Monday, April 04, 2011

farewell. (coda).

(in memory of Mark Chamberlin: 1955-2011)

The first Pinter Fortnightly reading of this year (now we are in the third year of this wonderful series) was scheduled to take place tonight. It was canceled in honor of Mark Chamberlin, who passed away quite suddenly last week. He was to have taken part in tonight's performance, but his memorial service was this afternoon, instead. I wrote of my sadness at his death earlier, and of the sense of loss that surely must be felt by the Seattle theater community, to say nothing of his family and friends.

The theaters of Seattle, large and small, make up an intimately connected constellation that spreads across the city. They form a tight network of actors, directors, and writers who make their home in this city and whose work I have been privileged to experience for the past twenty years. People come in from the outside, of course, visiting directors from New York or the occasional movie actor from Los Angeles. But the heart of the community is people like Mark Chamberlin, who settled here as a young man and continued to grow and develop over the years as an actor, constantly evolving, constantly challenging himself.

I remember the first Pinter Fortnightly reading I attended, nearly two years ago. I remember my heart leaping at the sight of Suzanne Bouchard, Michael Winters, and Frank Corrado. I remember recognizing Marianne Owen in the audience. The gods of my youth were real now, and even better than they had been when I was young. The more Pinter readings I attended, the better I understood Pinter, of course, but most of all, the more I could see the extraordinary level of trust and collaboration between the actors. It gave a soft tenderness and depth to Pinter's often brutally sharp words, but maybe that was what Pinter intended.

This sense of trust and connection happens best when you have a distinct community of people who have known each other and worked together often, sometimes for decades. This is what Mark Chamberlin was very much a part of, and I will always remember the last role I saw him in, as Gibbs in The Hothouse. He was suave and menacing and hilarious by turns, and later made a wry reference to "the Scottish play" during the post-play discussion, which made everyone laugh. I looked forward to seeing more of him, and now that will never happen.

No comments: