Ms. Clarke begin her career in acting with this play:
A con man blows into town with a scam to set up a boy's marching band. He plans to slip away with the funds before the town discovers his lack of talent. In fact he falls in love with a librarian, whom he tries to keep from exposing him; and he imbues the town with a love of music despite himself.
This is Ms. Clarke's first performance of any kind.
Ms. Clarke's professional stage career began in the mid-1970's with roles in Mt. Holyoke summer-stock and Pittsburgh local theater. In particular, she was part of the Pittsburgh Public Theatre's very successful first season in 1975-76.
Then Ms. Clarke enrolled at the Yale School of Drama. In her third year she was admitted into the Yale Repertory Theater under Robert Brustein during its troubled 1978-79 season. While there she worked in such plays as:
The Peter Pan monologue in the play (about a childrens' play that had gone very, very wrong) has become a favorite among high school theater students.
Ms. Clarke also appeared in Anton Chekhov's The Sea Gull and a chamber version of Kurt Weill/Bertolt Brecht's Mahagonny.
Ms. Clarke became a professional actress when she joined Actors Equity, for which she had to change her name to Caitlin Clarke. (There was already a Catherine Clarke in Equity.)
Othello is about a Moor in the wealthy city of Venice who kills his wife Desdemona after being convinced of her unfaithfulness by the lies of a jealous Iago.
If this is classed as a comedy it is because it ends joyfully, but it starts in tragedy as a king abandons his infant daughter, believing her illegitimate. Years later the daughter is Perdita, a beautiful shepherdess ignorant of her heritage — but not for long.
A satire on the collaboration of playwright Bertolt Brecht and composer Kurt Weill, who flourished during the early 20th century, with Ms. Clarke spoofing Lotte Lenya. Weill wrote the song Mack the Knight, best remembered as sung by Louis Armstrong.
A rewrite of the Bertolt Brecht play Baal. Bal is a thoroughly amoral creature who destroys the lives of those who come too close to him.
plenty of the title was the economic prosperity that was promised the youth of Britain after the Second World War, during which Susan Traherne was a British agent helping the French resistance. After it ended, however, the Britain that emerged was a bitter disappointment to her: Minimal prosperity and spiritual exhaustion at home, duplicity and humiliation abroad. The deterioration of her life mirrors that of her homeland.
Most of the cast in this play, about a political cartoonist on the road to disillusionment, played more than one role.
This play (written in 1761, despite its modern-sounding title) and the following ran in rotation with six other plays under Liviu Ciulei.
This play was adapted by Richard Nelson, directed by Andrei Serban, and had Ms. Clarke doing the love-struck lad on roller skates. They and the play would reappear on Broadway three years later.
A well-to-do emigrée and her daughter (Ann) spend their summer vacations at a Balkan seaside resort, which was the emigrée's home before she fled from a Communist takeover.
David Hyde Pierce, later famous as Dr. Niles Crane on the TV series Fraiser, played the bathing-suited son of the resort's manager. Theatre critic Frank Rich broiled the play, and Pierce in particular for tending
to mumble his key lines into Miss Clarke's breasts.
This was a feminist message-play that came out of London and played well in most other cities of the world. It was a major turkey on Broadway, where its one-day performance left critics wanting to flee the theatre at intermission. It's a pity, that this was the play in which Ms. Clarke made her Broadway debut. (Ms. Clarke herself gave overproduction as the reason the play did so badly.)
This play, based on the life of Lorenzo de Medici, fared somewhat better than Ms. Clarke's previous play. It played for about a month, and several times to full houses. Yet no archived review seems to have survived, except a very negative one in BackStage (1 July 1983, p. 43).
Ms. Clarke replaced the original actress during the summer of 1983.
A pair of disillusioned Englishmen try to find a purpose in life by spending the summer at an Israeli kibbutz.
Ms. Clarke plays the female half of a New York couple on the edge of divorce, whose friends are egging them on.
This is mentioned among the credits in Ms. Clarke's biography at the Titanic site. She was joined by David Hyde Pierce (Frazier), who played Treplev. This is conjecture, though.
A comedy of love and exile in the Forest of Arden, into which Rosalind, Shakespeare's greatest female role, goes in the guise of a boy to join her exiled father only to find poems that read, among others:
From the east to western Ind,
No jewel is like Rosalind.
