Tonight at thestudio@620: ‘The Tiger’
Here’s the pitch: An intelligent but serially unhappy young man kidnaps a suburban housewife, but his nefarious intentions turn inside out as they begin to talk – and find they have many, many things in common.
The play is The Tiger, a one-act by Murray Schisgal (Tootise, LUV) onstage tonight – for just this one performance – at thestudio@620. Schisgal’s unusual comedy is presented in a visually augmented staged reading by veteran local actors John Huls and Kathi Grau.
Schisgal (1926-2000) was a Drama Desk and Tony Award-winning playwright whose first successes came in the 1960s. The Tiger was generally paired with another Schisgal one-act, The Typists.
“He was a very underrated writer, for many years, until he did Tootsie,” points out actor Grau. “The theater crowd in New York loved him – the actors that he wrote for, his stable, were Anne Jackson and Eli Wallach. They starred in The Typist and The Tiger on Broadway.”
Grau has a long history with theater in the bay area. In the 1970s, she was an integral part of Tampa’s Playmakers acting company, was the co-founder and artistic director of the children’s theater company TA-DA (Tampa Alliance of Dramatic Arts) – which is where she first met actor and improv artist John Huls (known these days for his captaincy of the Dirty John’s sketch comedy troupe).
Although TA-DA actors sometimes toured Pinellas County, Grau explains, “Until American Stage opened up, nobody came over to St. Pete to work.”
Grau was one of the co-founders of Guavaween, Ybor’s City’s legendary Halloween festival, which in its salad days attracted more than 100,000 people annually. She was Mama Guava, the event’s pubic spokesperson and centerpiece of the semi-debauched nighttime parade and festivities. She did this for nearly 30 years.
Grau switched gears and dived head-first into education. She was the director of the drama, dance, and filmmaking programs at Hillsborough’s Berkeley Preparatory School for nearly three decades.
“I loved it,” she says. “That was my life. I was challenged by my headmaster – ‘I don’t care what it takes. I’ve got your back. I want the best damn theater program going.’ And I took that challenge very seriously.
“I still worked onstage sometimes, but I had to decide. It was killing me to do these shows. We had a full season at Berkeley that was really very good. And so many of my kids are in the business now, in all shapes and sizes. I always felt, first and foremost, that I was a teacher.”
Along with Master’s in Directing, Grau has a B.A. in visual art – her specialty is digitally-manipulated photography. She’s married to orchestra conductor Bruce LeBaron.
The couple moved to downtown St. Pete from Tampa seven years ago, and she started directing again, one step at a time, and working with thestudio@620’s monthly Radio Theatre Project. “I just fell in love with Bob Devin Jones and his whole concept of the studio,” Grau says.
Tickets for tonight’s performance are here.