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INTERVIEW WITH DON &

JENNY ALDRICH WALKER

 

INTERVIEW

TELL US ABOUT HOW YOU FOUND SAPS (or SAPS found you).


JENNY: After a play at Home Resource, I attacked Arthur about joining SAPS. I thought it was only for playwrights so I used my programs as my rational to join.

DON: Jenny dragged me to a meeting. I have learned over the years that her instincts are worth following


WOULD YOU LIKE TO SHARE SOME PERSONAL INFO ABOUT YOURSELF? PETS? TRAVEL?

JENNY: We met onstage, at an audition, and have been married 29 years.  It was a second marriage for both of us and we just fit together perfectly, sharing our hugs and humor, onstage, backstage, offstage and everywhere. We have no pets, except for a few plants (and the vacuum). Don says if I need to walk or cuddle something, he’s ready. 

DON: I like other folks to have pets – I’ve been responsible for cats and dogs in the past and prefer to leave them in the past. Love to travel – wish we’d started sooner. (Me, too)


HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN FLORIDA?


DON: Moved here in 1991 from Connecticut with my employer, World Precision Instruments. (Now retired after 30 years with the company as writer, editor, photographer, graphic designer, webmaster.)


JENNY: Thirty-six years ago, I made my third & FINAL move to Florida.


WHEN YOU ARE NOT WORIKING IN THEATRE, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU LIKE TO DO?


JENNY: Go to the theatre! Movies! Art Museums and concerts. Just muck about together- we have fun everywhere, even in Wauchula.

DON: Loaf. But I still do some Photoshop work for WPI, which enables me to maintain access to all the Adobe software.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN AN ACTOR? DIRECTOR?

DON: I was in a lot of plays in high school and college, but my working career has been as an industrial writer/editor. When the company I worked for in New Haven decided to move to Sarasota I moved along with them—and soon discovered the many local theaters. Auditioned for a role in Murder on the Nile at the Players but wasn’t cast – which was my luckiest break because I then auditioned for Veronica’s Room at Venice Little Theater and got the male lead, opposite Jenny Aldrich, now and forever my leading lady.


Our next time together was Same Time, Next Year at the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre. Following that we were together in Rumors, Natalie Needs a Nightie, Wife Begins at Forty, Oklahoma, Barefoot in the Park, California Suite, How the Other Half Loves, Amorous Ambassador, Crazy for You, Funny Money, Plaza Suite and High Spirits. (ETC) For Banyan Theater, Melliss Kenworthy directed us in Painting Churches; and we were also in Cosi and The Last Romance (directed by Dan Higgs) and Greetings (directed by Bob Trisolini). And we have been onstage together in several Theatre Odyssey plays.


My directing experience includes shows for Banyan Theater—A Lesson from Aloes, Time Stands Still, The Price, and My Old Lady. I have acted and directed for Theatre Odyssey. And I was especially pleased to direct Arthur Keyser’s play, Before Steepletop, at The Players.


JENNY: I’ve been acting all my life and directing since I was seven or eight, putting on shows wherever I could.  There was a respite I called the Dark Ages, when my kids were small. I did both in college, was an Associate Director of ETC, a theatre group in Philly, founded two children’s theatres, served on the board of three theatres. So, I’ve done just about everything, including a dire stint as a professional stage manager. My last directing stint was the runner-up for Theatre Odyssey’s radio plays.

WHY ACTING?  WHY DIRECTING?


DON: We all like stories because we can imagine ourselves within those other lives. And we like to tell stories and make up different ways of being in the world. Didn’t we all play pretend as kids? Acting and directing are just more active ways of taking part in the storytelling.


JENNY: Doing those things for most of my life kept me sane. I always felt so alive on stage and safe—which may sound strange to some people.

Somewhere, you learn, the playwright creates the script, the actor creates the character, the director creates the play.  I love them all.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST REWARDING EXPERIENCE AS A THEATRE ARTIST?


JENNY: Would have to be—meeting Don. He is my reward for surviving my life till I met him. Then, too, the five solo shows I’ve written have been a blessing (and a curse). I also like to produce and I’m so proud of being able to pay other actors in the shows I’ve written and/or produced. Loved Blanche in Streetcar, Margo in Applause, and the actress in California Suite with Don.


DON: Apart from working anywhere with Jenny—which are treasured times—my times onstage at Asolo Rep were special. Especially special was Twelve Angry Men, where I was in a masterclass of very talented actors, including Jimmy Clarke, Doug Jones, David Howard, David Breitbarth, and others—and directed by Frank Galati.


HAVING SEEN YOUR IMPRESSIVE RESUME’S AND YOUR WEBSITE, WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO HIGHLIGHT?


JENNY: My programs, I love the research, the shaping, the presenting. Lillian Hellman was not finished when I presented it to SAPS or at SaraSolo. I had a disaster that year and was just trying to survive by doing what I do. I also enjoyed being a member of Actor’s Equity.


