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Teka Ward:Today is October 15th, 1987. My name is Teka Ward. I'm interviewing William Mootz. We are at 1312 Willow Avenue. Our topic is Actors Theatre of Louisville William Mootz:1412.

TW:Thank you. Do you recall that Richard was in town and thinking about starting a theater?

WM:Yes. The first time I remember any meeting with Richard, he came to my office and said he had been living in New York. That New York he found was no longer a compatible place for him to live, that he wanted to work in the theater, that he wanted to be manager of a theater, and that he wanted to start what he called a professional resident theater in Louisville. He said that he thought 1:00this was the direction that theater was going in this country, that it was not going to be in 10 years time. It would be not centralized in New York City at all, but it would be spread in resident theaters across the country. And there were some that had already started to prove his point and one of them was in Cincinnati and he asked me if I would be interested in going to Cincinnati, where a Playhouse in the Park was in its early formative years and seeing a production so that I would know more what I was talking about.

Well, at that time, I had recently joined the critic as a full-time writer for the critic. I had decided to give up teaching and put all of my efforts into journalism, and naturally I was looking for things to write about ideas to support. So Richard and I drove to Cincinnati. 2:00He made arrangements for me not only to meet the director of Playhouse in the Park, but we had dinner as I remember before, a performance with the president of the board at that time, and we went to a performance. It was at that time, I mean now Playhouse in the Park has a very lush new theater as Actors Theatre does, but at that time they were playing in what is now called their shelter house theater. It was a former band pavilion, one of those pavilions that German bands played in summer concerts in every German city of the country at one time.

I'm sure it dated back to the late 19th century when it was first built. That 3:00had been enclosed, it had been walled in, and there was a little thrust stage theater in this place that seated maybe three or 400 people. It was similar to the Victor Jory Theatre at Actors Theatre. About halfway through that first performance, I knew that this was an idea that I thought was intriguing. I talked to board members there and found out that they were enormously enthusiastic about this and giving it a lot of support, emotional, financial, all those things that are necessary to get a theater going. So I said to Dick, good luck and let me know every move you make. Of course I'm interested in this. And for the year or two it took for Dick really to get organized and get a theater going here. I went to Cincinnati as often as I could, at least two thirds of the productions they presented up there.

I reviewed in the pages of the Courier Journal 4:00to get this idea of a resident theater before the Louisville public. I thought that was the least I could do for this because I knew the more I went to Cincinnati, I saw wonderful things up there. I saw production of Shaw's Arms and the Man that was just really, I still remember it as an exciting performance and a lot of other things, and I thought, yeah, sure, it'd be wonderful to have something similar in Louisville. I'm not sure I believed it could ever happen in Louisville because at that time, the establishment, the Louisville establishment, the people that are going to have to provide the money to make it possible, the establishment was very conservative. It was terribly wrapped up with the Louisville Orchestra and the Louisville Fund, which supported the orchestra and the opera pretty 5:00well nodded politely in the direction of dance and ballet, but was not at that time, I feared, going to be terribly receptive to a brash new group that would come to it and demand money funds were terribly limited for the arts in those days or so we were led to believe, and I just wondered whether this idea of establishing a resident theater would fly, as the people say, but I was willing to listen to Dick and I was certainly willing to support him in any way I could.

TW:When Richard looked for supporters, do you think he looked among what he considered the second generation group?

WM:I think this was deliberate on Dick's part. At that time he zeroed in on Barry Bingham, Jr. That's where he started, and Barry Bingham Jr. had, like Dick, 6:00been living in New York, had come to Louisville shortly before Dick did to take over what at that time was going to be his branch of the Bingham Empire. This really sounds, considering all the water that's gone over the dam since those days. This brings back pretty vivid memories for me because I was working with those young men. He and his brother, who was later killed Worth, of course, was going to be the son that ran the newspaper, and Barry Jr. Was to be the son that would 7:00run WHAS at the radio. Barry found Louisville, a very dull city to live in without theater and was willing to do anything, I think probably dedicated himself to doing what he could to make it a more interesting place to live.

