SCHENECTADY – Richard Michael Roe always takes a good look at any script before heading out to audition, but having a director he respects along with a unique venue certainly makes the decision to step out on stage a lot easier.
“This was a very interesting project, Chris Foster has directed around here for years, and I trust him very much,” said Roe, who is starring in the Harbinger Theatre production of Nicky Silver’s “The Agony and The Agony,” opening tonight and running through Dec. 17 at Union College’s Yulman Theatre. “The opportunity to work with him and Harbinger Theatre on a collaboration with Union College just seemed like a great idea to me.”
A retired schoolteacher in the Schenectady City School District, Roe is a native of Gouverneur up near the St. Lawrence Seaway and a long-time Scotia resident. Well known in the Capital Region theater community as an actor and director, he last performed at Curtain Call Theatre in “The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey” in January of 2019.
“I hadn’t done anything since I retired from teaching and since COVID-19,” said Roe. “I looked at a few things but nothing really felt right. You always have that feeling of uncertainty and there’s a margin of error, especially with the pandemic, so you kind of go toward what you know, and I know Chris will push to have things done right. It was a long time for me not to perform, and I was getting antsy, but I know that Chris will make this a good working environment.”
Joining Roe on the Yulman Theatre stage will be Lisa Bryk, Josh Jenkins, Aileem Penn, Dennis Skiba and Olivia Watson. The play follows the trials and tribulations of a struggling playwright, Richard Aglow, played by Skiba.
“It’s a play about theater people and how they struggle and fight and bicker and live on the edge, but how they also keep on coming back,” said Roe, whose character is named Anton, a slimy producer interested in staging Richard’s newest play. “They have these tiny flickers of hope, and that’s what keeps them involved in theater.”
Bryk plays Lela, Richard’s wife, who is having an affair with Chet, played by Penn. Jenkins plays Nathan, a ghost with a murderous past, and Watson is Anita, Chet’s pregnant girlfriend.
“The Agony and The Agony” is in some ways autobiographical as Silver, a Philadelphia native now living in London, went through a tough time in his writing career two decades ago. “The Agony and The Agony” was first produced in 2006.
Harbinger Theatre co-founder Patrick White was familiar with Silver’s work, and he and Foster had also been to a number of Union College productions over the years. They were happy to hear the school’s Department of Theatre and Dance would be interested in working with their new theater troupe.
“Harbinger is over the moon to work with this world-class college theater department with all its resources and expertise on our lark about theater love,” said White. “The Capital Region has all manner of theater available and we’re ecstatic with this sterling opportunity.”
It was Union, however, and specifically the theater department’s scenic designer, Andrew Mannion, who made the first move.
“We’re always talking about reaching out to the community or bringing the community in to work together, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity,” said Mannion in a press release.
“The Agony and The Agony” is Harbinger Theatre’s sixth and final play of its very first season. All of its productions were touted as Capital Region premieres and were staged at either the Albany Barn or the Opalka Gallery on the campus of the Sage College of Albany.
The Yulman Theatre is a small black box theater, a space Roe is anxious to perform in.
“It’s a great venue, and it’s one of those places with great parking and comfortable seats,” said Roe. “Working with a college theater department you get some special elements added to the experience. We have great costume design, a great set, great lighting. I’m really looking forward to it.”
‘The Agony and the Agony’
WHAT: A Nicky Silver play co-produced by the Harbinger Theatre and Union College
WHERE: Yulman Theatre, Union College, Schenectady
WHEN: Opens today and runs through Dec. 17; performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday
HOW MUCH: $15
MORE INFO: Email [email protected], or call 518 779-2803