Blurt: Seven Days Staff Blog

NOTE: Blurt has been retired and is no longer updated regularly. For new content, follow these links:

OFF MESSAGE: Vermont News and Politics
BITE CLUB: Food and Drink Blog

« The Doyle Town Meeting Day Survey Ritual Continues | Main | Costco Greens Up Its Fish Coolers »

February 24, 2011

An Engaging Evening with 'Collected Stories'

Geri Amori and Amy Burrell-Cormier are drama queens. And I mean that in a good way.

Last night I had the pleasure of taking in a production of the Donald Margulies play Collected Stories at the Off-Center for the Dramatic Arts in Burlington. Those two women are its sole actors, playing the characters of an older and younger woman, respectively, who are linked by their love of writing. As their relationship evolves from that of teacher and student to friends to — well, I'm not going to give away the ending — multiple layers of stories unfold. It's a strong, emotionally genuine play that explores the very essence of life stories, and these two women give the work the impassioned performances it deserves.

The local theater scene just gets richer all the time; it's hard to keep up with all the shows around here. In fact, I nearly missed this one: It's on only two more nights. I hope more people take the time to settle in at the intimate theater space in the Old North End, itself a treasure in Burlington.

The play also represents the directorial debut of longtime local actor Walt Levering, 75. The owner and former owner of the Windjammer is a theater fanatic who says he's been to hundreds of plays around the region and the country. Putting on an independent production means Levering did the marketing, organized the rest of the crew, sold tickets at the door, and everything else a production company would normally help with.

Curious about his experience, I talked to Levering on the phone today. Here's what he had to say:

7D: The program says you’ve been acting in local productions for 10 years — is that right?
WL: More — 15 years, anyway.
7D: How many productions have you been in?
WL: Oh,  lord, a good 35, 40 now.
7D: Had you been thinking about taking up directing for awhile?
WL: Not seriously. You really need a company and most of them around here have their own directors — e.g., Lost Nation, Vermont Stage Company, Champlain College... I got into this because Geri and I saw Uta Hagen do this play at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival — she came out of retirement to do it. Geri said, "I want you to direct me in this play." Eleven years later, we finally did it...
7D: Were there any local thespians, or other directors, who inspired you to do so?
WL: Tom Carter, a veteran of Broadway ... I got cast in Rumors, a Neil Simon play, that was at the Stowe Theatre Guild. That was when I learned what a director does ... basically, [most] local directors ... end up being traffic cops. To me that’s not what directing is about. [I like to] let the actors’ instinct work; it's a very collaborative approach.
7D: I take it you also cast Amy?
WL: Geri and I chose Amy collaboratively ... I worked with Amy on Our Country’s Good ... I also saw her in Raisin in the Sun [at Champlain]. She was magnificent.
7D: So, how did you find your first experience as director?
WL: It’s very satisfying — but because I had two really good actors, i didn’t have to do much, didn’t have to teach them how to act. One thing about theater, you can’t see yourself. I was their only mirror. I’d sit there and say, "That scene would be stronger if you’d take her hands right there..."
7D: Did it differ from what you expected? Were there any surprises?
WL: When you are the production company, you do a lot of other stuff ... I had to wear a lot of hats on this one. In marketing, I didn’t do too well. I wish more people had seen it.
7D: Now that you’ve directed others, do you think that experience will impact the way you approach your own next acting role?
WL: Yeah, I think so. I think I’ll let my instincts go more; not argue with the director, but explain my motivations for doing a certain thing. If he/she doesn’t buy it, so be it. But I'd like to get more into the scenes rather than just wait to be told.
7D: Do you want to direct again?
WL: I’d like to.

7D: Have you considered other plays?

WL: No, not yet. You gotta be asked. Or, I might say, OK, guys, do you want to do another play?
7D: You are on the board of the Off-Center, right?
WL: Yes, and I'm a silent partner.
7D: You're not silent anymore!

WL: (laughs) Right. I'm talking to a reporter.

7D: And back to acting, do you have other roles in the wings, so to speak?
WL: No, not yet.
7D: Where are you from originally?
WL: Connecticut. I came here to go on long ski weekend and never left.


The comments to this entry are closed.

Stuck in VT (VIDEOS)

Solid State (Music)

Mistress Maeve (Sex)

All Rights Reserved © Da Capo Publishing Inc. 1995-2012 | PO Box 1164, Burlington, VT 05402-1164 | 802-864-5684