Back in 1957 four acting students performed together in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice at Catholic University. Although they didn’t know it then, a Tony Award and careers full of acting in films and on Broadway lay ahead of them. Nearly 50 years later, they longed to perform together again on campus and did so on Feb. 3, 4 and 5 — this time as a benefit to raise funds for CUA drama scholarships.
The four actors are Barbara Andres, Philip Bosco, Bob Milli and David Sabin, who reunited to do a dramatic reading of George Bernard Shaw’s “Don Juan in Hell” at CUA’s Hartke Theatre. And there is a twist to the tale: The very same faculty member who directed their 1957 ensemble performance — Bill Graham, former chair of CUA’s Department of Drama — directed the actors’ February 2006 dramatic reading.
The actors themselves volunteered to do this benefit to fund undergraduate scholarships. They did it “for love of Catholic University,” says Bosco, and “for the astounding thrill of doing theater together again here,” says Andres. During their week of on-campus rehearsals, they were vitally engaged with current CUA drama students, meeting with them and teaching in acting classes.
The four actors are impressive:
Barbara Andres, B.A. 1959, is a veteran of Broadway and the movies who has played the role of mother to such high-profile actors as Glenn Close, Jodie Foster, Annette Benning and John C. Reilly. She has performed in regional theaters such as Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center and Arena Stage, Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theater and Boston’s Huntington Theatre Company, as well as on television series such as “Law & Order” and “The Sopranos.”
Philip Bosco, B.A. 1957, won a 1989 best-actor Tony for his lead role in the comedy “Lend Me a Tenor.” One of Broadway’s most acclaimed actors, he has been nominated for six Tony Awards, has been inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame and has won an Emmy Award, a New York Critics Circle Award and an Obie Lifetime Achievement Award. He also has acted in 37 movies and been a guest star on many of the New York-based television series.
Robert Milli, a CUA graduate student from 1957 to 1960, has played leading roles at a variety of venues including the Guthrie Theater, Arena Stage, New Haven, Conn.’s Long Wharf Theatre and on Broadway, where he played Horatio to Richard Burton’s Hamlet in John Gielgud’s historic 1964 production of Shakespeare’s tragedy. In addition to his roles in movies and on prime-time television, he is well known to viewers of daytime television as a 16-year veteran of major soap opera roles.
David Sabin, B.A. 1961, uprooted his 33-year New York acting career in 1997 to move to Washington, D.C., where he is a leading member of the Shakespeare Theatre, one of the nation’s pre-eminent Shakespeare stages. He has acted in a number of Broadway, off-Broadway and television productions, performing with some of the world’s leading actors, including Derek Jacobi, Bette Davis, James Earl Jones, Christopher Plummer and Dustin Hoffman.
The four actors say that during their CUA years they received everything they needed to succeed as professional actors: a well-rounded education, acting training and experience, the mentoring of wonderful teachers such as drama department founder Rev. Gilbert Hartke, O.P., and mastery of the art of using their voices on stage. Now, says Sabin, they wanted to do this benefit performance as an investment in the future of acting and making theater at Catholic University.
“I was inspired here by the generosity of theater — the experience that we really have it in our power to give the audience an experience of connecting with the rest of the universe,” muses Sabin, remembering his student days. “We didn’t come out of here embarrassed to say that we were actors. We were proud because it is a noble craft.”
More than 500 people attended the actors’ three performances. As a result of the fundraiser the scholarship endowment for the drama department passed the $50,000 mark.
“We hope this will be just the first in a series of benefit events that will bring drama alumni back to perform and hold master classes for current students,” says L.R. Poos, dean of CUA’s School of Arts and Sciences. – R.W.
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