Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Spotlight On...Mark Edward Lang and Alison J. Murphy

Name:  Mark Edward Lang and Alison J. Murphy

MARK: Manhattan, New York City
ALISON: Cape May Court House, NJ

MARK: B.A. Vassar College, Theater major
ALISON: B.A. Ramapo College, major in Literature, minor in Theater

Select Credits:
MARK: 35 states: Touring theater, including Shakespeare, Moliere and new plays; Regional theater, including The Asolo Theater (FL), Open Stage of Harrisburg (PA), Arts Center of Coastal Carolina (SC), the Clinton Presidential Center (AR), The Classic Theatre of San Antonio (TX) and many seasons with The East Lynne Theater Company (NJ).
ALISON: My favorite is the lead in Molnar’s The Guardsman at East Lynne Theater in Cape May, NJ.  Also with East Lynne: George S. Kaufman’s Dulcy and The Butter and Egg Man, The Dictator, The New York Idea, and The Late Christopher Bean.  New York credits include Mary of Shippensburg, The Wound of Love and Why Marry? at The Players Club.

Why theater?:
ALISON:  I was always drawn to reading books, watching plays and films; and at some point, knowing I could become those characters.  Acting to me was doing what Joseph Campbell said, “following my bliss.”
MARK:  I started making my own narrative videos (writing, directing, performing, graphics) in high school, but soon fell in love with the organic symbiotic relationship between a performer and a live audience.  Whether it’s getting that comedic bit to work just right (result: a big laugh) or feeling the audience intently listen and feel with your character in a dramatic moment… there’s nothing quite like it.  I love doing film and TV, but playing to a camera-lens and tech crew just isn’t the same.

Who do you play in Lunt And Fontanne: The Celestials of Broadway?:
MARK:  I play Alfred Lunt, half of the greatest married theater duo of the 20th Century, as well as additional cameo-characters, which include Noel Coward, Laurence Olivier and Marlon Brando… great fun to play!
ALISON:  I play Lynn Fontanne, one of the most famous leading ladies of the theater in the 20th Century.

Tell us about Lunt And Fontanne: The Celestials of Broadway:
ALISON:  It’s a play about the journey of two married actors: their ups and downs personally and professionally; and also a love letter to relationships and the theater.
MARK:  I wrote this piece for my wife Alison J. Murphy and myself, following many years of research (including a trip to Ten Chimneys, the Lunts’ Wisconsin summer home) and re-writes.  A Broadway theater was named after them… a VERY rare honor, but the Lunts made only one film, back in 1931, an adaptation of their stage comedy hit, The Guardsman, and then decided it wasn’t for them.  That decision, in a way, robbed them of their immortality… this play seeks to remedy that by telling their story.  We cover their lives and careers from the 1920s through 1958, in a fun, fast-moving format that will appeal to theater lovers of all ages and interests.

What is it like being a part of Lunt And Fontanne: The Celestials of Broadway?:
MARK:  Working with my real-life wife as a historical husband-and-wife team, at all different stages in their lives, is a very rich experience.  We have our history as a couple (fifteen years together), as well as a wonderful regional theater production of the Lunts’ signature play, The Guardsman, a play in which both of the characters are also married actors, so there are a lot of layers there.  We also play short scenes from Lunt productions such as The Guardsman and a fight-filled rehearsal of their Taming of the Shrew, which inspired Cole Porter’s musical Kiss Me Kate.
ALISON:  It’s a dream that has become actualized, for me and my husband Mark.  It’s an extraordinary privilege to play this character… an amazing amount of joy.  Being married actors ourselves, it’s both fun and a challenge to portray this married actor couple.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?:
ALISON:  I love historical dramas, musicals, comedy, Shakespeare… the whole gamut.  I am inspired by observing toddlers and animals, because it’s pure behavior with no filter.
MARK:  I always have preferred plays to musicals, as an audience and as a performer (since I have no musical talent).  The energy of being in a big room of people sharing an extraordinary performance… nothing like it.  Historically, I have been inspired by those hybrid actors who also directed, on stage and film: Chaplin, Welles, Olivier.  There are also productions and live performances that I will always remember: James Earl Jones in Fences, the gorgeous original New York production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Patrick Stewart as Prospero in The Tempest in Central Park, etc.

Any roles you’re dying to play?:
ALISON:  The one that I’m in now; it’s a peach!
MARK:  I’ve done a lot of them, including both leads (Jack and Algernon) in different regional theater productions of The Importance of Being Earnest.  More Shakespeare would be awesome, such as another shot at Prospero in The Tempest or the lead in Macbeth.

What’s your favorite showtune?:
MARK:  I’m not a big musical guy, but “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in “The Wizard of Oz” is a timeless song (does a film song count?)  Or one of the great tunes in West Side Story, such as “Tonight.”
ALISON:  Anything from Evita or Jesus Christ Superstar.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?:
ALISON:  Emma Thompson, Mark Rylance and Brian Cranston.
MARK:  I’d love to get into some quality film and TV work.  I respect folks like George Clooney and Tom Hanks, as gifted and versatile performers with integrity who have the great good luck to be able to initiate their own projects.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:
MARK:  I’ll be vain and say Matt Damon is the guy… but he’d have to stop pumping up for a year or two.  The title would have to be my assessment as an actor by a casting person at a major network (who shall remain nameless): “Too Off-Beat.”
ALISON: I think it should be an unknown.  The movie would be called, “Alicat: The Musical.”

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?:
ALISON:  Seeing The Lunts in the original New York production of The Guardsman in 1924, because my husband and I played those roles together a few years ago.
MARK:  I’d love to go way way back and see Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” at the original Globe Theater in London… I’m sure it was a colorful scene, and that the language sounded very different back then, but… as a Shakespeare buff (I did three tours with the National Shakespeare Company back in the day), how could you pass that up?

What show have you recommended to your friends?:
ALISON: The Curious Incident on Broadway.
MARK:  Alison and I recently saw and enjoyed the wacky Shakespearean musical Something Rotten!, which was even more fun to watch since my college friend Rick Louis and I penned (and produced) a wacky Shakepearean comedy called Cuthbert, Prince of Denmark when we were at Vassar College… it had a similar anything goes aesthetic.  Would of course love to see Hamilton, particularly knowing that Lin-Manuel Miranda and I are both proud grads of Hunter College High School in NYC…

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?:
MARK:  Two words: “Star Trek.”  Original Series preferred, other incarnations welcome.  William Shatner as Kirk impression upon request; yellow shirt optional.
ALISON:  Movie night at the local theater with chocolate and popcorn.

What’s up next?:
ALISON:  Touring our show, like the Lunts did their shows.
MARK:  I have a regional theater gig in the fall.  A play called Biography by S.N. Behrman (a good friend of the Lunts), with a political theme for this election year.  After that, we’re looking for more bookings for our Lunt and Fontanne play, so anyone who’s interested should find out more at www.luntandfontanne.com and then shoot us an email to check our availability!