Carlton Colyer
this is a work-in-progress. It will be updated as I find time. Thank you.

       I counted myself as a friend of Carlton's for twenty years, although we only worked together once.

       I had auditioned for a production at Brown University (I was majoring in Illustration at RISD at the time) for Gorky's The Lower Depths. I had the previous summer been reading the plays of Chekhov, then Magarshack's biography of him, and was eager to be in a 19th-century play.

      After being cast as Luka, I found Carl to be the sort of person who has reserves of power, used selectively. (He scared the hell out of me at first, particularly when he exploded about the heat being wasted in the theatre, and global warming.) His used a number of methods to get his actors to relax, and went out of his way to persuade us to immerse ourselves in the atmosphere of Gorky's time (having the Brown library nearby certainly helped). The production was a middling success --there was a vicious review in the Providence Eagle, though they tended to do that for nearly all of Brown's productions-- and we parted good friends, and kept in touch via a letter or two.

      A few years later, he asked me if I could provide several illustrations in the space of two days for his book The Art of Acting; I speedily drew them, but his publisher nixed the idea. On the plus side, it re-established a friendship and whenever I came up to Providence we got together for a drink or two, often at the restaurant 'Cav.' We found we both had an interest not only in the 19th century actors the Booths, but of the famous 19th century American comedian Joseph Jefferson (an interest Don Wilmeth also shared). I think he was vexed at my general timorousness when it came to branching out on my own: he would insist that I was, deep down, a Method actor, and I would insist I wasn't -- in truth I just went onstage and did the roles without much in the way of training; that's still pretty much the truth.

        I was sorry I never worked with Carl again. At his wake there were many people who knew him from his other 'lives,' and he touched many people. He's one of several lightly-disguised friends I put in my novel The Baton Rouge (and you can read "his" chapter here: it's Chapter 13, the first three-quarters of the book can be accessed on this website);  I think the accolade pleased him.

          I think he should have been given a theatre and a bookfull of O'Neill plays, a big budget, and allowed to Let 'Er Rip. Of course, he may be doing so Somewhere Else right now ...along with giving Junius Brutus Booth a piece of his mind.


back to Robert Bonotto's homepage