November, 2011 – An Interview with Clive Cholerton of the Caldwell Theatre

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AW Stories of the Month

 

After the Revolution at the Caldwell Theatre

 

By Marla E. Schwartz 

 

The Caldwell Theatre Company, the longest running regional theater in Florida, celebrates and begins its 36th season, led by the extraordinary talented Artistic Director Clive Cholerton with the drama “AFTER THE REVOLUTION” by Amy Herzog. The show opened on October 16th and runs until November 20th. This play is a bold and moving portrait of an American family, thrown into an intergenerational tailspin, forced to reconcile a thorny and delicate legacy. The New York Times included it in its Top Ten Plays of 2010 and said, “Ms. Herzog’s smart, engrossing play… strikes a fresh note in being set among a family of exotic beings.”

 

Michael Hall and Clive Cholerton of the Caldwell Theatre. Photo: Sigvision.
Michael Hall and Clive Cholerton. Photo: Sigvision.

 

 

 

AFTER THE REVOLUTION” is the story of the brilliant, promising Emma Joseph who proudly carries the torch of her family’s Marxist tradition, devoting her life to the memory of her grandfather, much revered for refusing to “name names” during the McCarthy hearings. The play is directed by Margaret Ledford, resident director at Promethean Theater, and features an outstanding cast headlined by the father and daughter duo Ben and Emma Joseph, Carbonell Award winner Gordon McConnell “FROZEN” and Jackie Rivera Carbonell Award nominated for “SPEECH AND DEBATE.” The cast also includes, Harriet Oser-most recently seen at the Caldwell in DANGEROUS, Michael SmallCarbonell Award nominated for “BROOKLYN BOYS”, Howard Elfman– recent Caldwell credit includes “SECRET ORDER”, Tiffany-Leigh Moskow-whose recent Caldwell credit includes “CHEMICAL IMBALANCE” and multiple Carbonell Award winner Nancy Barnett, returning to the stage after much too long of an hiatus.

 

Ms Herzog’s script brilliantly dissects and reinterprets the McCarthy Era hearings, portraying it from the point of view of the families involved who continue to be affected by it,” Clive said. Indeed, this visionary has chosen the perfect vehicle to begin the theater season as he continues to choose an array of productions with such expertise that you’ll never forget your experience while you’re at the Caldwell. And again this year he has planned another season that’ll certainly amaze you. And when it comes to singing the praises of the South Florida theater community – Clive speaks highly of everyone. As well he should as it’s a marvelous community of people from all of the Artistic Directors, the actors, the crew – everyone involved, it’s spectacular. There’s nothing more important than showing this community of players how vital theater is so your life – as theater not only informs us but also challenges us – by supporting their work.

 

Michael H. Small and Jackie Rivera in "After the Revolution" at Caldwell. Photo: Thomas M. Shorrock.
Michael H. Small and Jackie Rivera in "After the Revolution" at Caldwell. Photo: Thomas M. Shorrock.

 

 

 

 

Clive sat down and answered a wide range of questions about the Caldwell. He discussed the upcoming season, theater artists, and Caldwell2@Mizner which was successfully launched this past summer with a reception at the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center (it used to be the Cartoon Museum) and is run by Carbonell Award winning Director Kenneth Kay. The first show-up was “THE GUYS that was produced in September.

 

CLIVE CHOLERTON: The next one is in the Christmas/holiday slot and a slot is booked in March and another booked in April, so it’ll be four shows this year.”

 

AROUNDWELLINGTON: It’s fascinating that the Caldwell is going back to that area. Do other people say that to you?

 

CC: A little bit. More so what they say is ‘I can’t believe that you’re opening a second space right now in this environment’. That’s more I think what people are wondering about.

 

AW: I think it’s sort of like coming full circle.

 

CC: It’s totally coming full-circle and also with the Caldwell where there was a lot of years of talks of them being there with a permanent home actually being in Mizner and that didn’t end up working out – so it’s a neat sort of thing. And another thing that’s neat about it is Kenny Kay’s involvement because Ken was involved with it during that whole period of time and it’s a lot of kismet.

 

AW: It’s very nice.

