Movers and Shakers Q&A: Mark Edward Lang

Hello Beautiful People,

Mark Edward Lang is an actor, director, teacher, and designer – he’s the epitome of a mover and shaker in show biz! His favorite roles include Captain Robert Scott (lead) in Terra Nova and Jack in The Importance of Being Earnest (Hilton Head Playhouse, SC), The Actor (lead, dual role) in The Guardsman (East Lynne Theater, NJ), seven roles in the Irish comedy Stones in his Pockets (Open Stage of Harrisburg), Kosti in Welcome Home Marian Anderson (Off-Broadway & tour, including Clinton Presidential Center in Arkansas). He’s performed Shakespeare, Molière, and new works in NYC and 35 states on tour; as well as directing, corporate training and teaching workshops. Native New Yorker, and graduate of Vassar College (Kazan Prize). As a playwright, Mark has developed the project Lunt and Fontanne: The Celestials of Broadway.

Needless to say – he’s the perfect addition to our Movers and Shakers Q&A Series. So, without further ado, meet Mark Edward Lang!


 

MM: First things first, can you tell our readers about Lunt and Fontanne?

MARK EDWARD LANG: People don’t know much about actor-couple Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne these days, as they only made one Hollywood movie, back in 1931; but they were the biggest stars of the stage from the 1920s through the 1950s… so big, a theater on Broadway was named after them (a very rare honor for an actor). They were totally devoted to each other, and to the art of acting on the stage: they chose to play almost exclusively together, as a team. In fact they turned down a huge million dollar offer from Hollywood in the 1930s, to retain control over their careers and to remain on the stage, their true love and vocation.

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Justin Hoch Photography

MM: How did you come to develop the show?

MEL: It was both an exhausting and exhilarating labor of love and a practical decision… my play LUNT AND FONTANNE: THE CELESTIALS OF BROADWAY is both a way to discover and celebrate The Lunts, and to create work for myself and my wife Alison J. Murphy. Seven years of research, thought, writing and rewriting went into the project, and hopefully we do this great couple justice. We play them, over the course of four decades– and a number of other cameo characters, including everyone from friends Noel Coward, Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, to an audition by a very young and unpredictable Marlon Brando. The show covers the full arc of their careers and their lives, from their early courtship to their triumphs in “Taming of the Shrew” and “The Guardsman,” the shock of World War II, and the challenges of growing older… as the Actors Studio generation came into vogue they lost out on great roles such as the leads in “Death of a Salesman.” The highs and lows of life, marriage, and a career in the theater… it’s all there, in a brisk 90 minute show played by just two performers. Easy to produce and tour, which was also part of the concept. It was so much fun to finally play it on stage in New York back in May 2015 to sell-out crowds, including a performance on our 12th Wedding Anniversary! More about the show is at www.luntandfontanne.com.

MM: Just for fun, what sound do you love? What sound do you hate?

MEL: As an actor I should say the sound of applause, but I’ll say on behalf of both of us that we love the sound of the ocean, as we met down the shore in Cape May, New Jersey. The sound we hate is the noise of construction, as they’ve been endlessly digging the Second Avenue Subway tunnels near us for years now!

MM: Just for fun, if we were to walk into your home, what books are permanently on your bookshelf?

MEL: There are a lot! Some of my favorites are, of course, theatrical biographies Laurence Olivier’s “Confessions of an Actor” and the Tony Coleman biography of him, “This is Orson Welles” by Peter Bogdanovich, Arthur Miller’s memoir “Timebends” and Elia Kazan’s “A Life”… Also lots of Shakespeare and related books – one excellent overview is Norrie Epstein’s “The Friendly Shakespeare.” Also a number of Malcolm Gladwell books (take your pick), and to sum it all up in a way, Ken Robinson’s “The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything”… that’s a good one, or your readers can check out his TED talks on education here: http://www.ted.com/speakers/sir_ken_robinson.

MM: Just for fun, if you were stranded on a desert island, what movies and/or television shows would you want available to you?

MEL: We love the old black and white Turner Classic Movies classics; Alison’s favorites include Carole Lombard films. I enjoy the varied and rich work of Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, Fritz Lang (no relation), Chaplin and Olivier, and I am a big old-school “Star Trek” and “Twilight Zone” fan, so any of those shows would work for me too.

MM: In today’s climate, arts education programs are often under attack. Why would you advocate for keeping arts education programming in schools?

MEL: Great question. For me, Arts in the schools have been a lifeline and inspiration! I love to draw, paint, design, direct, write, teach, and of course perform. None of those things would have been possible without the great opportunities I had in New York Public Schools such as P.S. 198 and Hunter High, and at Vassar College, where I majored in drama with a broad-based liberal arts curriculum that included everything from dance, language, theater and philosophy to working as a radio DJ and taking 300-level scenic design.

MM: What’s the best piece of advice you’d want to give to students who wish to pursue a career in the arts?

MEL: Well… to be honest, it’s hard. Very hard to make a living at it, so it has to be something you really, really want. I’d say it’s good to be flexible, to have options other than your main goal… and don’t give up.

MM: What do you hope audiences walk away with after seeing Lunt and Fontanne?

MEL: We’d like audiences to experience Alfred and Lynn’s amazing career of stage triumphs, of course (we perform scenes from their signature plays), but also as very real people with real problems, who weather the ups and downs of life with humor, tenacity and grace… as great artists, but also flawed and complex people just like everybody else.

MM: Who is/was your greatest teacher?

MEL: That’s a hard one, because there have been so many. As an actor, I learned a hell of a lot from an actor-director from the Royal Shakespeare Company named Anthony Naylor. The rudiments that he taught the cast years ago, directing us for touring shows with the National Shakespeare Company, have stayed with me ever since, and I’ve incorporated much of this technique into my own acting and Shakespeare workshops I teach with Alison.

Thank you, Mark! And for all of our readers, be sure to visit markedwardlang.com for additional information.

Live, Love, Learn,

Megan & The Write Teacher(s) 

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Movers and Shakers Q&A: Mark Edward Lang