Catching Up with Nicholas Martin
Former Artistic Director Nicholas Martin returns to the Huntington to helm William Inge’s Bus Stop. Recently, Martin spoke with Director of New Work Lisa Timmel about the differences between Inge and Tennessee Williams and between directing classics and new work.
Did you see the original production of Bus Stop?
I saw Picnic. I never saw Bus Stop even though my favorite actress — Kim Stanley — was the star. You know, in a funny way, there is no star in Bus Stop. It seems to be about Cherie, but really it’s about all of them. The character that most refl ects the audience is the young girl, Elma. Her education (this is the kind of daring they had in the 1950s) is conducted by a kind of reprobate, someone for whom Inge has enormous compassion.
Why is Inge an important American playwright?
Inge was very much of his time. The plays he, Tennessee Williams, and, to a certain degree, Arthur Miller wrote; it’s unthinkable that anyone would write them today. I’m drawn to Inge’s plays not simply because they were the plays of my youth, but because I’m impressed by the unselfconscious approach to character and to emotional lives that you almost never see in current writing. Inge managed to create, in all his plays, real characters with a great deal of depth and to tell each and every one of their stories. I think that’s unusual in any period. Everything was about to change in the ’60s and, you can kind of feel, certainly in Williams and in Inge, a kind of simmering. There’s an innocence about Inge that Williams just couldn’t manage — that’s not who he was — but I’m drawn to that, too. I think Inge’s plays are a great chance for young actors and old actors to use their muscle, because the characters are so fabulous.
You’re both an elegant interpreter of classics and a champion of new plays. How have you developed such a wide range?
I’ve been very lucky, because I ran theatres where I was able to do that. For me, unless you can fi nd a balance between doing the classics any way you choose as long as you’re faithful to the writer and bringing new work along, you’re unfulfi lled. The collaboration is everything to me. You certainly get that with a new play, whether you like it or not! And then you can take a little rest with a classic, because the author is dead and you can just relax a little bit on that front.