Tuesday, February 12, 2013


James Ridge returns to MCT as The Librarian in UNDERNEATH THE LINTEL. This is the third one-man show he has been in with Michael Wright as director - the first two were DICKENS IN AMERICA and A NIGHT IN NOVEMBER. He is in his 16th season as a member of the acting company at American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wisconsin.  We asked Jim to share some thoughts about this one-man show...

James Ridge
Tell us a bit about The Librarian. 
Glen Berger's protagonist in Underneath the Lintel is an unmarried lifer in the tiny bureaucracy of a library in Hoofdorrp, the Netherlands.  He has no name in the play, he is known only as "the librarian", like so many of us who seem to define ourselves by what we do; and his little life is well-contained and well-defined with few expectations and fewer surprises.  He is a man of the mind.  Surrounded by books and the wealth of knowledge they offer, he has an uncanny grasp of the details of history, but he is a man of little personal experience of the world.  He is, seemingly, the least likely person to be drawn into a wild goose chase around the world. 

Why do you think the librarian decided to tell his story this way? Why did he choose to rent a theater, rather than write a book? 
I believe that the librarian naively thinks that if he puts up a few posters announcing an "impressive presentation" he will have a standing-room-only opportunity to share the details of his all consuming search and the compelling conclusions he has drawn.  He wants to present the facts in person, face to face with the world, and immediately.  The most important reason for presenting his "lovely eveydences" in public may be more subliminal. His search has brought about great change in this solitary man---he has awakened the artist inside of himself:  he now feels that he has no choice but to make something out of his experiences, to create.

Talk about the benefits and challenges of being in a one-man show. Also, this is the third one-man show you’ve been in under the direction of Michael Wright. Is it helpful working with the same director, especially on this kind of play? 
James Ridge in MCT's
One of the toughest challenges for me of working on a one-person play is to quiet the voice in my head screaming out that I am in no way interesting enough to hold anyone's attention (including my own boys') for 90 minutes.  Or more than 90 minutes when you consider a whole rehearsal period---poor Michael Wright (director) and Judy Martel (stage manager). But, as so often happens in life, that greatest challenge, when embraced, becomes the greatest benefit.  After so many years of working on plays, I have discovered that I can turn the pressure I feel to be "interesting" into a process of seeking out specificity.  Trust the play, trust the words and ideas, and trust my imagination to create a specific, detailed life to share with the audience.  Here is where working with Michael over the years pays off:  I trust his wisdom, I trust his attention to detail, I trust his great compassion and love for humanity.  And we have great trust in other's creative process---we don't know how it will work out, but we know that it will. That is a joy-full thing.

What are some of your favorite moments in theatre that made you who you are today? 
All well-told stories are compelling to me, so any time I experience a play in which what my eyes are telling my brain meshes with what my ears are telling my brain--I feel more fully human, I feel alive and blessed.

Thank you Jim! We can't wait for UNDERNEATH THE LINTEL (Feb. 20 - March 17)!

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