STEADY HAND: Mil­burn Stone main­stay re­turns to di­rect ‘ The Women of Locker­bie’

Mil­burn Stone main­stay re­turns to di­rect ‘The Women of Locker­bie’

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By JOE ANTOSHAK jan­toshak@ches­pub.com

ELK­TON — Mar­shall B. Gar­rett sat with his eyes look­ing off at the wall above some nearby vending ma­chines. The 29-year-old di­rec­tor of Mil­burn Stone Theatre’s up­com­ing pro­duc­tion of “The Women of Locker­bie” was con­sid­er­ing how other peo­ple — namely, the play’s ac­tors — must view his de­meanor.

He didn’t jump to any def­i­nite con­clu­sions be­cause, as he noted him­self, how could he pos­si­bly know what oth­ers were think­ing?

“I like to think re­spect­ful, first and fore­most,” Gar­rett said. “A lot of times my job is not re­ally just to tell them where to stand, though I do that too, but it’s also to be a re­cep­tive, open au­di­ence to them, and to hear what they’re say­ing. Say, ‘That rings true to me, that doesn’t,’ and ‘Let’s find the honesty in that mo­ment.’”

Gar­rett, who was born in Colorado and raised in Ohio, comes across as dis­arm­ingly warm and thought­ful in per­son, al­most stereo­typ­i­cally Mid­west­ern. “I’m a steady stream,” he joked. He’s quick to laugh and quicker to make other peo­ple laugh, or at least to make them feel com­fort­able. The cur­rent pro­duc­tion man- ager, Dann Combs, said that com­pared to some of the other di­rec­tors he’s had to work with, Gar­rett has been a re­lief: pa­tient and easy­go­ing, at least as much as can be ex­pected of a di­rec­tor mid-pro­duc­tion.

This di­rect­ing gig is his first at Mil­burn Stone since 2014, when he left his role as res­i­dent di­rec­tor to earn two masters de­grees at Mary Bald­win Col­lege in Vir­ginia. He was wel­comed back with open arms for this show.

Part of that prob­a­bly has to do with his his­tory with the the­ater. He got his first job at Mil­burn Stone in 2010 as the as­sis­tant man­ag­ing di­rec­tor and, within a year, he was pro­moted to the full-time po­si­tion of pro­duc­tion man­ager. In 2012, he earned the un­of­fi­cial ti­tle of res­i­dent di­rec­tor — he was di­rect­ing about half the shows.

The the­ater holds a spe­cial place in his heart for other rea­sons, too. He met his wife, Theresa Gar­rett, in the cast of “Ham­let” in 2011. When they mar­ried in Au­gust 2014, Mil­burn Stone moved the date of that month’s mu­si­cal so there would be no per­for­mance or re­hearsal on the day of the wed­ding.

Gar­rett was also in­stru­men­tal in join­ing the old with the new when the com­pany re- branded from the “Cov­ered Bridge Theatre” to its cur­rent ideation.

“There was a con­tin­gent of peo­ple that had been part of the Cov­ered Bridge Theatre for two decades, three decades, who were ap­pre­hen­sive that the the­ater was not go­ing to be the the­ater any­more,” Gar­rett said. “So that was my goal, to make sure that they all knew that the the­ater was go­ing to re­tain its soul, that we were go­ing to con­tinue to be what we had al­ways been, and that they would al­ways have a home here.”

De­bra R. McGuire, who plays an ex­tremely poignant ver­sion of Olive Al­li­son in “The Women of Locker­bie,” is one of those the­ater vet­er­ans who holds him in high re­gard. The Mid­dle­town, Del., res­i­dent has been with the com­pany for more than three decades.

“Mar­shall knows what he wants and he has a re­ally good way of lead­ing peo­ple there,” McGuire said. “I don’t want to say he’s un­usual, but he’s very re­fresh­ing.”

“The Women of Locker­bie,” writ­ten by Deb­o­rah Brevoort, fol­lows the story of a New Jersey wife and hus­band griev­ing for their son, who has died in the ter­ror­ist bomb­ing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Locker­bie, Scot­land, in 1988. The two come to know sev­eral of the lo­cal women, who help them un­der­stand the mean­ing of their loss and how to over­come the anger as­so­ci­ated with it. It’s a dark play (both lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively in this pro­duc­tion) but it ends with a glow­ing ray of light.

Af­ter the Wed­nes­day dress re­hearsal at Elk­ton Sta­tion, Gar­rett as­sem­bled the cast and went over some crit­i­cism he had for the per­for­mance. These were the typ­i­cal point­ers, mostly re­lated to tim­ing and ca­dence, and he de­liv­ered them calmly with fre­quent uh’s and um’s — not out of ner­vous­ness, but as if to lessen the blow. He seemed to want the cast to feel he was on the same level as them, rather than some­where above.

Of course, with the crit­i­cism came praise. If an ac­tor could do one thing bet­ter, he or she was still do­ing an­other thing very well. Ev­ery­one seemed to take well to this. At one point, a litany of happy, laugh­ing voices emerged from the the­ater room, shat­ter­ing the ten­sion still lin­ger­ing from the grief play they’d com­pleted.

If the cast of “The Women of Locker­bie” doesn’t like each other, they’re at least very good at fak­ing it. Gar­rett might have some­thing to do with that.

“The Women of Locker­bie” runs this week­end with per­for­mances Fri­day and Satur­day at 8 p.m., and Sun­day at 3 p.m. Tick­ets can be pur­chased at mil­burn­stone.com or at the door — $15.

CE­CIL WHIG PHO­TOS BY JOE ANTOSHAK

The the­ater set-up dur­ing a dress re­hearsal for “The Women of Locker­bie” on Wed­nes­day. The pro­duc­tion team hung clothes from poles along the ceil­ing and for much of the play a line of blue denim ar­ti­cles di­vides the stage. Gar­rett is sit­ting in the seat near­est to the cen­ter. At just 29 years old, Mar­shall B. Gar­rett has es­tab­lished him­self as one of Mil­burn Stone Theatre’s most pro­lific and pop­u­lar di­rec­tors. He’s the man in charge of this week­end’s pro­duc­tion of “The Women of Locker­bie” at Elk­ton Sta­tion.

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