Ed Dixon brings 'Georgie' to life at Barrington Stage
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Tribute. Creativity. Memory. Redemption. Difficult.
These words are the hallmarks of one of theater's most beloved but lesser performed works: the one-actor play. They are all on display through Saturday at Barrington Stage Company's St. Germain Stage in veteran Broadway actor Ed Dixon's tour de force "Georgie: My Adventures with George Rose," directed by Eric Schaeffer.
George Rose (1920-1988) was a Broadway star, a two-time Tony award winner, and a friend and mentor to the then-younger Dixon. He died after being beaten by a group of teenage boys in the Dominican Republic, led by his own 18-year-old stepson.
It was also during that time that Dixon had discovered Rose was leading a secret life beyond the stage and their friendship, mixed up in a penchant for young boys and the child sex tourism industry.
The discovery, Dixon explained, was both unsettling and sobering, but he couldn't bring himself to write about it for more than two decades, until the release of his 2012 memoir "Secrets of a Life Onstage And Off."
"I wrote about George in my book," Dixon said. "A friend found the passages about him compelling and suggested it would make for some gripping theater. That's how `Georgie' came to be."
The story was difficult to write closer to the time of Rose's death, Dixon said. Working on it later in life not only took on a different emotional reality for Dixon, but also gave him a much different perspective of his fallen hero.
"Being at the stage of life I'm at now allowed me to look back far more reflectively and with less reaction than I would have as a younger man," Dixon said. "The play is my story as much as George's, so when I figured out how to write that last part, I was better prepared to address redemption. Two decades ago, everything was too raw to see clearly. As playwright and actor, you want that clarity on the pages, and on stage."
The one-actor play did not just make it to the New York stage. It also collected the 2017 Drama Desk Award for outstanding solo performance. Then Barrington Stage Company artistic director Julianne Boyd came calling.
"The Drama Desk Award was such an unexpected and humbling honor," Dixon said. "I had worked at Barrington Stage before and Julianne called me and asked me if I could bring the show here. I love being in the Berkshires with these audiences."
The show is structured in three sections, and Dixon said each one addresses an important part of his own life stages of development, through George Rose.
"[There's] how I met George, then talking about all the shows I saw him in [including Tony-winning turns in `My Fair Lady' and `The Mystery of Edwin Drood'], and finally the section set in the Dominican Republic," Dixon said.
In the play, Dixon plays dozens of different people, often switching from one to the other to another and then back again with a gesture, a breath, or a swipe of the hand.
"It's the most visceral and pure form of acting," Dixon said. "A one-man play pushes you, tests you, makes you the best on the stage that you can be, and then does the same for the audience, which must suspend much of what it knows to be reality, and delve deeper into its own creative self."
In all, Dixon said he is thrilled to be back at Barrington Stage and hopes for the audience to find its takeaways from what he called "a tremendously human story about friendship and the effects that we as human beings have on one another."
"Complete strangers have told me after watching the play that they were forced to look within at their own relationships, their own mentors, their own partners, their own marriages" Dixon said. "It has thrilled me to see people take this work and see their own lives, through their point of view, by seeing mine."
--Reach award-winning freelance journalist Telly Halkias at email@example.com, or on Twitter: @TellyHalkias
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