Beginnings an appropriate theme for ATF

Although the Adirondack Theatre Festival season won’t begin until June, ATF fans will have an opport
Mark Fleischer
Mark Fleischer

For Mark Fleischer, one of the most important parts of going to the theater comes after the curtain goes down — when you talk about what you just saw.

Fleischer, the new producing artistic director at the Adirondack Theatre Festival who came to Glens Falls by way of Texas and Chicago, hopes to give audience members plenty of opportunity to offer some feedback when the 2008 season begins later this year.

“For me, one of the most rewarding experiences you can have is hearing the audience respond to your work,” said Fleischer, who spent nine years building a professional theater in suburban Dallas and the past five years directing regional productions in the Chicago area. “The writer has the idea, the director and the actors put on the show, and then the audience completes the loop by discussing what they saw. That’s what makes live theater so great. Sometimes, you get the opportunity to discuss things with the artists, and we’re going to try to do that quite a bit.”

Although the season won’t begin until June, ATF fans will have an opportunity to be entertained and find out more about those providing the entertainment when “Broadway Beginnings,” ATF’s 14th annual Winter Benefit, comes to the Charles R. Wood Theater in Glens Falls on Friday night at 7. The cast of last summer’s smash ATF hit, “tick . . . tick . . . Boom” — Colin Hanlon, Sarah Glendening and Ryan Duncan — will be doing the performing.

“It’s great that they wanted to come back and work our benefit along with our musical director Gary Adler,” said Fleischer. “They made a connection with our audience, and now we’re going to have sort of our own ‘Inside the Actor’s Studio.’ I’m going to be asking them some questions about how they got into the business, and our audience will also ask some questions and learn more about the people who are behind the wonderful pieces ATF has been producing.”

Fleischer was named to succeed ATF co-founders David Turner and Martha Banta last summer and began working in his new position on Nov. 5. He knew very little about the Glens Falls theater company when he saw a listing for the position of artistic director in a trade magazine early last year.

“I looked into the place a little bit and found out they were involved in quite an extensive search process, which I thought was good,” said Fleischer. “I sent a letter of inquiry, and learned that they did quite a bit of new plays and had a strong educational component, which I really liked. It fascinated me that this little summer theater had done something like 15 world premieres in 13 years.”

Drawn to theater

Fleischer was born in Kingston, but his family moved out of New York to Texas when he was 4. He attended Austin College, a small liberal arts school in Sherman, Texas. He graduated with a degree in English, but he always knew the theater was going to be a big part of his life.

“I started out acting in high school, but even back then I was more intrigued by the directing part,” said Fleischer. “It’s not that I’m a control freak, but I just liked the idea of putting all the pieces together. I actually went to college thinking I was going to be a doctor, but then I realized how much I loved the theater. I loved the storytelling.”

After graduating from Austin College, Fleischer worked for nine years developing a small community theater in suburban Dallas into a professional theater. When his wife, Anne, went to graduate school at the University of Michigan, he followed her north and ended up getting his own master’s degree in theater at DePaul University in Chicago.

“I got involved in the Steppenwolf Theatre Company and worked reading scripts for the Goodman School of Drama,” said Fleischer. “I love Chicago and I created a weekend package to be sold at our benefit’s silent auction. I hope to continue to direct some shows in the Chicago area during our off-season.”

Willing to take risks

Fleischer hopes to direct at least one ATF show every season, although he probably will take a pass in 2008 to make sure his first year on the job runs smoothly.

“I’m probably not going to direct anything the first year, and we most likely won’t have a world premiere,” he said. “But the Adirondack Theatre Festival will continue to offer great stories and great storytelling, and people will continue to see high-quality productions with accomplished directors and actors. We’re going to take some risks, and while I’d like every show to be a hit, I think it’s important to take risks. That’s not as applauded in this country as it should be. Taking risks is what ATF is all about. It’s part of our mission, and that’s one of the things that really attracted me to the place.”

Fleischer says he and his wife plan to get better acquainted with the entire Capital Region and its theater community.

“We’re learning about Glens Falls, and we’re also learning that Albany and this entire region has a wonderful group of professional actors,” said Fleischer. “We’re part of a community of artists, and we’re going to try to get to know as many people in that community as we can.”

“Broadway Beginnings” is limited to 280 tickets that range in price from $60 to $75. Along with Fleischer’s weekend package to Chicago, among the other items to be auctioned off are tickets to Broadway performances, as well as tickets to television shows, including “The Daily Show” and “Saturday Night Live.”

‘Broadway Beginnings’

WHERE: Adirondack Theatre Festival at the Charles R. Wood Theatre, 207 Glen St., Glens Falls

WHEN: 7 p.m., Friday

HOW MUCH: $75 to $60

MORE INFO: 798-7479 or www.ATFestival.org

Categories: Life and Arts

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