy.
            EJ returned from her trip exhilarated and depressed; the culture shock of returning to the nation, her home, which was responsible for so much of the hardship she had seen. She started writing a script based on her experiences and to reclaim her turf from Robin regarding the business side of SRT. When she learned of the trauma over the flag burning scene she felt it was none of the board’s business. In a bit of inspired compromise she mentioned to me how low the ceilings were and that perhaps a burning flag would not be such a wise idea from a Fire Marshall’s viewpoint. I agreed and changed the bit to having them pull out the flag, throw it to the floor and stomp on it. All done.
            Not so fast. A couple of weeks before the opening of the show some board members began showing up to watch rehearsals. I thought the weak work of Mr. Zero was causing them consternation, but no, they had come watch what was now known as the Flag Scene. They urged me to remove the bit entirely. I explained to them that I had already compromised once and the bit would remain. EJ again said it wasn’t any of their business and was trying to focus everyone on real issues such as how to work with the dry ice and getting the set completed. I was with her on the latter as I didn’t understand why it was taking Robin so long to hang the sheets. Robin’s issue with me was that I wasn’t showing up to work on the set every morning. I explained to her my work load and in turn didn’t understand why she wasn’t able to get other folks to help her out. All the boundaries that Cathy had established with “Trial” seemed to have disappeared.
            And speaking of disappeared, that is exactly what Robin did on the first tech day. In the strange and wonderful world of theatre, my friends who don’t know, the tech days are extremely important and everybody is there. Robin had warned us she wasn’t going to be there because of a prior commitment with Storefront Theatre. EJ and I simply didn’t believe she wouldn’t show up. I wanted to call an emergency board meeting but EJ convinced me to wait and concentrate on opening the show.
            The next tech day did see the arrival of Robin and it wasn’t long before we got into a furious argument. I discovered not only Robin, but several people did not trust me to have a vision or even direct the show. No wonder EJ stopped me from calling for an emergency meeting because she knew any vote would go 4 to 3 in Robin’s favor because of the problems with “The Adding Machine”. After that, no one showed up at the theatre again until opening night and I don’t recall ever seeing Robin after that. The assistant director/stage manager, Jeannie LaFrance literally helped me get the show ready. Every night after rehearsal before the opening we worked on the set until usually 4 or 5 in the morning. I re-blocked some of the scenes, even having Sarah Dresser lift one of the sheets to sweep dirt under and adding a couple lines about shoddiness.
            Yet that wasn’t enough! As all the events swirled around that week, the lighting operator took the time to question my light design for the Elysian Fields scene. I had it lit as bright as possible, he thought it should slowly fade to near black by the end. I listened patiently and then explained that my expansive vision of what the afterlife meant in the mind of Mr. Zero was bla, bla, bla. Imagine my shock and horror on the opening night performance, October 6th, 1989, when the lighting op incorporated his idea anyway. I wanted to fire the bastard but then I would have been stuck doing his job, so I told an incredulous Jeannie what had happened and she spent the rest of the show standing behind him during that scene. At this point I felt that even though we told him to never do it again or else…well. Sitting in the bar later that night for the opening night “celebration” I knew it was over between me and the theatre.
            The reviews for “The Adding Machine” were fairly scathing, for Portland, although I loved The Oregonian’s headline, “Adding Machine Rings Up Zero”. The audiences were okay and the show nearly made its money back, ironically losing $260, the cost of the royalties.
            After opening weekend when I realized that no emergency board meeting was forthcoming I penned my resignation letter and mailed it off. The next evening my phone was ringing off the hook, mainly from EJ, who implored me to reconsider. I asked her if the board would fire Robin and she replied that unfortunately no. To me, in a few short weeks, it wasn’t the personal clashes, it was the ideals that I held dear, the soul of the theatre instead of the flag, that had burned before my eyes.
            The fallout from my departure placed EJ in an awkward position. She knew Robin had to go, but was oddly a minority on the board with that opinion. She also knew Robin would vie for the position of artistic director and at the next board meeting nominated Rich Burroughs. He was approved as the new artistic director. There was also a great deal of discussion about the production design of SRT’s shows. They sucked apparently. Yet, no one had the guts to point out who blew it.
            I spent the next couple of months in semi-hibernation, writing scripts and planning a new, improved theatre. EJ and I kept in contact and her reports caused me to worry that Stark Raving would not last the rest of the season. “From Here To Absurdity” was delayed and Rich wound up directing it instead of EJ. That show played before smaller houses than “The Adding Machine” and the more expensive “Titus” was due up next. EJ and Robin somehow came up with the money to produce “Titus”, but the show was plagued with technical and artistic difficulties. It opened as scheduled in January, 1990, but the board had finally figured out where the liability had existed and planned to fire Robin. She beat them to the punch by resigning in the form of a telephone message.
            In February, EJ called me about playing the lead in “Cold Hands”. She had been picked to direct after Terry dropped out due to illness. The show was to open in only a few weeks. I was, to say the least, reluctant to return to SRT. But, I never could resist a challenge and agreed to do the part. As far as SRT was concerned, my return was just another part of the season. EJ wound us up tight and with the strange elliptical script, we ate it up. “Cold Hands” opened in March, 1990 with positive reviews and larger houses. The show pulled not only the theatre, but myself, out of the doldrums. That TBA slot was filled with a play by Dan Duling called “Burning Conscience”. The second season was complete; we survived, and more importantly so did Stark Raving Theatre. So, when all is said and done as they say, I’m proud to have been a co-founder of Stark Raving “Mad” Theatre.


