From 1997 (when I first found out about it; see below) until 2010 (when the company ended an extraordinary 55-year run in Manhattan), Theater Ten Ten presented 36 shows at their welcoming space in the basement of the Park Avenue Christian Church. I saw 30 of them. And I wrote about them all, though alas 4 of the reviews from the early years have sadly disappeared.
(When you click that link, you’ll find 32 matches. That’s because other nytheatre.com reviewers wrote about the shows I missed.)
Theater Ten Ten was an indie Equity company that specialized in Shakespeare and classic musicals. They did make the occasional foray into producing brand new work, but revivals were their bread and butter. So you wouldn’t think they’d be an indie company that I loved.
But they were exactly that, because the defining element of Ten Ten was an abiding and enduring sense of community. Judith Jarosz and David Fuller, who were the leaders of the company during the dozen-plus years I went there, made their audiences and, I think, their artistic collaborators all feel at home, like part of a big family. They worked with many of the same directors over and over (like David Scott, Lynn Marie Macy, Tom Rowan) and even more of the same performers over and over (Jason Wynn, Greg Horton, Lorinda Lisitza, David Tillistrand, and Cristiane Young are some that come immediately to mind).
And of course Judith and David were almost always either on stage or behind the scenes directing and/or designing. I just found this great photo of David in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2007):
About David in that show, I wrote: “Fuller’s Bottom (so to speak) is dazzlingly earnest and dazzlingly dumb: when he makes his first entrance as Pyramus, it is with a heady gravitas such as I’ve not seen since Jack Benny took the stage for Hamlet’s big soliloquy in Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be or Not to Be.” (In the photo with David are Annalisa Loeffler as Puck and Lisa Riegel as Titania.)
Looking back over my review of Ten Ten’s Midsummer, which Judith directed, I note that this was the very first time I saw Nat Cassidy on stage. Nat went on to become a prolific contributor to nytheatre.com and, as a playwright, to Indie Theater Now. And that’s exactly to my point about the way David and Judith made community: they have spent their careers not just bringing classic shows to a diverse audience in an out-of-the-way location (Ten Ten was pretty much all by itself among indie theaters on the Upper East Side), but also nurturing the careers of so many others.
And I must include myself in that last bit, because Judith and David embraced nytheatre.com almost immediately. Both of them reviewed theater for us for more than a decade (go here and here for their reviews). One of David’s reviews was reprinted in a college text book.
David helped us with some of our very first podcasts, and Judith was part of the team that worked with us at MNN to make a few pilot episodes for a proposed TV version of Indie Theater Now. They hosted more than one of our play anthology book parties at the Ten Ten space (and also once at Jean Cocteau Repertory, which David ran for five seasons). They served on NYTE’s artistic advisory council for a decade.
I have many fond memories of the shows I saw at Ten Ten, but in some ways my fondest may be my first encounter with the company, in the fall of 1997. Here’s how it came about: right after I attended the first FringeNYC festival, publicist Ron Lasko invited me to review a production of Macbeth by The Basic Theater at walkerspace. This was perhaps the third or fourth time I’d been invited to review a show (as opposed to asking if I could); I was excited.
So the thing that impressed most about this Macbeth was the performance of an actor I’d never seen before named Scott Galbraith, who played Macduff. I mentioned him favorably in my (lost!) review of the show. And then a surprising thing happened–something that I don’t think had heretofore happened to me in my short tenure as nytheatre.com critic: Scott’s wife Florence emailed me a thank you, and then invited me to see Scott’s next show. He was going to be Laertes in Hamlet at Theater Ten Ten.
Off I went to this church on Park Avenue that I’d never even known about. And I was transported. After the show I went to the lobby area upstairs, where I met Florence and Scott in person. They introduced me to Judith and David.
I went to Theater Ten Ten and, for 13 years, I stayed.
The theater is gone; the church decided to re-purpose the space in 2010. Judith and David then re-purposed themselves, as founders of a new company, Theater 2020, in another area of New York that’s underserved by theater, namely Brooklyn Heights. They’re doing Shakespeare and classic musicals, mostly. They’re nurturing new talent. They’re continuing to make revivals of old plays fresh: in the Ten Ten days they moved The Pirates of Penzance to Nova Scotia and The Mikado to Singapore; this week, they’re doing a Macbeth, directed by David, set in the South Pacific during the 1960s.
What they did–and still do–is to never forget that the most important element in any production is the audience. Theater Ten Ten was all about doing work with immediacy and enthusiasm and love. I was honored to get to see, and write about, pretty much their entire body of work for a good long time.