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  • Richard Lambert

MAKING ART | EPISODE 6: Gary Earl Ross, Actor, Playwright, Professor Emeritus, University at Buffalo

Please join The New Phoenix Theatre as we walk down memory lane. As we continue to plan for next steps with the uncertainty of COVID-19, we are sharing testimonials from the amazing artists who emblazoned their imprint on our stage. We hope with all our hearts to be back with you soon.

For now, here is a message from Gary Earl Ross:

“While I’m known chiefly as a novelist and a playwright for both Ujima and Subversive, from time to time I have had opportunities to act. On two such occasions I took the stage at The New Phoenix Theatre on the Park, first for the 2011 Subversive-New Phoenix co-production of “Inherit the Wind,” directed by Kurt Schneiderman and later for the 2014 New Phoenix production of “Buffalo Gal,” directed by Richard Lambert. The experiences couldn’t have been more different but each was wonderful.

Having taught “Inherit the Wind” for years, I was delighted to take a role in it, that of DA Davenport. I was part of a huge cast that created an immersive experience by drawing incoming audience members into a 1920s town celebration and putting some of them in the jury box. I spent down time in conversation with leads Gary Darling and Greg Natale, both of whom were well-versed in the Scopes trial on which the play was based. Those discussions led to the writing of my Artie Award-winning play, “The Mark of Cain,” based on the Ossian Sweet case, the next big trial in which Clarence Darrow served as defense counsel.

A.R. Gurney’s “Buffalo Gal” was a much more intimate theatre experience, with a smaller cast dropped into a theater itself. I got to perform alongside members of my Ujima family, Mary Moebius and the late Willy Judson, both of whom had acted in my plays. Most memorable was working with the wonderful Barbara Link LaRou, from whom I learned a lot and with whom I got to perform the play’s sliver of Chekhov. It was pretty to think my avid reader mom was smiling down on me.

I love the ambiance and physical space at New Phoenix and have long enjoyed its productions. Now that my play “Stoker’s Guest” has been accepted for production there—though I have no idea how the pandemic will affect scheduling—I feel even more a part of the NPT family. One thing I miss as I sit home during this Covid-19 nightmare is climbing the steps after an exit to race across upstairs for my next entrance on the other side of the performance space. I sure could use that exercise right about now.

Thanks, New Phoenix, for everything.”

Coming soon, Episode 7: Frank Rossi

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