Working with Marsha Hanna.
I was very lucky in that my first play as an adult was directed by Marsha Hanna. Here I was, this twenty five year old kid who had done some films, but nothing on stage since high school. The show was You Can't Take it With You and some friends talked me into auditioning. I did and got cast as Ed, the wacky xylophone playing husband to Essie. I was both intrigued and terrified of Marsha. Halfway through the rehearsal process I got up the nerve to ask her why she almost never gave me any notes. Did I suck so bad, there was nothing that could help? She laughed and then she took a long drag off her cigarette. As she exhaled, "No, I like what you're doing. I'll tell you when I don't." That was Marsha.
I was honored to work with Marsha as an actor twice more in Brighton Beach Memoirs and an adaptation of Chekov's The Cherry Orchard. The adaptation was one born from an acting class I took with Marsha. We set it in the American South after the Civil War. It wasn't a huge hit, but several years later Marsha sent me an article about a regional theatre in Atlanta doing it the way we had done it. "I guess we were ahead of our time," she wrote.
Along with working with Marsha, I had the privilege of knowing her as a friend. Last year Marsha bravely battled esophageal cancer. I got to spend a few hours with her before her final trip to the hospital. She was weak and looked frail, but she was the same old Marsha. Funny and stubborn. Right up to the end, she was the woman we all loved.
I miss her all the time and I still feel so honored to have known her.