are usually a place where Memphis actors go to laugh together and celebrate the passing of another season. And it will be that again this year, of course. But having lost so many key players and personalities in the past year, it may also be a place where this tempest-tossed community goes for revival — and a big public cry.
Brian Eno famously contemplated the meaning of success
by speculating that each of the 30,000 people who purchased a Velvet Underground record went out and started a band. That's become a rock-and-roll cliche, but on a regional scale, similar math might be applied to George Touliatos’ relatively short-lived but enormously influential Front Street Theater
. The professional venture, co-founded with actress Barbara Cason
, has been described as “a merry go round in quicksand,”
but it was also a launching pad for artists like Cason, Dixie Carter
, George Hearn
and, of course, Touliatos
Beloved Memphis performers like Dorothy Blackwood
, Barry Fuller
and Bennett Wood
also trace origin stories to Front Street. It inspired and informed the development of Playhouse on the Square. Touliaotos' theater may only have lasted a dozen years or so, but its influence touches every corner
of the contemporary Memphis theater landscape.
Touliatos died in Washington and hasn’t been a consistent part of the Memphis Theater family for a long time, but it’s impossible to imagine what that family might look today like without him.
Tony Anderson on the right.
Speaking of cliches, I’m pretty sure the expression “big things come in small packages,” was created to describe Anthony “Tony” Anderson who’s been one of my favorite actors for as long as I can remember. Anderson was a generous performer. He launched himself into parts with jarring force and seemed to have such a good time on stage it was impossible not to have a good time watching him, whether he was working out on a weighty classic like Master Harold… and the Boys
or lending his talent to an unknown, unproven scripts
written by local authors.
This year the Memphis theater community also says goodbye to icons and stars like Ann Sharp
, Charles Billings
, David Foster
, and Greg Krosnes
. We've lost touchstone choreographer and lifetime achievement honoree Otis Smith
, and character actor David Muskin
, whose performance as Solly Two-Kings in August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean
was a masterclass in subtlety and understatement.
A tribute is being planned for the August 26th award ceremony. Bring your own tissue.
Ostrander tickets are available here.