Tony Randall founded the National Actors Theatre ten years ago with the idea of putting on classic plays with a seasoned, European-style ensemble of performers, all on Broadway. But it’s been a rocky road for the company from the very first, with many productions poorly received and its most successful ones (Inherit the Wind, Judgment at Nuremberg) plagued by actors’ illnesses. Many observers have, from time to time, expected the NAT to dissolve, only to see it valiantly return yet again with another offering.
Well, NAT and Randall will live to fight another day, but the battleground is no longer Broadway. Variety reported Feb. 22 that the company will take up residency at Pace University’s Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts. Randall said he plans a 40-week season of four-to-six plays beginning in mid-September.
When NAT first began in 1991, it scheduled full seasons, selling subscriptions and making one Broadway theatre (first the Belasco, then the Lyceum) its home. But bad reviews and financial troubles soon saw the theatre producing plays fitfully. Recent Broadway seasons have seen only one NAT production. This season, none are scheduled.
The PACE deal, while taking down costs (the university is offering the auditorium and office space rent free) and lending the company the security of a permanent home, would seem to make NAT’s Broadway days a thing of the past.
PACE president David A. Caputo told Variety Randall would teach at PACE and consider students for roles in NAT productions. Early NAT shows included The Seagull with Tyne Daly, Ethan Hawke, Laura Linney and Jon Voight; The Master Builder with Earle Hyman and Lynn Redgrave; Saint Joan with Maryann Plunkett. In recent years, as the NAT has operated in a more casual manner, presenting a play whenever the needed elements and talent were brought together, productions have included The Gin Game with Julie Harris and Charles Durning; Night Must Fall with Matthew Broderick; and Inherit the Wind, featuring the last Broadway performance of George C. Scott.