Neighborhood Watch

For the "Just When You Figured You'd Found the Ideal Place to Rehearse That Edgy Little Play" File, comes this amusing anecdote from Katherine Catmull and Ken Webster. It took place as the pair were rehearsing the Nicky Silver satire The Food Chain (Webster directing, Catmull performing in, opening this week at Hyde Park Theatre), and while Catmull admits that "at the moment it still makes me cringe slightly," she and her hubby are letting me share their story with the world. As Catmull tells it, "We've just bought a house, which we're moving in on March 10. But we're using it for Food Chain rehearsals first. So we're rehearsing and although the front blinds are closed, some neighbors can apparently see over the fence and through the French doors that open into the backyard. What they see is people yelling and waving a gun around excitedly. So they call the police.

"I guess the police thought it was a violent domestic disturbance, so 15 cops, literally, show up at our new house. They separated me and Ken for a pretty tough questioning, which was bewildering and scary since I figured we'd just been too loud or something. Can you imagine how lame it sounded when I kept stammering "Uh, uh, we were, we were just, we were just rehearsing a play!" I felt awful when I found out we'd scared someone. Not to mention when I realized there were eight cop cars on the street and our front and backyards were filled with armed officers hiding behind trees and things. What a great introduction to the neighborhood.

"In the end, after coming in to see the set, the other actors, and the fake gun, the cops seemed fairly amused. (If this had happened Sunday, they would have found us in costume, including Doug Taylor in a sumo-sized fat suit and buff Blake Yelavich wearing nothing but Calvin Klein underwear. How amusing would that have been?) The police were wonderfully professional, but they recommended we get some drapes for that door. No kidding.

"The people who called the cops came over to apologize afterwards. We said `No no, we're so sorry!' - so it was an apology-fest. I'm glad they came over because I would hate to have lived the next year wondering who I needed to apologize to, or whether I should just apologize generally to the whole neighborhood. Which I probably should anyway since I'm sure they're all wondering about the eight cop cars."

It calls to mind a similar episode from last year when the sound of gunfire prompted Austin police to descend on a rehearsal of the Tongue and Groove Theatre production of A Saga of Billy the Kid. That event also ended happily but not before some actors had the bejeezus scared out of them. As the station sergeant used to say on Hill Street Blues, "Let's be careful out there."

One final note on the more recent affair. Catmull reports that "while it was all happening, David Jones said mildly, `Perhaps this neighborhood isn't zoned for art.'"

Off the Desk

Michael Hallifax, manager/administrator of the National Theatre of Great Britain, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and the Haymarket Theatre, will give two lectures at UT this Friday, March 6. Hallifax will speak on "The New Globe Theatre" at 1pm in F. Loren Winship Drama Bldg., Rm. 2.112, and then on "My Work With Sir Laurence Olivier" at 8pm in the B. Iden Payne Theatre. Both speeches are open to the public. Sponsored by the UT Center for Dramatic and Performance Studies. For more info, call 471-5793.

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More Articulations
The Harry Ransom Center has acquired all the professional and personal materials of profoundly influential acting teacher Stella Adler

Robert Faires, April 30, 2004

It's the end of an era for the city of Austin's Art in Public Places Program as Martha Peters, administrator of the program for 11 of its 18 years, departs to direct a public art program in Fort Worth.

Robert Faires, July 18, 2003

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