Written by Drama Desk and Richard Rodgers Award winner Bill Rosenfield, 46 Beacon is a memory play, directed by Alexander Lass and produced by Oli Sones and Ed Sinke. I caught up with 46 Beacon’s writer Bill, along with one of the actors Oliver, during their busy rehearsal period.
Tell me about 46 Beacon’s journey.
Bill – It went very well and was well received. Nine critics were there from various websites and 7 of the reviews were terrific and two were good. This gave us something to work with, to send out to people. The producer Oli has been with us from the start. This is a small play, consequently we couldn’t go into a large theatre. We had to find somewhere that was right and fortunately two venues came forward. So what I like to call the “reunion concert” was planned at above the Arts Theatre and I wrote to people and said come along it’s just an hour and a half, it’s a lunch hour. I kind of blackmailed people and they did come and again it was well received. And now we are opening at the Trafalgar studios which is perfect for it.
I’ve read that this is based on your life is that true?
Bill – yes this is (gestures to Oliver) my younger self better looking, etc.
So Oliver, how does that work for you having the playwright here?
Oliver – Actually it’s really helpful often you do a play and either the playwright is dead or not around to ask. But because Bill is around I can ask him about details and what does he think I should do or how should I approach it. It makes my job easier as an actor.
Equally Bill is it hard not to get too involved?
Yes really, but I try not to and sometimes I think ah ok I can see why you’ve done that. This is really hard, as actors they make choices to play a part a certain way and if I didn’t agree with it then I should be playing the part myself. So I have to detract myself from it and think that’s ok, that’s how they are going to play it. I have to say to myself, no it’s Alan now it’s not Bill. It may be my memory but it’s their play now. And there are moments when I see my life unfolding and I think was I ever that innocent and it’s pulling things out from my past – it’s wonderful.
What do you enjoy doing most TV or theatre?
Oliver – TV is great but it’s stop start and out of sync. Whilst theatre is hard work, it’s more fulfilling. You get a much faster response, it’s exhilarating. It’s different and I love it because of that, everything is better about it.
You were born and brought up in America how did you come to be now based here?
Bob – I was reorganised in my job, I was a record executive for RCA BMG and they took 9/11 to relieve about 1100 people of their jobs and I was one of them. Whilst I didn’t get a golden parachute I got a bronze one and so they treated me ok, I had no complaints. Then my partner got a job in the UK and since we had no children or pets or anything we thought we’ll try it for a couple of years. Within a few months we realised we loved it here. That was fifteen years ago and five years ago we became British citizens.
It’s a change of direction for you, what made you make that move?
At Sixteen I wrote to the New York Times to complain how bad the original cast recording was of Follies and it was published. I said how I expected more, how dare they, it really was the most arrogant little 16-year-old letter.
Ollie – Do you still have it I’d love to see it?
Bill – I have it framed. Twenty years later I got a job at RCA Victor as the person in charge of cast recordings because I had those exacting standards. I didn’t go looking for that job, it kind of evolved from different circumstances. When I got there, my first job was overlooking the cast recording of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins. So if I had known when I was 16 that this is what I wanted to do I would’ve chosen a different path. But I ended up doing what was my passion anyway.
At the same time in high school I wrote two surrealist plays because I had read some surrealist plays written by American writer Ring Lardner. And I thought this is ok, because you can write anything you like, there are no rules in surrealism. I was always writing, it wasn’t always a play, I just had the need to write. At RCA I wrote a lot of the liner notes and synopsis. I was always preparing myself for that day when I was in London wasn’t working and my brain said why don’t you write? My brain just opened up, it needed the space to be freed up and so that is how it evolved.
Ollie – when did you decide acting was for you?
I always watched films as a kid, like Spider-Man and action films and I thought oh my that’s amazing, I want to do that. Then I went to a Saturday stage group and realised that actually it wasn’t really like that but it was still amazing and knew I wanted to do it. At 11 or 12 I got a job at the Donmar Warehouse doing a David Mamet play which was three-hander. I was lucky enough to get an agent through that and I’ve just carried on doing it. When you are a kid you have no inhibitions you take it for granted. I’ve been back at the Donmar since, as an adult and I was terrified, and actually felt I was much better at it when I was a kid. I feel I’m a much worse actor now – laughing.
If you could be a super hero who would you be?
Ollie – Spider-Man hands down
Bill – Maggie Smith truly who wouldn’t want to be Maggie Smith?
If you could go back in time, when would you go back to and why?
Ollie – I think I’d like to go back to whenever they wore top hats. I just love the thought of that.
Bill – I think I’d go back to 1930’s in the depression. Because I think everyone was in the same boat and everyone wanted to find a way out. You know the feeling of we’re all in it together, it would bring out the best of people
Who is the most influential person in the world today?
Ollie – Donald Trump and the media there’s just no going back, the worst has happened.
Bill – For the wrong reasons it’s got to be Donald Trump. It’s horrible I haven’t been able to read a newspaper or watch the news since November it’s just too painful and upsetting.