Take Five | Five questions for Mark H. Dold
Mark H. Dold: No stranger to Barrington Stage, Mark H. Dold returns to Pittsfield, Mass., for a limited run of A.R. Gurney's "Love Letters." The actor — who was seen on the BSC stage in "Freud's Last Session" and "Breaking the Code " — will star opposite Debra Jo Rupp. Dold took time out of rehearsals for the show, which begins previews Thursday, Sept. 22, and runs through Oct. 2, to answer a few questions:
1. On its surface, "Love Letters" seems like a piece of cake. Two actors sitting next to each other at two desks, reading a series of letters exchanged between lifelong friends — one man, one woman — over a period of 50 years. So, what is your preparation like in approaching this material?: One Christmas holiday many years ago my father brought home cassette tapes of an old radio show called "The Cinnamon Bear." It first played in the Chicago area in 1937. ... I will never forget putting in the first cassette and being instantly wrapped. How does this apply to "Love Letters"? In preparing, I've been using the parallel of a great radio play. With no set, lights or costumes of any substance it's up to Debra Jo, Julie and I to take the audience on this 50-year adventure, which also begins in 1937, by painting pictures with our voices. It's theatre in it's purest form. It's original form. Storytelling.
2. What are the challenges, and rewards, for you as an actor in working on this play?: The thrill of a production like this is the amount of freedom you're afforded. That is also the great challenge. With nothing else to look at or listen to, I hope the audience finds us compelling. I should say me. Debra Jo is thoroughly compelling even standing still. Simply put, with this material there is nowhere to hide! Yikes. The great reward is knowing that you are completely responsible for the experience. When this material works there is no one else to credit (beyond the great writer and director). I love its simplicity and honesty and hope to just get out of the way. That may be the biggest challenge; trying to do too much with it. It's already the perfect package. You just have to hold it in your hands, gently, and offer it.
3. You've played a variety of roles in your career, especially at Barrington Stage. When you come across a script for consideration, what goes through your mind?: Well, if the job is at Barrington Stage, the odds are I'm going to say yes! Julie has the sharpest mind and the best taste. She's exposed me to material I never knew and parts I had no idea I could play. And great collaborators. Most importantly, my imagination has to fire. If I read material and that familiar little movie in my mind doesn't start to play, I know the material is not for me, or rather not for me right now. I'm also a director's actor. I LOVE directors. I love the partnership.
4. What are you reading these days?: Believe it or not, I just returned from an extraordinary 32-day adventure sailing through the Northwest Passage. We started in Seward, Alaska, and ended in New York City. My constant companion through that trip was Pierre Berton's "The Arctic Grail."
At almost 700 pages, it was suggested to me by BSC Associate Artist, Reneé Lutz. A stunning book especially sailing through this ecologically, culturally and historically significant part of our globe. My next read is "John Major: The Autobiography" by Prime Minister John Major in preparation for an upcoming production of "The Audience" by Peter Morgan at The Jupiter Theatre in Jupiter, Fla.
5. What comforts you?: My family. My friends. Working at Barrington Stage. The Berkshires any time of the year. Autonomy. Chocolate chip cookies.