 

CC: Yah. Yah. The whole idea behind picking shows for the second space is to produce shows that won’t lend itself to our stage, on the big proscenium, so it’ll be slightly more intimate. They’ll be stories that don’t require the same type set. Like the show “STUFF” written by Michael McKeever, we would never obviously do down there, but similarly a show, just as an example as we looked at it, but I don’t know if it’ll get done or not, “ALMOST MAINE” (written by John Cariani) where it’s very representational. It’s chairs and things like that so it’s a show that not only does it not require a big set but a big set would actually be obtrusive on it. It would get lost in the big proscenium. So that’s the idea to be able to pick some of these shows that we just can’t really do; and the other idea is that you want to maximize your revenue and so what it’ll allow us to do is while we’re doing a show here we can be rehearsing the show that’ll go down there and it’ll guarantee us, well – nothing is guaranteed, but at least give us a more consistent income stream throughout the year. And that’s usually what second spaces are for in most theaters. So this just worked itself out. The city had this facility and they’re certainly giving it to us at a reasonable cost so we’re able to keep our cost down on it and we think it’ll be successful.

 

AW: Did they contact you or did you contact them?

 

CC: A little bit of both, actually. There is still a not-for-profit organization that actually oversees it but it’s very much under the auspices of the city so we had originally contacted them about being able to produce in there and then we weren’t able to pull it off so the talks kept on going and it has worked out great.”

 

AW: It’s a great idea.

 

CC: I think so. I think we’ll be able to also attract a slightly different demographic. People who want to be in more of an urban sort of environment; we’re hopeful of that as well and more than anything though I think the different nature of the shows, certainly they’ll be a tremendous amount of overlap, but I think we’ll get a different crowd that are more interested in theater done in a smaller environment.

 

AW: How many seats does it have?

 

CC: It can go up to as many as 300. In our configuration which we’ll be using it for is that we don’t ever intend to go past 200, which is very comfortable. So it’s not from the stand point of what it can seat as it’s not actually that small of space. It’s really nicely equipped lighting wise so we can do quite a bit with it. It has really cool pull curtains; we can bring in projection stuff. The city spent some money on it.

 

AW: Would you have something going on in there in the summer, also?

 

CC: That I don’t know – summers are tough as it is – but I do have an idea for next year. I’m wondering if we need to be producing two shows in the summer to begin with …

 

AW: The summer plays were both wonderful and completely different and fascinating to see and artistically speaking they appeared to be a great success.

 

CC: Artistically speaking, yes and it looks as though “STUFF” certainly did very well. “SIX YEARS” (written by Sharr White) we really don’t know yet, we’ll see how it plays itself out. But because “STUFF” did so well there’s a side of me that was like I could’ve easily run that through the summer so then you avoid all the production costs of the other show and you take a production like “SIX YEARS” and you put that in your main stage season and that’s always a juggling act. Now watch, the first year that I do one show it’ll be a bomb and I’ll be stuck with it for two months. So you never you know.

 

AW: Can you bring “STUFF” back?

 

CC: We could and I’d love to because I loved doing the show. But here would be the problem with that; last year I brought back “VICES” after having done it in the summer and what I don’t want is for people to think ‘he uses the summer and that’s his testing ground’ – but I would like to bring it back. Michael has done re-writes on the script and so it would be fun to dive back into it and do another production.

 

AW: Perhaps it can be viewed as an encore rather than a testing ground? But maybe people won’t look at it that way.

 

CC: They don’t at all. When we did “VICES” the same way as “STUFF”, it was being written right up to the last second and it was huge hit for us in the summer, a huge hit. It was written by a team of songwriters: Michael Heitzman, Ilene Reid, Everett Bradley, and Susan Draus, from a book by Heitzman and Reid. It was outstanding, so much fun, really creative and we loved every second of it. I kept hearing from subscribers that ‘I didn’t have a chance to see it because it was done in the summer.’ So we brought it back. And for all of the subscribers who said they didn’t have a chance to see it we had others who said ‘I already saw it and I don’t want to have to pay for a subscription where I have to purchase tickets for a show I’ve already seen.’ So, that would be my concern with “STUFF”, but I’m sure “STUFF” will get done elsewhere.

 

AW: People need to stay down here all year round then and not be snowbirds.

 

CC: You know – more and more people are staying down here all year round and that was the thing that was strange to me. I think it’s tougher for people to spend money now. People are more discerning with the dollars that they’re spending. Two summers ago we also did a play called “THE WHIPPING MAN” (written by Matthew Lopez) which then after we did it, it was on in New York at the Manhattan Theatre Club and it was a big hit for them and it was a big hit for us. Now we got comparable reviews and the same sort of acclaim on this show as we did on “STUFF” and yet we didn’t do as good as numbers and I can only attribute that to the economy. Because in terms of the buzz and the excitement people felt they were equal.

 

AW: And when I came to see “STUFF” you gave out an award to a woman who made many donations.