DON: Sorry to overuse “special,” but being in the cast of The People Downstairs at American Stage is also especially rewarding. I had been involved in the play development, participating in private and public readings, but was unable to join the cast in what would have been its premier but was shut down by the COVID pandemic. Eighteen months later, as the show is finally in production, I am at last in the role I had originally sought.


DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE PLAYWRIGHT?  IF SO, WHY?


JENNY: Well, Tennessee Williams and Albee, of course but Neil Simon, too. They all write great plays and great characters to play but Simon fed me.

DON: I wish I’d read more in my young and tender years—when I had time to read. Among the many plays on our own shelves (now greatly reduced as the result of a move) I confess to having read very few. From our own experience, Neil Simon has provided roles for us in several at the Apple. His characters are always well drawn, and their language very particular


DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE ACTOR/ACTRESS? WHY IS SHE/HE YOUR FAVORITE?


DON: Jenny is my favorite (what a surprise)—always a pleasure to work together. She keeps me honest.


JENNY: Don, of course!  Then Jimmy Clarke because he was so alive on stage and Peter O’Toole—he can play GOD.  I got to be GOD in a reading once and I even got to direct Robert Turoff as God at Starlite—that was brilliant casting.


DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE SAPS STORY?


JENNY: I remember when Jan & I did monologs for Annie & Blake’s visit to SAPS.  Mine was very personal and I was afraid and pretty convinced I wasn’t going to do it but then I did and many members reached out to me to tell me it was meaningful and brave.  Later, I did it at American Stage for their story time in the lounge, also scary (& fun!)


AS IT STATES ON OUR HOME PAGE SAPS HAS GROWN FROM A SMALL GROUP TO OVER EITHTY MEMBERS. WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON THIS GROWTH? WOULD YOU LIKE TO OFFER YOUR ADVICE FOR NEW MEMBERS?

JENNY:  In the beginning of our time, we remember sitting around a conference table, reading SAPS plays. There were just a few members when we joined. My advice--see below.

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”
― Martha Graham


DON: Although a character in The People Downstairs says, “Playwriting is even more unpleasant than embalming,” I’m not surprised that so many people are interested in this kind of storytelling. The more voices we hear, the better for all of us.

Go to the theater and see more plays—see what makes them tick, and what resonated with you. Read more plays.

 
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George Loukides

Founder of The Sarasota Area Playwrights Society

 

INTERVIEW WITH GEORGE LOUKIDES

JUNE 4, 2021

WHERE WERE YOU BORN?

I was born in Plainfield, N.J. My Greek mother was born in what was called Asia Minor (Turkey). My Greek father was born on the island of Mitilini also known as Lesbos which, I guess makes me a Minor Lesbian.

 

WOULD YOU LIKE TO SHARE SOME PERSONAL INFORMATION ABOUT YOURSELF?

I lived in NJ until I went to College at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. I was a pre-med major at McGill. The first time I saw a corpse, I decided I didn’t want to go into medicine. But I got involved with the theatre there and wrote my first play. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science from McGill. I then attended Graduate School at the University of Denver and received a Master’s Degree in Theatre.  I did my thesis on Censorship in the Theatre.

 

During the Korean War I was drafted and stationed in Salzburg, Austria. I got involved with an Army theatre company and we toured with Born Yesterday. I played the Barber. After the war, I moved to New York and was there for twenty years. I worked in Manhattan as a Teacher and Supervisor of Special Education. While I was a Guidance Counselor, I put on a show with the kids in Special Education. But other than that, and seeing all the shows in town, I wasn’t involved with theatre much. I had to make a living.

 

I retired early and from New York I moved to Charleston, South Carolina where I started to direct. I directed Ain’t Misbehavin’, Raisin In The Sun, My Sister Eileen, a lot of plays. I found I enjoyed directing more than acting. I didn’t like the memorization needed for Acting. Here’s a story, I was in the play, ‘Wait Until Dark’. I played one of three bad guys and my line, after seeing some photography equipment laying around, was “I always wanted to be a photographer”. Instead, I said “I always wanted to be a policeman”. I froze. I realized  my fellow actor was not going to help me so I had to make up lines until we got back into the rhythm of things. We actors all have our stories of mishaps in the theatre, right?

 

ARE YOU MARRIED?

No. I had a partner, Sam, for fifty-five years and he passed away. After that heartbreaking experience, some neighbors at Villa Grande of Sarasota where I lived, hosted a brunch where I met my current partner, Bart. We have been together for about ten years.

 

DO YOU HAVE PETS?

No.

 

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN LIVING IN FLORIDA?

Let’s see, after South Carolina where I lived for seven years, I moved to Alexandria Virginia and lived there for twenty years. I directed a lot of shows there. After that I moved to Sarasota, Florida. My mother and father lived in Bradenton so I knew the area. I discovered that there was going to be a new ‘Continuing Care Community’ with a theatre, in Sarasota, called the Glenridge. As happens I got involved and consulted with them on how to build a theatre and then I ran the theatre for them. I started a theatre company called the Glenridge Players. Now my good friend, Bob Turoff’s son, Ben Turoff, works there. I’ve known Bob Turoff since our days at The University of Denver. We hadn’t seen each other for thirty years until I moved to Florida.