            For the next two seasons (1990-1992), Rich and EJ balanced the shows between his choice of classics and EJ’s choice of political drama and satire. I appeared in three of those shows. Two were written by EJ, “Mothers Of Heroes” and “A.E. – the life and disappearance of Amelia Earhart” and the other was Rich’s version of Georg Buchner’s “Woyzeck”. EJ’s “A.E.” won the 1992 Oregon Book Award as best new play, the first award bestowed upon Stark Raving Theatre.
            At the end of the fourth season in May, 1992, both EJ and Rich decided to leave the theatre to pursue other interests. What was to happen to the theatre? It was up to EJ, the last remaining co-founder, to make the decision. Although she wanted me to take over and return the theatre to its original artistic vision, she also had to look out for the long term interest of the theatre and that meant financial. My track record when it came to raising serious funding left something to be desired. With me the theatre might be politically ambitious but would probably die a slow financial death.
            Over the last year EJ had worked with two theatre artists she felt had the deep pockets, at least, to keep the theatre going, so the fifth season of SRT (1992-1993) saw the beginning of the David Demke/Myra Donnelly era. My fears of a premature death of the theatre during its halcyon days didn’t materialize and the new era of SRT saw it expand the play reading and workshopping of new works and a serious reach as a top theatre in Portland.
            The theatre passed on to other hands again years later and unfortunately did wind up ceasing operations after eighteen seasons in 2006. Now, I’ve heard ghastly stories about the “sudden demise”, but that history shall be written (eventually) by those involved.


Athena said...

This is very interesting, Rod--I wasn't around back in those days, and never knew the history of SRT. Sounds like a provocative theatre. Glad you wrote about it.

Rod Harrel said...

Thanks for the comment. The interest has been pretty high.

UniversalCynthia said...

Hmmm. Reading this brings back a very emotionally conflicted time for me. I worked my ass off for Playback and then followed the 'coup' that killed that off Playback to be a part of SRT, often working as a volunteer into the wee hours of the morning to get a show ready to open, yet couldn't get into the clique - yes, it was very clique-y even between the board members it would seem by your account. Yet I too feel a certain pride at being heavily involved with the birth of Playback/SRT as I watched from a distance as it continue to live for many years after. Even if few apparently remember I, my car, my time, my boyfriend the lighting designer, my roommate the graphic designer, my coffee-can light building skills, my ability to get equipment & equipment repair from TC & Hollywood lights all for free, etc were all there for SRT. Production values are directly a result of how much money you have to spend on them. Spare staging and quality actors, such as was used for Titus Andronicus, is the only route to take until you develop a bigger budget. Box office will never support higher production values. In any case, because I was on the 'fringe' of these events, a lot of this is new information for me and it makes me kind of glad I did miss out on the drama.

Rod Harrel said...

One of the more difficult parts of writing this was the many people not mentioned by name. A list of everyone who helped out in the early days of SRT would certainly fill a couple of pages. Someday, I'll write a longer version which will go into more detail about the many people who were there.
As far as cliques go, even I felt left out of them! I was very surprised that the "new" board rejected two of my proposals in the years following my departure as Artistic Director. After that I was totally ignored the "new" administration. Eh, what can you do? If I read your comment correctly, your memories here represent your time working on "Titus", yes?

UniversalCynthia said...

Not just Titus. In Playback's history is that it partially grew out of the closing of Sumus Theatre (the artistic organization, not the space that Beth Harper took over) where I & some other 20-somethings of the mid 80s had had the chance to directed originals before I had to be let into the space by the Sheriff to retrieve my personal belongings. This was the beginning of my working at many major theatres just as they were closing - I got a little paranoid that I was unlucky. I definitely put more time in at Playback than SRT, including writing/performing on Bushwhacked (my title, btw, in an election night epiphany) and directing for the new plays series before. Then I deserted Playback to spend some weeks getting the Bullring space physically ready to open. Compared to Playback, the SRT space seemed like be pinnacle of bar-basement theatre. I provided and ran lights off & on but realized there were too many 'directors' at SRT & I likely wouldn't get a chance to do so myself there. Also much later I stage managed one show under the "Burroughs administration" at the last minute that Jim Crino was in - I don't recall the name. For Titus though, Debera Lund put out the call and I threw people I knew at it when help was needed (the LD, the poster artist) but didn't do much on it myself because by then, I'd moved on. In any case, I appreciated the read despite the old feelings it dredged up.

Rod Harrel said...

Glad in the long run it was a good read. Thanks for clearing up the timeline. My knowledge of "Titus" was all second-hand and primarily centered around budget and box office.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the mention Rod.

All so long ago now huh?

Cynthia H. I presume?

Just to clarify, Playback didn't rise out of Sumas to my recollection. I'm remembering the name coming from Ross H.K., having been used many, many years before for the same space.

I do appreciate the recognition of a "coup". So many ideas, the sliding scale, the share system, original works...

Then to have spent years later on working for SRT.

But again, so long ago, another life. Should dig out some of the old photos and posters.


Rod Harrel said...

The name Playback was used many years before, but I did not mean to imply that Playback arose from Sumus. Sumus was one of many theatre companies that occupied the Bull Ring space before SRT. Some comments on here are a little loosey-goosey with the facts though. Memory tricks perhaps?

Still, it was quite a run for SRT - 18 seasons before, well, before whatever happened, happened.

Rod Harrel said...

Re-reading this years later, I can only assume, Cynthia, that you are speaking of your experience on "Titus"; which was after when this article ends. For example, my memory is clear that the dimmer pack, etc. deal was done by myself and David Williams before "Foofy" opened.