If you were interested in the arts, it seems such a short time ago to me, but at this time the Speed Museum was only a shadow of what that operation is today. Today it's really a first class small museum. You can't believe how musty and tacky it was just 30 years ago. Anyway, Barry gave Dick what I assume was a pledge of support that he would help. Barry's older brother Worth was very much behind this too, but called 8:00me in to tell me one day that he felt uneasy in this position because he was a publisher in essence of a paper whose critic was going to be supporting this or be against this idea, and he just wanted me to know that even though he was behind the idea and would help raise money for it and everything, that he didn't want me to think that that in any way meant that he expected me to give this idea only praise only support, et cetera, which was very nice at work. The Bingham's were honorable people as everybody in Louisville knows, but Barry Jr really stood 9:00up and made it pretty clear that he was going to do all he could to make this come about. Worth, I think probably felt just as strongly, but was reluctant to take quite that prominent a public posture about it.

But Barry rallied people of his generation to the cause and in those days, people of his generation were in their twenties and thirties and Buzzy Victor was one of the people that was involved. Dann Byck was one of the people that was involved in this idea. 10:00At this point, those issues became cloudy because at that point, Ewel Cordette. came into town with the same idea. Now, depending on whose side you were on and whose camp you camped in during those days, you get different stories about what happened. My memories are very clear. The Dick was here the better part of a year promoting this idea before Ewel came to town with the same idea. And I really cannot tell you, I've never figured out who had the brilliant idea of saying, look, we cannot, this town is too small for two professional resident theaters to survive. Get your forces in the same camp or forget it. I really don't know who brought this about, but it did happen shortly after the first season when Ewel opened 11:00that second story, little theater on Fourth Street, and suddenly Ewel and Dick were in the impossible position of being co-artistic directors.

That in retrospect, was an impossible situation and it fell apart in a year, but it got one theater going supported by one board of directors, and if that had not happened, this town would not have the kind of established important resident theater that it has today.

TW:Why do you think Richard was waiting to produce plays? Did he ever discuss that with you?

WM:I can say that he did. Richard, and this is my reading, Richard 12:00was a more thoughtful, careful person of the theater than Ewel. Ewel was the performer, he was the dramatic guy, and my memory is that Richard wanted everything in line and he wanted a really nice operation to be financed before he went into production. Ewel being a very canny person and a very gifted person was ready to perform on street corners if necessary, but found this space, knocked up a theater, gave some performances, and he was in operation. The idea, I suspect was get your show on the road and people will rally to it and forget about this other operation that's still in production. 13:00TW:Those four plays that were shown in the summery of 64, did you attend any of them?

WM:Oh, I think I am sure I attended all of 'em. Let me see, what were they? They were The Lady's Not For Burning. I remember that. That was the best of the productions. The Visit, yes, desired them. Yes, I attended all of those, The Zoo Story and the American Dream. Yes.

TW:What are your memories?

WM:It was fun. I mean, the Ladies Not For Burning. My memories are a very decent production. You have to remember that this was the beginning of something that if I saw it today, I probably would think it was pretty weak. I remember The Visit as a noble attempt 14:00at a play that could not be done in such confining circumstances very effectively. I remember Desire Under the Elms as a play that by its very language, I mean that New England dialect makes it awfully difficult to do well. And I remember that I admired their nerve, but I didn't believe in it for a minute. And then the Zoo Story and the American Dream came off very well too. For a beginning operation, it was absolute. It was the kind of work that demands respect.

TW:When the two groups decided to merge, do you remember the issue of equity as being one under discussion?

WM:No, I do not remember that.

TW:Do you recall in the 64/65 season after the two had become dual leaders, Richard and Ewel going to New York to audition people, hiring them, bringing them down to Louisville 15:00and having then to send them back, thereby delaying the opening of that season?

WM:When was this? No, I didn't know about this. I don't remember.

TW:Do you remember anything about the Richard Ewel vote, how it came to a head toward they'd been trying to work together?

WM:I remember very well. Yes, I do. The story I remember is that, and Ewel went to the board and said, this is an impossible situation. About that, he was right. And you're going to have to give it to me or you're going to have to give it to Dick. One doesn't make that kind of ultimatum unless one is awfully confident in winning, and by this time, I was much closer to Richard than I was to Ewel. Richard was coming to me constantly, 16:00and he came to me and told me that the vote was to take place in such and such a night and told me what the circumstances were, and I said to him, because I was so convinced that he was going to lose, that Yue was going to win. Well, after it's over, stop by and let's have a drink.

