This year, the Mint Theater Company’s 25th season, marks Jonathan Bank’s 22nd as its artistic director—though he’s been involved from the beginning.
In grad school at Ohio’s Case Western Reserve University, he met Kelly Morgan, who founded the Mint in New York and brought him along to teach and direct. A few years later, he assumed the artistic director position and the Mint’s mission crystalized: “We create new life for lost or neglected plays,” Bank says.
The transition into a safe haven for plays worth reprising took a few years. “I didn’t make an unequivocal commitment to the mission till we did The Voysey Inheritance in 2000,” Bank says. “Then, I wasn’t thinking about what was a path toward success. I was thinking, ‘Since I’m going to fail, I might as well do something I like.’
“It was the moment I said, ‘To hell with it! I’m going to stop trying to figure out what works. I’m just going to do this fantastic play by an author nobody knows with a hard title, a cast of 11, and no commercial possibilities.’” That impulse saved the day, created the Mint’s biggest hit, and set the company on a course of more of the same.
Some of the forgotten works are only now bowing in New York, courtesy of the Mint. “It’s just as likely we do plays that had successful runs in New York, then disappeared. What’s more rare is a play like last winter’s Yours Unfaithfully, which was published and never produced.” Rarer still is the Mint’s The Suitcase Under the Bed, a collection of four Teresa Deevy one-act plays running through September 23 at Theatre Row’s Beckett Theatre Off-Broadway.
“We produced Teresa’s first two plays—Wife to James Whelan and Temporal Powers—and I made a trip to Ireland to find more. After her death, all her papers were stored by her family in a suitcase and shoved under her bed. Two of these plays have never been produced or published—Holiday House and In the Cellar of My Friend.”
Bringing belated prominence to an over-looked playwright like Deevy is a source of considerable pride for Bank. Only one thing makes him prouder: “Just surviving.”
For more information about Mint Theater visit MintTheater.org.