Baylor Off-Broadway Production Receiving Rave Reviews

March 7, 2006
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by Julie Carlson, (254) 710-6681

The off-Broadway production of Horton Foote's "The Traveling Lady," which is being co-produced by Baylor University and the famous Ensemble Studio Theater in New York City, is garnering great reviews from theater critics.

The play is directed by Baylor's own Marion Castleberry, director of graduate programs, and features Dr. Stan Denman, chair of the theater department, in the role of Slim. Baylor graduate student Daniel Inouye is serving as assistant to Castleberry. The production, which runs through March 19, marks the first time since the days of Baylor's legendary theater guru Paul Baker that Baylor has staged a play in New York.

Charles Isherwood of "The New York Times" wrote that the play is directed "with intelligence and care by Mr. Castleberry" and also that "Slim is played with fine economy and grace by Stan Denman, who is moonlighting here: his regular job is teaching in the Baylor theater department. Mr. Denman delivers Slim's monologue about his marriage with a sense of confusion and sorrow that is beautifully calibrated."

Marilyn Stasio of "Daily Variety" also was complimentary to the Baylor group, writing, "A joint venture of EST and Baylor U., where this trimmed-down 'Lady' originated in 2004, the bittersweet drama is one of the most enchanting chapters in the scribe's homespun cycle of plays set in Harrison, Texas, celebrating a small-town way of life that was washed away -- to Foote's everlasting regret -- in the oil boom."

She also references Castleberry directing skills, writing, "Marion Castleberry, the Baylor director who originally mounted this show, runs a tight ensemble ship in this clean-as-a-whistle production."

Castleberry mounted his first production of "The Traveling Lady" at the inaugural Horton Foote American Playwrights Festival, held at Baylor in 2004. It was there that the association with the Ensemble Studio Theater began.

Curt Dempster, artistic director of E.S.T., a long time producer and director of Foote's work, said, "When I saw the fine production of 'The Traveling Lady' at Baylor University at the first Horton Foote Festival in 2004, I was impressed and moved by this delicate, tough-minded play. I felt it had to be re-introduced to a wider new generation of theatre-goers, and Horton, a venerated E.S.T. member, agreed.

"Our co-production with Baylor University directed by Baylor MFA Theatre Chairman Marion Castleberry, is also a salute to Horton's great career, and a loving birthday present from E.S.T."

One of the most venerated off-Broadway theaters, the E.S.T. has played host to winners of Pulitzer Prizes and Oscar, Emmy and Tony awards, among them Robert Duvall, David Mamet and Richard Dreyfuss.

Castleberry said all aspects of the production are going well and growing every day, and that directing a show off-Broadway is no different that directing a smaller production, with one exception.

"There is always a greater chance that one of your actors will be called to do a screen test in Los Angeles or miss a performance because he or she is called to shoot a film scene. Beyond that, working with professional actors is always a real treat for me," he said.

The success experienced at the E.S.T. also is opening doors for the Baylor crew. "I have just spoken with the head of the HB Playwrights Foundation, here in New York, about working together to produce Horton's play "Tomorrow,'" Castleberry said. "HB is the theatre that the legendary Uta Hagen and her husband Herbert Berghof created. It is one of the city's most reknowned teaching schools. We hope that 'Tomorrow' will be ready by Summer of 2007.

"So you see, all is well and Baylor Theatre is alive and growing."

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