I think at that point, Richard, if he thought that he had no chance to win, he didn't admit it, but I remember I was living on Pennsylvania Avenue at that time, and I said to a friend, Dick Block is going to be by here around 10 o'clock and we have to have the crying towel ready and the drinks out, and no matter how you feel about this guy, because by this time Dick had antagonized 17:00at least once, everybody in Louisville, it's no secret that Dick has an embracive personality. But about 10 o'clock the doorbell rang and I went with my long face to the door and probably said, I'm terribly sorry. And he said, no, no, you don't understand. I won. I couldn't believe it.

It was an amazing reversal in Richard's fortunes. And then he told me that the crucial issue that one member of the board brought up was that these two young men had agreed to work a certain amount of time together an entire season, two seasons, I can't remember exactly what it was, and Ewel was breaking faith. If Mr. Cornett breaks faith with us in this way, can we trust 18:00him when he says, now, this came to me from Dick Block, but it makes perfect sense to me. I checked it out later, and that was the basic issue that Ewel had moved too early. If he had said quiet until the end of that initial agreement, Ewel would've gotten the Theater and Actors Theatre would've been in entirely different theater today, I'm convinced. But the board listened to this point and decided that it was an important issue, and Richard Block got the theater and ran it with crusty determination and with occasional brilliance for several years after that.

TW:Do you mean that if they had waited, if you had waited till the end of say their one or two year contract, WM:Perhaps 19:00TW:Ewel would have been would that had taken over?

WM:Yes, I think at that point, the vote, if the board had had to go one way or the other, and it had been "legal" at that point, if the vote hadn't been forced at a time before the original agreement was over, yes. I think that Ewel is a very personable guy. He's a talented guy of the theater. He makes friends easily. Dick doesn't make friends easily. Dick is an abrasive personality. He is not willing to compromise on any of the points that he feels, points of honor, points of artistic integrity. He's an entirely admirable person in this respect. But the history of running theaters, I suspect like nearly every other phase of life, is a history of knowing 20:00when to make intelligent compromises, and that is a gift that Dick Block never learned.

TW:As the season began alone with Richard. And this was on top of the Loft. This was also at the Loft. This was the 64/65 season. Do you remember what the plays were like without him? Oh, no, I'm wrong, they went straight to the railroad station.

WM:They went, yes. Yeah. Yes. The 64/65 was still under the two of them because I remember Ewel's wife played the Glass Menagerie, and I remember Ewel directing John Brown's Body, TW:And then he directed the last, he did it right up until the end.


TW:So then they did go to the, I beg your pardon. They did go to the railroad station and they had the opening there. Do you remember?

WM:Yes. About opening night? Yeah, I do. I remember that I was going mad 21:00because of my deadline, I'll tell you that because there were all these festivities. Somebody had cooked up this crazy idea. I mean, it was wonderful from the point of view of the Board and creating something special, but I think they started out at the 10th Street Station and ran a train somewhere around railroad yards, Louisville over to the Seventh Street Station. Amazingly, you could still do that. I'm sure that everybody would've been derailed today, but I remember standing at the Seventh Street Station waiting for that damn train to arrive, and how much time is I going to have to for my deadline to write? The review of it was, I believe, the TW:Importance of being Earnest.

WM:The Importance of Being Earnest. Yes.

TW:Now, Richard said that he came to you and asked you, he said he'd never done this before or since that perhaps you would go easy on this play. Do you recall that? 22:00Yes, I do remember. I mean, there were all sorts of problems in this play, and ordinarily a director wouldn't do that, but he had every right to come to me and say, look, the theater is still being built around us. We aren't going to even be able to have a complete dress rehearsal and everything, and the seats are still being installed. Please don't be hard on us simply because I'm coming in. He was begging for mercy with good reason, and there was lots to write about that night. Besides the play, as a matter of fact, Importance of Being Earnest is so perfectly constructed of farce that it plays. If anybody has any talent, there's something there to enjoy. 23:00It's not as if you're doing Hedda Gabler, which really has to be done superbly well to make any sense at all to temporary audiences. So Importance of Being Earnest. I remember that things did not go completely smoothly, but I remember John Sites was delightful in that, and I remember that Byron Clark, WM:Yes, Clark played with a kind of style that was new to acting ranks that came directly out of Louisville, and I thought, golly, what a good guy he's going to be have. And I was right. He certainly was. So that performance while far from polished was anything but a disaster. 24:00I remember it with considerable pleasure, and I remember that night that really was, I guess a historic night in the anals of Louisville theater in that that night did say Actors Theatre did say to the Louisville public at large, we're here and we're digging in and we're going to stay and we aren't going to be very easy to ignore. I mean, I think it was saying that to the older generation establishment.

