STORY WRITTEN BY RITA CHARLESTON
For 21st Century Media
The title says it all. David Mamet’s “A Life in the Theatre” is the behind-the-scenes comedy that gives a glimpse into the complex relationship that develops as the torch is passed from one acting generation to the next. The play runs at the Walnut Street Theatre’s Independence Studio 3 through Feb. 1.
Bill Van Horn, who takes the role of the older actor, Robert, and also directs the play, was first seen in the production many years ago as the younger actor, John.
“I blush to think of some of the stupid assumptions I made as a young man.” Van Horn says. “But now that I’ve lived through so many things an actor goes through, I see it all in a different light.”
Mamet was inspired to write this play by his own backstage experiences as an actor. According to Van Horn, the play has a bittersweet quality to it. “There are the victories and the losses, the ups and downs in an actor’s life that give every evening a fullness. Also, I think this is one of Mamet’s more delicate plays, showing a surprising side of him.”
Van Horn’s acting career started when he was about 12 years old and realized he’d never be a outfielder for the Yankees. “That’s very true, but in addition, my mother wanted to get me involved with something that would keep me off the streets in the summer time so she got me involved in a church theater group.”
Growing up on Long Island, he once saw a production of “Waiting for Godot,” and he says that although he was fairly interested in theater before that, seeing that play really sealed the deal.
“Over time, I’d get work in Philly, but always considered myself a New York actor,” he admits. “And each time I came to Philly I told myself it was a very nice town and maybe I should think of living here. But why would I ever leave New York? It’s where all the action is. But by the third time I came here to work, I decided to move here.”
That was about 15 years ago and he’s been working steadily in our area ever since, doing a lot of work at the Walnut, both as an actor, director and writer. In fact, his role as Robert is his fourth role in a WST touring production.
“I’ve been working in the theater for 40 years now, and other than reading a good book and riding a bicycle, is the only thing that gives me such satisfaction,” he admits. “There’s really nothing else I’d rather do. Honestly, the work is its own reward.”
IF YOU GO
“A Life in the Theatre” continues through Feb. 1 at Walnut Street Theatre’s Independence Studio 3. Tickets are $30 to $45. Call (215) 575-3550 or check www.walnutstreettheatre.org.