MCC Theater Proves Three Artistic Directors Are Better Than One

Special Features   MCC Theater Proves Three Artistic Directors Are Better Than One
 
As the Off-Broadway institution turns 30, Bernard Telsey, William Cantler, and Robert LuPone celebrate another first.
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Eleven years after Robert LuPone turned in a Tony Award–nominated performance as the ultimate picky director in A Chorus Line, he turned into an artistic director—at least a third of one: MCC Theater is the only Off-Broadway company in town ruled by a triumvirate.

LuPone’s partners in crime are casting director Bernard Telsey of Telsey + Company and William Cantler, who’s been both actor and director. LuPone will occasionally backslide into an acting assignment, but staying on top of 73 MCC shows has been a full-time job. The first was a one-hour, one-act AIDS drama—Alan Bowne’s Beirut—on June 23, 1987; the latest, Matthew Perry’s The End of Longing (May 18–June 24), marks the end of season 30.

Telsey is happy when his day job aligns with his MCC chores, as it did earlier this season with Anna Jordan’s Yen. “It’s such a wonderful thing to help launch careers,” he says of casting that play’s young actors. “Punk Rock was another of our plays that welcomed a whole new breed of actors to New York. Hand to God was another.”

You don’t have to be a new face to catch Telsey’s eye. He never forgot a courtroom meltdown on One Life to Live in which Judith Light, as a housewife turned hooker, went to pieces in a two-part installment. He brought her back to New York and her roots 22 years later to replace Kathleen Chalfant in MCC’s W;t. In no time, she had two Tonys.

W;t is the only play Margaret Edson wrote, the only Pulitzer Prize winner MCC ever presented, and Cantler’s own personal favorite. “I remember, after reading the play, all three of us said, ‘It’s about a college professor no one likes who’s dying of ovarian cancer. We have to do this. No one [is] going to come, but we just have to do this.’”

MCC will put in another full season at the downtown Lucille Lortel, then in the fall of 2018 settle into its first ever permanent home, at 52nd Street and Tenth Avenue. “We’re going to have two theatres: a 240-seat theatre and a 99-seat black box,” says Cantler—plus rehearsal studios, administrative offices, development work, and the educational program.

As to what plays will go in there, Cantler waves away the question. “That’s way above my pay rate,” he says. “I get to pick ’em, but I don’t get to say ’em out loud.”

MCC’s annual Miscast Gala takes place April 3 at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Click here to find out who is performing. And, check out this unforgettable performance by Gavin Creel singing from Sunset Boulevard at Miscast 2016:

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