TW:Do you remember Death of a Salesman that season?

WM:Yes, I remember that primarily because of the really brilliant performance that Ned Beatty gave as Willie Lowman. There had been other actors play that role at Actors 25:00Theatre there. There've been two subsequent performances. One of them, a recent one, pretty disastrous, but nobody played it with the heartrending emphasis that Ned Beatty did. He was a very young man when he played that. I mean, Ned Ned's off making millions in the furloughs of Hollywood and television now and may never return to the stage again. But this is one of the terrible things about the acting profession in this country. English actors make movie and they go back to the English national theater. There's no place for an actor like Ned Beatty or Michael Gross is another example. The most astonishing, talented young actor that ever played at Actors Theatre. We all knew it in rave review after rave review. Well, you know where he is today, making millions in Hollywood, 26:00and he occasionally takes time off to give Michael credit. He does perform with the Mark Taper Forum when he can work it into his schedule. But these people don't have any national theater to go back to and it's too bad. Well, I'm off the subject there. I remember Death of a Salesman very well because of Ned's performance. He was having personal problems at that time, which cut his participation in that production short. But I'm glad I saw it.

TW:Did an understudy actually read from the play in subsequent performances WM:Or So I was told I never went to see it, but what else could one do? I mean, Ned had to be hospitalized, and so that is, I was told I didn't want to see because I had liked the production so much. I felt so sad about this that I did not go. 27:00I'm sure we had to cover it as a news story that as I remember, I don't remember being involved in that.

TW:In the 66/67 season, which was the next one. Do you remember anything about All My Sons and some controversy concerning the notes in a playbill?

WM:I don't remember that, no.

TW:Do you remember a symposium which Richard put together held with Jon Jory and two other directors and Richard himself participated, and a couple of people have mentioned this to me, attending a symposium.

WM:Was this after Jory took over the theater?

TW:No, this was about two years before [unintelligible].

WM:I was not there. The first time. I remember Jon Jory's name, Dick had resigned. The Board was looking for somebody to succeed him, and I was in New York and I had gotten 28:00a call on my hotel room saying the news was about to break that this, my informant, so to speak, would not tell me the name of the person who was going to get the job. All he would tell me is that he has important, he's connected with an important actor. It's a name you will know. And I went from that telephone conversation in my hotel room to meet a friend who was working in the New York theater and knew the job was open and knew who was being considered, and I said, they wouldn't tell me darn it, but evidently it's a name people will know because he has theatrical connections. And my friend said, well, then it's going to be Jon Jory. 29:00And that's the first time I knew that Victor Jory had a son named Jon Jory. So this may be true, but it strikes me as rather unusual that would've gone on and I wouldn't have been aware of it, that I wouldn't have been aware there didn't remember anything about it. It must have been in small, intimate circumstances that weren't open to the public.

TW:You mentioned in one of your newspaper articles that Richard put ads sometimes as response rebuttal to critics.

WM:Yes, yes. I do remember that. Richard was dauntless and he was fearless, and how wonderful for him to do that. Everybody at the time thought it was another, well, it was an indication 30:00that he wasn't the most amenable personality in the world, but I have always defended an artist's right to talk back to a critic. The Courier has a long history of publishing letters denouncing me and my colleagues in prominent places. Richard probably got more, [break in tape] He may have done it before that, but the first one I remember was when he did George M. Cohan's The Tavern, and I had seen the production of that in New York, and it was a very funny production. Richard's production I thought was self-consciously cute and labored, and I didn't think it worked very well, and I guess my review made Richard mad as hell. Anyway, they ad ran something 31:00like, you want to hear or see hundreds of people laughing and one critic frowning go to TheTavenrn. It was something like that. It was an ad that caused an awful lot of comment. It was a very shrewd PR move. On Dick's part.

TW:In the 68/69 season, did you get the sense that Richard was tired and was considering taking a leave of absence or of leaving?

WM:By that time of Richard and I were not nearly as close talking buddies as we had been in the years when the theater was still an idea. Inevitably this happens. I think I know that there are instances that can be documented of a critic being very close to a playwright he's always reviewing 32:00or an actress that he's always reviewing. I'm always suspicious. I do not think it is possible to sit down and hold hands with the people that you're reviewing and maintain your distance, the kind of distance you have to have, the kind of dispassion you have to have to be entirely fair to your reading public. So as Richard's work at Actors began getting mixed reviews from me, we never had any falling out, but we had a gentleman's agreement to keep our distance. I sensed that the work was falling off, that there was a certain desperation to be controversial 33:00in the work no matter what. And I certainly was aware of the fact that subscriptions were falling off and that Dick was losing the kind of energy he brought when he first came here. This is nothing that doesn't happen to all first rate artists. Somerset Maughm once said, and I quote him frequently, that only third rate artists are at their best all the time, which is a wonderful quote and absolutely true, but Dick, I think it was a constant struggle 34:00for Dick. I think this is always a constant struggle. The history of the resident theater movement is full of instances of people suddenly taking a year off that had been in the kind of position Dick was in to get what is referred to usually as the creative juices flowing again. So I can't say that I sensed from personal contact with Dick that this was true, but surely the work was sporadic. I remember an Uncle Vanya that just didn't come off at all. I remember an Imaginary Invalid that I thought worked awfully hard to be original. 35:00I remember a Birthday Party that it's a fascinating play, but that didn't really do that play justice. I remember a Rhinoceros that was very good, and After the Fall, Arthur Miller's After the Fall was a good production too. So it wasn't that Dick wasn't doing any good work at all. And even the things, even in the Imaginary Invalid, there were things, but you felt a tension that you hadn't felt at first.

TW:I read that you would request the scripts before some of the performances.

WM:I always do that if I do not know the play. It's not fair for a director and a cast of players to work very hard for three weeks, six weeks, whatever, on a production, and a critic come in with a smart 36:00ass idea that all he has to do is see what they're doing and know all the, so if I do not know the play, if I do not have a play in my library, I always request the script. I read every new play that Humana Festival, I read all of that in a manuscript before I review the plays. It's a lot of, I tell people that my job is like an iceberg. Nine tenths of it lies out of sight. But yes, I do ask for scripts and if I've in doubt, I don't think it's illegal for a critic to even talk to a director about perspectives on to play, especially if it's a play like Macbeth, something an established classic. 37:00It doesn't make a bit of difference what I say about the play. I mean, if I don't like Hamlet, Shakespeare's still going to be a very admired playwright, right? But the point of doing Hamlet in the 20th century is that this play, this Elizabethan play can still be very pertinent to contemporary audiences. So I am not embarrassed at all to say to a director, modern dress, what are you doing it? Why? Things like that. Because I think it's legitimate for me to want to know what kind of approach he's taking to a masterpiece like that, and then I have a better idea of knowing how far he has succeeded. You see.

TW:And would you do this after you had seen, would you go to a dress rehearsal? When would you discuss this?

WM:I love going to dress rehearsals. Directors 38:00are very ouchie about my coming to dress rehearsals or even to a preview performance because if the word leaks out to their performers, the cast doesn't like a critic looking at its work before opening night. So in the case of brand new stuff, I will push a little bit, oh, come on, I'm going to come back to the first performance. And I do. I always go back, but give me a break. And over the years, I would hesitate to say that I've established a reputation of being right about things, but I do think that most people believe that I am fair that I worked very hard to be fair. So generally only occasionally have they said, no, you must not come to a preview performance. 39:00But yes, I think that's perfectly legitimate to read the script beforehand.

What kinds of things do you consider when assessing a play?

When assessing a play? Well, the first thing I consider is what the playwright's up to. And in contemporary plays, that can become a very difficult, very complex investigation. Lemme put it that way. And once I have become familiar with the play through its text, then assessing first how the director has given it visible and audible form and shape in the theater, and then how well his performers have responded to his idea of what the play's about. 40:00So the playwright first, the director second, and the performers third, which makes performers very unhappy sometimes.

TW:Do you think that a theater as well as a community has a responsibility to each other or an obligation?