WHEN YOU ARE NOT WRITING WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU LIKE TO DO?

I enjoy traveling. I’ve traveled around the world and can talk about that all day. I go to the theatre a lot. I volunteered as an usher at Florida Studio Theatre. For five years I was a volunteer at the North Sarasota Library in the bookstore. I enjoyed it because, and you didn’t ask this question but, my second profession was as a rare books dealer.

AS THE FOUNDER OF THE SARASOTA AREA PLYWRIIGHTS SOCIETY, CAN YOU TELL US HOW IT BEGAN?

When I was living in Alexandria, Virginia there was a theatre company called Signature Theatre and I got involved with a play reading group. One of the people in the group wanted to start a play reading group of her own, which we did. Afterwards, I took a playwriting course. Then I went on vacation to Majorca and wrote a full-length play. I came back from vacation and gave the play to a theatre and they picked it for a production. And I thought ‘Boy, this is easy.’ Needless to say, the play never got off the ground. The next year I wrote another one-act play and won a contest. Long story, short when I got to Florida and at the Glenridge I decided to start another play reading group. And so began the Sarasota Area Playwrights. That was fourteen years ago. There were about ten of us and we would meet at each other’s homes and read our plays.

From that ten it grew tremendously quickly. We had ten, then fifteen, then twenty. There was nothing formal. Playwrights brought their plays and people volunteered to read. There was a lot of bringing the plays back after rewrites. Since the early days the group has had a great period of growth for which I believe Arthur Keyser is largely responsible. When it got to be over twenty people or so we started to meet in other places. Arthur found the space for us.


HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A PLAYWRIGHT?

I wrote my first play in 1993 if you don’t count my college efforts.

 

WHEN DID YOU FIRST REALIZE YOU WANTED TO BE A WRITER?

I never wanted to be a playwright. I acted and directed. Then I took a playwriting class. I wrote two plays that were both chosen for production and I thought to myself ‘this is so easy’.

And it went downhill after that.

 

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE A PLAY?

It varies. But it could take a year to write a ten-minute or one-act play. Then again, my first full-length play I wrote in a week.

WHAT IS YOUR WORK SCHEDULE WHEN YOU ARE WRITING?

I have no schedule. When it moves me, I will sit and write. I do a lot of my writing in my head when I am in bed sleeping. I think of something and jot it down when I get up in the morning.


DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY PLAYS YOU’VE WRITTEN AND IS THERE A FAVORITE?

I think I’ve written about a hundred plays. There are a few favorites. My favorite play is a play I wrote having to do with the Japanese internment during World War II. It’s a One-Act play called The Rice of Strangers. It developed when I was a volunteer at the National Archives in Washington D.C.

 

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE GENRE?

I tend to write historical plays or plays with social meaning.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST REWARDING EXPERIENCE AS A PLAYWRIGHT?

The writing and production of The Rice of Strangers. The Japanese Americans during WW II were sent to internment camps or what was commonly referred to as concentration camps. They lost their homes and businesses. Years later, during the Regan administration there was a movement within the administration to make reparations to the Japanese for all they had lost. After researching taped interviews and archived photographs, The Rice of Strangers was born.  What made this my most rewarding experience is that the play was published in the National Archives Magazine and produced at the National Archives. After the first year it was produced (it was produced two years in a row) the audience was filled with survivors of the concentration camps. And they came up to me, thanking me, with tears in their eyes. They said they couldn’t talk about it with their children but now that I had written the story, they could pursue it and tell their children about it. That was very touching. It was also used by a teacher in The University of California who was teaching a course on Japanese American History. It was also produced at three Universities.

 

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE PLAYWRIGHT? IF SO, WHY IS HE/SHE YOUR FAVORITE?

I do not have a favorite playwright although I consider A Raisin in the Sun, the best American play ever written so I guess you can say that Lorraine Hansberry is my favorite playwright. And then possibly, Euripides, because I think Medea is a masterpiece.


AS IT STATES ON OUR HOME PAGE SAPS HAS GROWN FROM A SMALL GROUP TO OVER EIGHTY MEMEBERS. WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON THIS GROWTH AND YOUR APPROACH TOWARD NEW MEMBERS OF THE GROUP?

I think it’s wonderful that actors, directors, and playwrights have an opportunity to engage in their craft.


IN ORDER FOR OUR GROUP TO LEARN WHO YOU ARE WHAT IS ONE LAST THING YOU’D LIKE TO LEAVE THEM WITH?

I’m very proud of what SAPS has accomplished over the years and I know that our goal of helping playwrights make their plays better will continue for years to come.

THE RICE OF STRANGERS IS AVAILABLE FOR READING BY CLICKING THE LINK BELOW. 

George would appreciate your comments. Please send to gloukides@aol.com