 

CC: Patricia Hauben, she has made many, many donations. She runs what’s called the Lowe-II Foundation and has been a phenomenal patron to us. We have many other donors and patrons but she’s the tops. What happened with this thing is that we wanted to give her an award before-hand because she has been so great, but what had happened was is that we were given an opportunity from our lending institution to modify our loan, the mortgage on this thing. But to do it what we had to do was come up with a lump sum payment just to get all the ducks in a row. I’m not even sure I know all the legalities behind it but this is basically what they told us. So we weren’t sitting on that kind of cash so I phoned her and said: ‘this has been the offer that has been given to us would you be willing to help us out?’ And in two days we had a check for $40,000.

 

AW: How wonderful.

 

CC: Yes, that’s Patti. She has never asked for anything in return other than ‘I just want to see you guys succeed and do good work’. So giving her an award was merely the smallest token of appreciation I could give her.

 

AW: Does she come to see every show?

 

CC: Every show! And she’s always very supportive. She’s very active in other charities as well, we’re not the only one she gives to; she’s just an incredible lady. She couldn’t be more supportive. We have other family foundations, not to that dollar amount, but I have to acknowledge Sanford Goldstein who has been on our board and he’s also a trustee of the foundation and every year like clockwork he gives us a significant donation as well. And we have other donors, as well. But when it comes to earned revenue we still have a way to go to get back to where we were before the recession. But we’re better this year than we were last year.”

 

AW: This fall is your third year at the Artistic Director?

 

CC: Yes, this’ll be my third year.

 

AW: What is it that maybe has surprised you about the job? Maybe a good thing or a bad thing?

 

CC: The one thing that you can never be prepared for is the monumental scope of all the demands that are put on you. And probably the negative of that is it’s really hard to be able to focus in on the art because you’re constantly being pulled.

 

AW: That’s right. It’s hard to focus when everybody wants you.

 

CC: Yes. And it’s hard to be focused when you’re in that rehearsal hall but you’ve got to do it; otherwise your art suffers.

 

AW: Michael McKeever (the “STUFF” playwright) speaks very highly of you.

 

CC: Does he? That’s very nice of him

 

AW: He said you’re a fantastic director and so great to work with …

 

CC: That’s kind. He and I had a nice shorthand after doing “DANGEROUS” (written by McKeever) before, so that was the second time that I’ve directed one of his plays and also he was an actor in “DISTRACTED” (written by Lisa Loomer) as well. Also, he says that and it’s so generous of him, but he handed me a very clean script so that had a lot more to do with it, and although it’s very kind and generous of him to say that, I think more of the credit actually goes to him than it does to me.

 

AW: I think it’s nice that you both have a mutual respect for one another.

 

CC: We definitely do and we’ll continue …

 

AW: And when you directed his play “STUFF” this definitely comes through.

 

CC: Oh, did it? That’s nice to know because he’s so prolific and as he’s getting older he’s digging deeper and deeper and he’s really moving ahead.

 

AW: I also see you’re working this coming season with playwright Christopher Demos Brown’s play “OUR LADY OF ALLAPATTAH”. Is this the first time you’ve directed one of his plays?

 

CC: I’ve never done anything with Chris before; he and I have been friends for a long time and I’m a big fan of his writing. He’s a great guy and an extremely successful attorney and he’s highly, highly intelligent and playwriting is his passion. He does have a family to support and he takes that very seriously, but this is his outlet. His play “CAPTIVA” was also scheduled to be at Florida Stage, but now what has happened is that the ZOETIC company that Michel McKeever and Stuart Meltzer have founded, will be doing it, And Chris is also a company member of Zoetic as well. It’s a really fun play. And “OUR LADY OF ALLAPATTAH”, what struck me about it and why I fell in love with it is some of the ideas that he attacks in terms of faith and what determines faith and what also the action that comes out of faith I’ve never heard before. I’m usually not interested in this idea and mostly it’s because I think that not enough people can meet in the middle, but what I liked about this was he’s got certain references to where you talk about faith and the positive of it but then also says but these can be come of the negative things and does that take away from the faith in the first place. And I’ve never heard it discussed this way before and I certainly found that very interesting. It’s a neat kind of story too with these images that appear on the side if a strip mall and what it is, is it a hoax or are these real images and then whether they’re real or not doesn’t matter. And then these detectives are brought in to investigate and it almost gets into a Jonestown type of thing and it’s pretty provocative. And very, very well-written. And we’re going to keep on working on it, too.

 

AW: This show isn’t scheduled in April. Do you have auditions for your shows at the beginning of the year?

 

CC: Yes. Actor’s Equity demands that we have what are called general auditions so we have to have a set of general auditions here and if I want to do auditions in New York as well then I’d have to have a day of general auditions in New York as well. From that I can call people back, or in New York what I can do if have agent’s submit people to me and I can see them on an individual basis. Those are some of the rules of Actor’s Equity.

