Letters of Recommendation
What brings me back time and again to Allan's work is the music of his language, his honesty with and his compassion for his subjects, and the obvious fact that, decades into his theatrical career, he still pursues relentlessly the fun of genuinely new theatrical creation. His greatest strengths, as his resume will suggest, have been as an adapter of literary sources and an interpreter of notable historical figures. These are not, however, grooved or formulaic genres for him. His extraordinary play So Much Remains , for example, weaves together adaptations of Katherine Mansfield's stories and scenes from her life in a complex fabric in which the truths and absurdities of each are amplified by the other. His adaptation of The Red Badge of Courage alternates between the book's scenes of the horror of war and exuberant explosions of song from the popular music of the period. That description really does not do Red Badge justice, however; the play somehow manages to be a fearsome psychological narrative, socio-historical artifact, and a viscerally joyful musical all at the same time, especially if full theatrical advantage is taken of the battle scenes. And if I might cite one more example, I must mention the docudrama Sing ForMe, Naxhie that he wrote together with his wife Laura, in 1989 several years before most Americans had ever heard of Kosovo. The play treats the Serbian occupation of that unfortunate land from both sides of the conflict with a compassion, humor, and acuity of observation that drew admiration and spontaneous shouts of approval from audiences that included Albanian Kosovars, Serbs, and casual theatergoers in both of its first two Chicago productions. I have never experienced as pure a thrill in the theatre as I did during those performances of Naxhie.
I have not mentioned yet his finest play, Yellow Heat , the second act of which is a riveting duet between Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh that I have seen succeed in four separate incarnations. But enough of praise for his work; I could go on. His plays will reward those who see them.
I cannot end this letter without recommending him as a collaborator. He is that most unusual creator who embraces the contributions of actors and directors alike in a way that makes passionate conspirators of the entire company. There is not an ounce of affectation or self-superiority in the man, even as he relishes an intense rehearsal as much as any perfectionist. He stays out of the way, but once they meet him and work with him everybody wishes he were there all the time.
For all the above reasons, I urge serious consideration of Allan Bates' plays. If I can provide further advice or support to anyone doing so, my permanent phone number in St. Louis is 314-968-9424.
John Austin, Artistic Director, Illinois College Theatreworks
Dear Theatre Colleague:
I am delighted to write this letter of recommendation for Allan Bates’ script Yellow Heat and, indeed for Allan himself.
As Associate Artistic Director of Next Theatre, I served in an advisory capacity when we premiered the play in 1996. By that point, Allan had been working on the script for some time and was quite clear in his vision of the play, yet he was at all times a true collaborator and a gentleman (if I can say that as genuine praise in this day and age!). He is a good listener, open to thoughts and suggestions and always ready to make the script cleaner and leaner.
Yellow Heat thrusts us into Van Gogh’s working process as an artist, framed by the small community in southern France in which he lived and worked, with great sympathy for the villagers’ points of view. Allan deftly examines the humanity of each character and the changes wrought in their lives by the crossing of their paths; it is quite a lovely study of the small moments (as well as some big ones) in human lives.
Van Gogh’s work gives great scope for the visual life of the production. I remember it as saturated with color and texture and intensely visual—though that may not be immediately apparent in the text. Drool over a guidebook to Provence as you read to help you visualize!
As far as practical concerns, it is a small cast, single set (or can be), and an extremely well known central character with high name recognition. Yes, you really need slides/projections, but what project worth doing doesn’t have at least one challenge?!
I recommend that you take a close look at Yellow Heat and put it on your sh9ort list for the upcoming season. If you have any questions or if I can be of help in any way, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Arthur Feinsod, Artistic Director
To Whom It May Concern:
I am the Artistic Director of Raven Theatre, an award-winning, Chicago-based company that has been producing American theatre since 1983. I would like to introduce you to playwright Allan Bates. I have the pleasure of knowing Allan for over fifteen years, during which time Raven Theatre has produced four of his plays while he served as our Playwright-in-Residence. His plays have always been well-crafted, easily staged and generally have a sense of timeliness. They have attracted full (and occasionally over-full) audiences. Audiences and critics responded enthusiastically to each of our productions.
Give the dominant political climate of the nation today, his one-character, one-act “How to Grow Beans,” extracted from Thoreau’s Walden, is particularly timely now. This project can be easily mounted in any size theatre and it can also travel to schools and other centers, if need be.
Allan is an extremely pleasant individual, as well as a very co-operative playwright. We remain friends even after he has moved from Chicago.
I highly recommend Mr. Bates and his play “How to Grow Beans,” as a strong selection for your artistic programming.
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