Home > Cynthia Citron > Audience becomes part of the action in ‘Waiting for Lefty’

Audience becomes part of the action in ‘Waiting for Lefty’

By Cynthia Citron

Cynthia Citron

LOS ANGELES–If you’ve always wanted to be in a play, you’ll get your big chance on September 3rd, when Director Charlie Mount brings Clifford Odets’ stirring Waiting for Lefty to the stage of Theatre West.  As an engaged member of the audience you’ll be expected to whoop and holler appropriately as the leaders of the taxi drivers’ union call for a strike for higher wages.

 “Many of the 16 cast members will be in the audience, too,” Mount says.  “And while we can’t force the audience to take part, we do intend to immerse them in the action.”

Written in 1935, Waiting for Lefty is an old-fashioned play full of outdated passion—or so it would seem.  But Charlie Mount thinks otherwise.  “It has its parallel in the present time,” he says, “when economic and political institutions are running amok and the people are calling for regulation.  We’ll be taking those universal elements and making them relevant.”

 “The audience knows that the Depression sucked,” Mount continues, “but this play personalizes that time by exploring the stories of different individuals: a couple who can’t marry because they can’t afford to, a woman who dies because her surgery was handled by an incompetent physician who happens to be the nephew of a Senator.”

The core of the play, Mount says, is “the choice between the dollar bill or a human life.”  (Could anything be more relevant in the time of BP?)  “It’s a look at democracy and capitalism from a different perspective,” he says.  “The taxi drivers want to change the world despite the fact that they recognize they might get hurt.”

He quotes Odets, who said, “A play is like shouting ‘Theatre!’ in a crowded fire…”  explaining “The theatre is a conflagration of ideas, and bringing life to that conflagration is what theatre is all about.”

The “Lefty” of the play’s title is the head of the union and, like Godot, he never shows up.  But “management” does, along with their gunman, to talk the drivers out of uniting and to label those calling for a strike “reds.”   It’s necessary for the union to prevail, however, as “It takes a village to make a revolution,” Mount says.

“We were told ‘It’s your fault!’ in the 1930s and we’re told that now,” he says.  “The rich have a vested interest in a system that exists to keep you where you are.”

Booms and busts are cyclical, and when there’s no work we’re told, “Go into the Army!  Go kill someone!” and those without work become cannon fodder.  “What power does the president actually have?” he asks rhetorically.  “At least the hippies had good music!”

Charlie Mount began his career as a cabaret clown and magician at the Magic Townhouse in New York.  “I was a cross between Harpo Marx and Penn and Teller,” he says.  He did stand-up in The Comedy Cellar in Greenwich Village and in nightclubs, resorts and casinos, and had the first play he wrote, The Indecent Act of Jeff Zelinski, produced Off Off Broadway in 1987.

Coming to Los Angeles in 1994, he joined Theatre Geo as an actor and playwright and had his play Trumpets and Table-Tipping, about Harry Houdini and a clairvoyant, produced at Theatre 40.  His next play, The Junto, was mounted at The Road Theatre and dealt with a secret government conspiracy and the six people who actually run the country.

Mount joined Theatre West in 1996, teaching acting and improv, and started directing.  Gaslight, Waiting in the Wings, and Acting—The First Six Lessons are among his recent hits.  Six years ago he founded “Chestnuts,” a new wing of Theatre West designed to stage classic plays, and he currently serves as its Producing Director.

For the past 11 years he has also served as General Manager of the Classic Arts Showcase, a free 24-hour arts channel available in more than 50 million American homes.  “It’s like MTV for the classic arts,” he says.

Mount has been married for 19 years to actress Arden Lewis, whom he met at the Drama Project collective in New York.  She currently runs a website, Reel Housewives of Theatre West, which is seen on YouTube.  The couple also writes plays for kids, such as It’s Elementary School, Watson.

His latest opus, Waiting for Lefty, will open September 3rd and run Fridays and Saturdays at 8 and Sundays at 2 through October 10th.  Theatre West is located at 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, in Los Angeles.  Call (323) 851-7977

Charlie invites you to come and bring your vocal chords.  And you don’t even have to audition!

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Citron is Los Angeles bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World             

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