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‘Satchmo’ starts Friday: A conversation with L. Peter Callender and Ted Lange

Bill DeYoung

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For the entire 10 years he starred as bartender Isaac Washington on TV’s The Love Boat, Ted Lange says, neither of the show’s executive producers, Aaron Spelling or Douglas Cramer, ever came to his house. They didn’t attend his production parties or other celebrations. They didn’t even show up at his wedding.

Lange, who’s directing American Stage’s virtual production of Satchmo at the Waldorf, was the only Black member of the Love Boat cast. The executive producers were white.

In this Catalyst video interview, the veteran actor, playwright and director notes that Spelling and Cramer always seemed to show up at shindigs thrown by white cast members.

And this situation closely parallels one in Satchmo at the Waldorf, the one-person play about jazz icon Louis Armstrong. The great man and his white manager, while they were great friends, never socialized.

“There’s some kind of dynamic that’s in there that we don’t necessarily think about,” explains Lange. “But that’s what’s going on.”

L. Peter Callender, who plays Armstrong (along with aforementioned manager Joe Glaser and fellow trumpet legend Miles Davies) believes this dynamic was hurtful for Armstrong.

“It touched him deeply,” says Callender, who’s directed (and performed in) numerous American Stage productions. “It was the same relationship he had with Bing Crosby. They knew each other for over 40 years … and they liked each other genuinely, but in the 40 years Bing Crosby also never invited him over to his house.”

Callender and Lange came together for this far-reaching conversation, touching on their longtime friendship and mutual admiration society, the works of William Shakespeare, the challenges of virtual production and the joys of making creative discoveries, even under such unusual conditions.

Written by Wall Street Journal theater critic Terry Teachout, Satchmo at the Waldorf begins streaming Friday. Tickets here.

Click on the arrow above to watch the full interview.

L. Peter Callender in “Satchmo at the Waldorf.” Photo: American Stage

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