WM:This is something that is argued in critical circles constantly. Let me narrow that down first. Does a critic have a responsibility to a theater? Sure. A critic has a responsibility to a theater, not to promote the theater, not to be on the cheerleader, on the theater's bandwagon, but a responsibility to know what the theater is up to and how it can grow within the financial possibilities 41:00that pertain to the city where it works. So I think that in that respect, the burden of responsibility lies much more heavily on the critic than it does on the theater. Now, the broader thing, the interplay between city and a theater, sure, there is this interchange of responsibilities. The city, the town, the county, the state, the nation has to realize that the arts are not a toy, that they're not a play thing devised to amuse stockbrokers when they want a night out, that they are the very staff of life in a nation and they've got to put up the big bucks 42:00that are necessary for the arts to flourish. Then I think the board, the money bags have a perfect right to say, look, we aren't getting our money's worth. Then I think the responsibility lies on the artist. Okay, you've given us, look what we can do. So it goes back and forth.

TW:Given Barry Jr's, we talked about this a little bit, but I would like to ask you this question. Given Barry Jr's involvement with theater in Louisville and with Actors Theatre of Louisville and his position at The Courier Journal, were you ever hesitant about writing your reviews?

WM:Never. Never. Not for a moment. It's very hard to get people to believe this, but the Binghams from my first memory of working for the Binghams 43:00was not with Barry Jr, but Barry Sr. called me in and I had written a review of a very famous pianist by the name of Rudolph Serkin, and I said his piano by the time intermission was over, was shockingly out of tune. Well, the local outlet for the Steinway Corporation went up in blue smoke, called Mr. Bingham, demanded that I be fired immediately, Mr. Bingham called me into his office and said, I just want you to know that I've had this call. I'm not calling you in to say you can't say a piano's out tune anymore. I want you to say the piano is out of tune, when it's out of tune. Just be sure that the piano's out of tune before you say it's out of tune, and you can't imagine what that meant to a young critic 44:00because a lot of publishers would've called me in and said, you said this was out of tune and this is one of our biggest advertisers and pack your bags.

It has happened to colleagues of mine in other places. Barry Jr., when he took over, always made it perfectly clear that while he worked very prominently with the Louisville Orchestra at one time, he was constantly, the Bingham Foundation was constantly giving grants for performances that I reviewed. One of the things that Barry did that used to embarrass me was carry around a copy of a review I had written of a Bingham sponsored event that simply tore the performance to shreds. And one day I found myself in the embarrassing position of being introduced by Barry Jr. Sitting next to the conductor that I had attacked in this review and hearing Barry read this review in toto to prove that I was my own man 45:00and that I didn't let him influence me. And then he was introducing me and I had to give up and make a speech out of that with the poor conductor having to listen to me. But never once was there any pressure from anybody in that Bingham family. Heavenly Days. I reviewed a play by Sally Bingham, and it was not a rave review, and Sally at that time worked in the Courier and had an office next to mine, and I dreaded our first encounter. She was absolutely wonderful. She made an effort to put me at my ease and say, thank you for you've helped and this and that. No, in that respect, the Bingham's have a completely unsullied reputation.

TW:What role do you think Actors Theatre 46:00of Louisville has played in the cultural heritage of our city?

WM:Well, it's played a very important role. Again, let me back up just a minute. When Actors Theatre was founded here, it was an upstart. The established organizations, well, the established organization was the Louisville Orchestra and everything, the whole corporate structure here in the arts was pyramided, so that the Louisville Orchestra would always be at the top of the heap. Actors Theatre came along with a second generation board that we've talked about and challenged this conception. They demanded their slice of the pie of the funds that went to all these groups, and they began proving their point by doing work that simply could not be ignored. And in a few years became 47:00a member of the Louisville Fund.

Over the years, their work steadily became more and more important here and to the point where that board, both the board leadership and the artistic leadership in a decade, was the leadership that every other organization was running to catch up with. When I will never forget the time when the Louisville Orchestra appointed a new managing director and our first meeting with him, he said, I can tell you this, one of my first jobs is to give the orchestra the kind of visibility that Actors Theatre of Louisville has. I said, 48:00what do you mean? He said, my first trip to Louisville, I was driving across the bridge First signs I saw along Main Street Actors Theatre of Louisville. He said, I didn't see any signs saying, Louisville Orchestra, my job is to give the orchestra. It's incredible how my gray hair's proof. I've been at this job long enough to see a constant evolvement in the arts here and to know that an organization that wins the World Series one decade is going to lose the World Series the next.

