Randall's National Actors Theatre to Continue

News   Randall's National Actors Theatre to Continue
 
The National Actors Theatre, the theatrical company founded by Tony Randall in 1991, will continue producing works following the recent death of Mr. Randall.

Gary Springer, a spokesperson for the company that most recently presented Luigi Pirandello's Right You Are, told Playbill On-Line, "We are definitely going to continue. Right now we are in the process of reformatting things."

In recent years, the National Actors Theatre had abandoned costly Times Square for the smaller and more secure environs of Pace University in downtown Manhattan. Whether the company will remain at Pace is undecided. Springer said, "At this point we're not sure whether we'll continue [presenting at Pace]. Our time with Pace was officially up in June, although our offices are still down there."

Although no replacement for Randall has been named, Springer said, "Heather [Randall], along with the board and the advisory team, are still working on all of that. We hope to have firm answers by the end of August or the beginning of September, but the company will be continuing."

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In all, the NAT produced 16 productions on Broadway. The first couple seasons featured a standing repertory company, a rarity in American theatre. Along with Randall, the troupe included Lynn Redgrave, Peter McRobbie, Maryann Plunkett and Madeleine Potter. Still, name stars were brought in to buttress sales. Martin Sheen starred in the inaugural production, The Crucible. Rob Lowe appeared in A Little Hotel on the Side. And Earl Hyman headlined The Master Builder. From the start, the NAT was not popular with critics, who complained about the general quality of the productions and a lack of a distinctive theatrical vision. Mr. Randall, however, soldiered on. The second season offered a critically panned The Seagull with Jon Voight and Tyne Daly; a better received Saint Joan starring Plunkett; and Three Men on a Horse with Randall and old pal Jack Klugman.

The above three were at the Lyceum, which became NAT's home after an initial year at the Belasco. After a third season of Timon of Athens, The Government Inspector and The Flowering Peach, general success still proved elusive, and the production schedule became more erratic. It was a year after Peach when the company finally presented a new work, a brief mounting of the musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, which was brought in from the Goodspeed Opera House.

Following Inherit the Wind, NAT became more populist and frugal in its offerings. It produced a revival of the two-hander The Gin Game with Julie Harris and Charles Durning in 1997, and, shortly after, a version of Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys with Randall and Klugman. Night Must Fall with Matthew Broderick and Judgment at Nuremberg with Maximillian Schell were its final two Broadway presentations. Four NAT productions were nominated for Tonys as Best Revival of a Play. John Tillinger directed many of these, becoming a sort of in-house director for the company.

By 2002, Mr. Randall was forced to abandon his dream of a Broadway company, and took the National Actors Theatre to Pace University's 655 seat Michael Schimmer Center for the Arts. It now operated under a LORT B (League of Resident Theatres) contract with Actors' Equity Association. Pace provided the theatre company with a rent-free home. In return, NAT will offer select Pace students internships in acting, production and administration.

The season began with a bang with Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. As ever, Mr. Randall was able to attract name talent. Al Pacino starred, and backing him up were Steve Buscemi, Billy Crudup, Charles Durning, John Goodman and Chazz Palminteri. Reviews were mixed, but sales were good. The Persians and Right You Are followed.

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