 

AW: I bet the actors from New York love coming down here.

 

CC: Yes, they do. As an Artistic Director it’s not that I’ve tried to stay away from it, but I’ve really, really made a commitment to using our South Florida talent.

 

AW: I think that’s great. The talent down here is unbelievable. For example, when I saw Todd Allen Durkin in “SIX YEARS” that was wonderful because I’ve seen his work at so many other theater companies, including GableStage, so it was nice to see him perform at the Caldwell.

 

CC: Yes, Todd is great. He can compete at any level, in any city at any time and now he’s got a very blossoming film and TV career as well. And that’s great because someone of this caliber is then much more inclined to stay down here (if he’s cast in lots of local productions, too). But using Margery Lowe, a Stratford Shakespeare Festival actress …”

 

AW: She was brilliant in “SIX YEARS”. I am curious, is she your wife?

 

CC: Yes, yes, yes. But she was another one who had a very successful New York career as well and we decided to settle down here and you see that over and over again with the talent pool. Where we don’t have certainly the depth of a New York or something like that, but the talent down here, they work a lot, they go from job to job to job so they aren’t always available. Someone like Laura Turnbull and the amount of miles she puts on – she’s a fantastic actress. And Antonio Amadeo is another talent who rehearses one show during the day and is on in another one during the night. Actually, Antonio had to turn me down in a show because he was booked and I’d love to have him so that’s when we will then maybe go with New York people. But otherwise my preference is to always use South Florida actors. And as we continue to expand and build on it we’re building a better and better shorthand with those actors; that was the second time that I worked with Angie Radosh (in “STUFF”) who is so great.

 

AW: The way you cast is so brilliant it’s as if you read the script, you know the actors, and you’re able to find perfect matches for each script.

 

CC: I think I’m getting better. I don’t know my first year if that could be said of me. I think that is improving. And just as you know the actors better you get a better sense of it and I think as people our trusting my direction more it’s a give and take sort of thing.

 

AW: There’s certainly a learning curve involved.

 

CC: Yes, there certainly is, and I think the quality of shows we did this past year were better than the year before and I’m hopeful the ones we do this season will be even better.

 

AW: How did you choose the play “AFTER THE REVOLUTION” to be the season opener for you this year?

 

CC: I read it and when I go to put together a season it’s just reading, reading, reading, reading and then I categorize things in terms of what I want in any season. I’d like at least two of the latest hits either from New York or Chicago or something contemporary, something that’s relevant and something that interests me. That’s what I want in any given year. And then I typically like either during the summer season or at least once a year in those six shows I want at least one to be a world premiere. So this year we have two, “OUR LADY OF ALLAPATTAH” and “STUFF” that we just did – so we got two in this year. And the year before I had just one “COMFORT OF DARKNESS”, well “VICES” even though we re-mounted it; we were the world premiere on that as well.

 

AW: Is Margery going to be in the opening show?

 

CC: No, unfortunately there’s not a role for her in it. But she has a busy year ahead of her as she’ll be in “ALL MY SONS” which is the opening show at Palm Beach Dramaworks that’s opening up their brand new spot.

 

AW: That’s a great choice.

 

CC: That is a great choice and also Dramaworks, those guys they do everything right. They’re so classy and such great people and something they want to do when opening their new space is really use the people who have been their stars over the years. So even though this role isn’t as large a one as Margery would normally take, I told her she should be a part of it. Dramaworks always makes that effort to be exceptional. It’s so important for all of us as a community to work together. First and foremost because what it does is strengthen our talent pool. The more that Mosaic Theatre is successful and is able to pay good salaries that means a Greg Weiner is much more likely to stay here and not move to New York. He’s fantastic and here I am asking someone like Greg, of that talent level, who is certainly underutilized in this show but look how much stronger it makes the show at the end of it. If he knows that in any given season, like last year for instance, using him an example, he did “CLYBOURNE PARK” (written by Bruce Norris) with us and although it was very much an ensemble show he was one of the driving forces. After that he then took a very small role in “AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY” (written by Tracy Letts) and the same thing, where he had his lead and then it’s kind of nice to kick back for a bit and then he carried the load in a Mosaic show and then we got him back here for that so

these actors of that level …

AW: He was also in City Theatre’s Summer Shorts.

 

CC: Oh, that’s right. He was in Summer Shorts between them; I forgot about that – so that’s five shows back to back.

 

AW: I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to interrupt you a moment ago.

 

CC: Oh, not at all. That’s right. I had forgotten he was also in Summer Shorts. He drives a lot; he works hard, as does Todd and many others. Margy also works a lot. She turns down a lot.

 

AW: And I want to ask you a question about “CITY OF ANGELS.” How or why did you decide to add it to the season this year?

 

CC: I love doing musical theater and I like it to be representative of the season. If we can find the right piece to fit in, and this is one of my favorite shows and it’s bigger than any show we’ve ever tried to accomplish before so because of that we’re doing it somewhat as a co-production with Vicki Halmos Entr’Acte Theatrix who has used us as a rental. This theater company has a really neat mission. They want to provide young professionals who are just starting their first professional show. So it’s people who maybe just graduated college so they can give them an opportunity to perform. It’s for people who are just finding their sea legs in the business and I love that mission. When they came and wanted to rent from us I was very supportive of them and they’re really neat people. Because of the nature of “CITY OF ANGELS” where it has a lot of little cameo roles where you actually have a great chance to shine, a scene to do something, I thought that would be perfect because we can utilize a lot of the people we’ve been using and then take it a step further where they’ve done a lead for you and now they can do a role but in a true regional professional theater on that setting and it makes it a little more cost effective since we’re co-producing it and I think it’ll be a nice thing. It’s a really entertaining show and it’s something to balance the season as well.

 

AW: I find that you and Michael Hall are so much alike and have very similar personalities, you’re both open and you love theater and you love actors.

 

CC: It really was a good situation to come after Michael. He and I have really avoided some of the tension that can happen as we were very close and good friends before the transition happened and we remain so and it was awesome having him come back and direct “NEXT FALL” (written by Geoffrey Nauffts). He was really passionate about that show, it was a show he wanted to do and he has an open invitation, if he finds a show he’s passionate about he can bring it to me and if it fits in then I always would love to have him back. It takes a lot of pressure off of me too. And he’s someone who can really deliver. In an ideal world I want to be directing two of the four shows each year and my preference is not to direct both shows in the summer. You really get burnt out and it’s tough.

 

AW: Thank you, Clive.

 

The upcoming season for The Caldwell Theatre Company is as follows:

 

2011-2012 Mainstage Season

Located at the Count de Hoernle Theatre north of Levitz Plaza and south of Lindell Boulevard at: 7901 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton, FL 33487-1619.

Selected Tuesdays at 8 p.m.
Wednesday – Saturday at 8 p.m.
Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.

 

Oct. 16 – Nov. 20, 2011
Jan. 8 – Feb. 12, 2012
Feb. 26 – Apr. 1, 2012
Apr. 15 – May 20, 2012

After The Revolution
TBA
City of Angels
Our Lady of Allapattah

-3 and 4 Play Mainstage Subscriptions $52.50 to $260.00 depending upon seating and dates of performances. Subscriptions can be ordered through the Box Office Only.

-Single Tickets on sale now. Prices range from $27 to $50 Full time students $10.

2011-2012 Storytelling Series
Mondays 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

 

November 14, 2011

January 23, 2012
March 5, 2012
March 26, 2012
April 30, 2012

Minton Sparks: Vickie Pickles’ Momma and Other Sorta True Tales Of The New South
Milbre Burch: The World Is the Storyteller’s Village
Joseph Sobol: Adventures with Jack and Yeats
Willy Claflin: The Goat Whisperer
Jon Spelman: Shakespeare, Lincoln, Frankenstein and Me

 

-5 Storytelling Subscription Package $80

-Single Tickets for Storytelling $25

 

Please call the box office for more information: 561-241-7432. You can also find all the information about this new space, and the upcoming season at its main stage space by going to caldwelltheatre.com.

 

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Marla E. SchwartzA Toledo, OH native, a graduate of Kent State, Marla E. Schwartz is a Senior Writer for Miami Living Magazine, a freelance writer for Lighthouse Point Magazine and the a cultural arts columnist for AroundWellington.com Her photographs have appeared in these publications, in many Ohio periodicals, as well as in The Miami Herald, The Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel and The Palm Beach Post. She has had numerous plays published and produced around the country. Her short play, America’s Working? was produced in Los Angeles at both the First Stage and the Lone Star Ensemble theater companies, in Florida at Lynn University and at an Off-Broadway playhouse in NYC. Her piece, The Lunch Time Café, was a finalist for the Heideman Award, Actors Theatre of Louisville. Please check out the re-prints of her interviews with authors Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson and Dexter novelist Jeff Lindsay in the October 2010 issue #2 and Chris Bohjalian in the April 2011 issue #3 of Duff Brenna’s ServingHouse: A Journal of Literary Arts at www.servinghousejournal.com. You can contact her at marlaschwartz@att.net.