But the kind of vitality that Dick and later Jon Jory brought to the artistic leadership of Actors Theatre, the kind of brilliant support they got from a board that consisted 49:00of people like Owsley Brown and Barry, and there are other people too, that they made this city sit up and pay attention. And I think that this marvelous scrambling among corporate sponsors. Every time I go to a performance by the opera, the ballet Actors Theatre, sometimes even the Louisville Orchestra, I read on programs, this performance made possible by this company, that company, I hear a manager come out and thank three or four people for making the performance possible, and I see stunning evidence of that support on stage as I did just recently in the Louisville 50:00Ballet, Sleeping Beauty. Productions like that don't just happen because people want to dance, it takes money to mount productions like that, and Actors Theatre scrambling to get to the top of the heap created a kind of friendly competition among these groups that we are benefiting from to this day.

TW:If you were to recount the history of the beginning of Actors Theatre, how would you state it?

WM:The beginning of Actors Theatre.

TW:Who would you say started it?

WM:I would say that the idea was first presented by Richard Block who came to this town with what was then a revolutionary 51:00idea. I would have to say that for whatever reason, he was followed shortly after that by Ewel Cornett. My idea was that after Dick did a lot of the spade work, Ewel Cornett came in to capitalize on that. I would say that both of these young men, for various reasons were important to getting the resident theater movement started here. I would say that as a result of the antagonism between these two men, that the theater really never took off in its early years in the way that I had seen Playhouse in the Park take off in Cincinnati. I would 52:00say that Dick saw the handwriting on the wall and decided to resign at a time when it was imperative that he did, or the theater would have died. I would say that the Board had an extraordinary stroke of luck in hearing about Jon Jory, who was hungry for a job at that time, who had just been bruised from a position that he had held shortly before that in New Haven and was eager to make his name in the theater world.

I would say that the Board, by luck that's almost beyond belief, hired him and came to town. Has anybody told you that at his first board meeting? 53:00No. He thought that the ball game was over when this enormous fight erupted among board members about Actors Theatre was dead. Why are we trying to keep it along? Let's pay this guy off his first year contract and send him back to New York. It was almost that serious, and I would say that subtlety prevailed and that Jon was given his chance to prove himself his first season here, and that he put together with great shrewdness, a team that was able to sell Actors Theatre to this town. There were Jon and Trish Pugh who came here really as head of promotion, 54:00but was much more important than that title would indicate. That Jon and Trish Pugh between them, put together a program that in three months time, time, everybody in Louisville, I couldn't go any place that people weren't talking about Actors Theatre and all these parties they were giving and asking people to subscribe and people were subscribing.

And I would hear this from enthusiasts who thought how wonderful it is. And I would hear this from other people who were not really terribly strong in the smart thing, you know, what do they think they're trying to prove? Well, they were trying to prove that Louisville could support a resident theater, and in a season's time, they were well on their way. And in three seasons time, they had the largest subscription, probably, certainly the largest subscription 55:00of any group in Louisville and probably the largest subscription of any resident theater in the country with the possible exception of ACT, which was riding high in San Francisco at that time. So I would say that the turnover point, the catalyst that made Actors Theatre, the creative force in this city that it has become, that made that possible was the hiring of Jon Jory after the bruising, bleeding work that Dick had poured into it for about five years.

TW:Did you think that the choice of plays changed under Jory the first three seasons, or did you notice?

WM:I did notice. I thought 56:00that Jory was perfectly aware of the fact that he had to sell theater, that he had to sell seats, and that he worked very hard to put on productions that would be attractive to audiences. However, his repertory, the repertory place that he selected certainly was anything but fluff and games for the tired businessman. I remember that after announcing a season without any famous classics, he suddenly decided to do Hamlet in the middle of the season. He changed the schedule to do Hamlet, and he had told me before that that he couldn't do Shakespeare because Shakespeare was too expensive. 57:00He didn't have the budget for it, that you had to make all these costumes and everything. But then it dawned on him, I suspect this is moose faking for Jon. But about that time, Richard Burton had come into New York with a Hamlet done in rehearsal clothes, and I think that Jon suddenly thought, well, why not do it in rehearsal clothes?

