By Christopher A. Pape
The Acting Company is America’s foremost touring repertory company, honored by the Tony Awards for sustained excellence in theater. They have promoted and worked with some of the most preeminent actors in the business including: Kevin Kline, Patti Lupone, Rainn Wilson, among others. Aside from a New York Season each spring, the company tours five months a year by bus and truck to communities all across America where live theater is limited or non-existent.
Recently, NY Resident sat down with Margot Harley, the Artistic Director and co-founder with John Houseman of The Acting Company, to discuss the company’s mission, its shows and its famous alumni. Read and enjoy!
New York Resident (NYR): Can you tell us a little bit about the organization and what your role is?
Margot Harley (MH): The organization is a young, classical touring repertory company which started thirty-nine years ago out of the first graduating class of The Julliard Drama School. Patti Lupone was one of the members of the graduating class, as was Kevin Kline and a whole bunch of very talented actors that are still performing till this day. John Houseman and I were running the drama division of the school, he was the Artistic Director and we made a decision that we wanted to keep the students together, beyond school, because they were really talented but what they needed was some more performance experience and so we thought we would keep them together for awhile; and not send them out to the cruel world. We were clear that if we wanted to keep them together doing classical plays over a long period of time that New York City wasn’t the most welcoming audience. So we decided to create a touring company which is the best way to develop actors. We’ve been touring classical actors for almost forty years.
As for me, I am the Artistic Director and Producer of the company. John was the Artistic Director until he died about twenty years ago. But I am now the Producer and Artistic Director, which means I am responsible for the repertoire, choosing the directors and auditioning the actors and I help to raise the funds needed.
NYR: Tell us about Julius Caesar, your new production?
MH: It’s a very difficult play. We do a lot of Shakespeare, not only Shakespeare, but a lot. He is one of the most sought after playwrights in the country, because so many theaters can’t really do it because not only do they don’t have the actors but it requires a lot of actors and so many theaters have cut their budgets in such a way that they have really small casts and they can’t do Shakespeare. We had never done Julius Caesar; John had done a very famous production years ago at the Mercury Theater. But, we had never done it, so I decided this year we should do it. It’s a tough play to do. But, I thought it was a good time in our political history to do it. So we’ve done it!