And so he did a Hamlet, a very respectable Hamlet with Ken Jenkins doing a very good Hamlet in rehearsal clothes. It was very different from the Hamlet that John Gielgud had directed with Richard Burton, which I saw, but it was certainly a legitimate Hamlet that first season. He also brought his father to town to do Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, one of the best of Tennessee Williams plays. 58:00And Victor was brilliant in that role. Victor, as he got older, came and went on the stage. I mean, he gave brilliant performances, but that first season when he did Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, it was, well, he had done it on tour and it was a wonderful performance. And a year later, he came and did Tobacco Road and made us all realize the Tobacco Road far from being a muddy sensation is a very important slice of American history.

I mean, it's a very good play. So no, I don't think there was any falling off in Jon's standards. He did one farce, See How They Run, but he opened his regime here with Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood and how exciting to see Under Milk Wood 59:00done professionally in Louisville. And I remember a marvelous actress by the name of Denise Fergusson appearing in Under Milk Wood. And Denise now is doing leading roles in Canadian theater principally because she's Canadian, but I see her at the Stratford Festival about every time I go there. Jon did good work from the outset, and don't let anybody tell you he didn't.

TW:How would you compare the approaches of Ewel Cornett, Richard Block and Jon Jory?

WM:I think basically they're all after the same thing, recognition and audiences. Richard, I think, wants to change the way of the world with his productions. I think Richard firmly believes 60:00that theater can change the course of history if it's done well enough. And I think he wants to treat, I think he treated theater pretty much as a pulpit. Ewel being a performer, being an actor, being a man who exalts in applause, I think had a much less serious approach to theater. And let's say that Ewel approach the theater was more, TW:This is the beginning of tape two, side one interview with William Mootz. We were discussing Jon Jory.

WM:Yes. I think he combines the best qualities of Ewel 61:00and Dick. I remember Jon came to town and for three seasons, he let me say he's doing wonderful work and this and that and the other, but he's not doing any contemporary work. I mean, if you don't do contemporary playwrights, you aren't contributing to the history of the theater. And Jon never talked back. He never raised his voice at me, but suddenly he read in a brand new play, a premier, and without saying what was on his mind. But I knew that that brand new play later, I knew that it was beginning of a long range plan to establish at Actors 62:00Theatre of Louisville. A festival that would consist entirely of premiers of new plays by American playwrights.

And that all along it dawned on me. I felt like a fool accusing him of not well, he didn't feel like a fool at all. I thought, what a canny man this Jon Jory is to wait until he gets the subscription base, wait until he gets the audience before he takes any chances. That was the sort of thing that Dick was unwilling to be realistic about. Dick would throw the new works, whether anybody came or not. Jon waited until subscriptions were at about 12 to 13,000 before he risked this thing. He chose the plays that he did then with great perception. 63:00I mean, the first thing that really fell into a Humana Festival framework, although it wasn't called a Festival of New Plays until it had been a success, was the Gin Game, which caught the attention, I think. I know, because Jon sent it to Hume Cronyn and said, I know you and your wife are always looking for plays that you can do together.

I think this might be a perfect candidate. And Hume Cronyn read it and was so excited that he called up Mike Nichols and said, I've got this plan. I want you to read if you're interested, maybe you should direct me and Jessica in it. And the next thing I knew, I was sitting in Actors Theatre behind Jessica Tandy, Hume Cronyn and Mike Nichols as they saw Jon Jory's production of The Gin Game. 64:00And it was a fascinating experience for me because Tandy sat there just being regular audience. Hume Cronyn and Mike Nichols sat there being very professional men of the theater. And Mike would nudge Hume Cronyn, and I knew that that nudge meant, you see, I told you that line would get a laugh. And they walked out of it, and the rest is history. They did it on Broadway and it won a Pulitzer Prize and plays like Imagine the extraordinary, again, fate, luck, fortune, whatever you call it, of discovering living in Louisville teaching school, a playwright like Marsha Norman having a play submitted as good as Crimes of the Heart by Beth Henley. 65:00All of these were products of the early Humana Festivals. Well, that sort of success is daunting because what do you do for an encore? But Jon combines the visionary traits that every good producer must have with a very cautious approach to the desperate problems of financing one's visions. And that has been why he has been so successful at Actors Theatre. I think TW:This is the end of interview one with William Mootz. Tape two side one.