This may well be when Ms. Clarke first met her friend John Goodman, before he found fame as the TV husband of Rosanne Barr.
The brief and incendiary life of 19th-century French poet Arthur Rimbaud, whose life and works has given inspiration to modern rock music.
A deeply disturbed woman descends into the Dark, taking several suitors with her.
There was a film version of this play made not long afterward and shown on PBS. Most of the original cast performed in the film, but not Ms. Clarke (foo!).
Shaw's satirical comedy on militarism and patriotism.
This is the Guthrie Theatre production adapted by Richard Nelson and directed by Andrei Serban. Among the play's
innovations was Ms. Clarke's Cherubino on roller skates.
This was in fact a reading of the short stories of Janowitz, done just after publication.
A hapless sculptor and his hangers-on bump into furniture and into each other on a stage that darkens when they try to illuminate it and brightens when they do nothing. The stage begins in total darkness; and when an electrician flips a switch to bring back the light, it ends in total darkness.
Based on the novel The Playmaker by Thomas Keneally about the first stage play in Australia.
Note: Ms. Clarke also took over the Morden/Dawes role during the play's run at the Garrick Theatre in London in 1989. (I am grateful to British actor Julian Wadham for revealing this in his web page—which for awhile seemed to be everywhere on the Web.)
For her role as Morden/Dawes, Ms. Clarke was given the Drama-Logue Award for Exceptional Achievement in 1989.
During a revolution in a nameless country, rebels hunt for the ex-dictator's wife, the "Queen". Ms. Clarke plays Argia, an embittered prostitute who is mistaken for that Queen. Although amused at first, Argia finds herself under the harsh circumstances becoming a noble creature—a Queen in her own right.
A satire of London's art world.
The ugly mass psychology of an early Ohio settlement as seen by Johnny Appleseed (so named because he planted apple trees along early American routes of settlement) and ex-preacher Thomas Keene (who distilled those apples in hard cider). Read as part of the 'FifthNight' screenplay reading series.
The pain of a family that must endure the psychotic jealousy of the father.
Or rather she would have been, but Ms. Clarke pulled out of the production before the previews after
amiable but irreconcilable differences with director Kristoffer Tabori. This entry was added for completeness.
A well-to-do woman achieves personal and financial independence as a upper-class prostitute. A discussion of the play followed the performance.
Americanized translation of Cocteau's Les Parents Terribles, about a very nasty mother and absent-minded father who interfere in their spoilt son's love affair.
It's another awful mother, now frustrated more than nasty: an aging Southern belle in a cramped apartment, who meddles in the lives of her son and fragile daughter.
It has been nearly twenty years since the discovery of the sunken luxury liner at the bottom of the Atlantic, yet the entertainment industry still finds inspiration from the ship. This play came out at roughly the same time as the film, and during its performance it had won five Tony awards.
Ms. Clarke has evidently played this part very well. Quoting a visitor to New York City attending the play's last Broadway show:
Caitlin Clarke—I want to BE her. Or at least Charlotte Cardoza. What a fun part.
During the later half of the play's run, Ms. Clarke served as a "teaching artist" for the Broadway Theater Institute (now The Theater Museum), which provided theatre instruction for public school children under the auspices of New York University. The children, their parents and teachers attended a performance of Titanic on 31 January 1999.
A random conversation between a man and a woman, who connect while waiting for a flight.
'[B]ased on an examination of a girl's life', according to a summary of a Buffalo News theatre review. I know little else about this.
A product of the 1960's counterculture reaches age fifty as an affluent suburbanite, and at his birthday barbecue hits his mid-life crisis hard.
One of a series of first readings for March 2000, "about a girl, a guy, and reincarnation".
The Cherry Lane Alternative "is dedicated to the development of the American theatre artist through a growing variety of programs and services" since its founding in 1997. Ms. Clarke is a member artist of this organization. There is nothing on what Ms. Moore's play itself was about, I'm afraid.
"On a quiet New England college campus, an embittered professor and his domineering wife turn an evening of cocktails into a wicked game." And they proceed to torment each other and the young couple they invited for the evening. Ms. Clarke played the professor's wife.
This play was made famous when it was filmed with Elizabeth Taylor and the late Richard Burton as the venomous couple.
A musical about a young Jewish woman hiding from the Nazis in southern France, who experiences an incandescent burst of artistic and musical talent as she expresses herself in the final years of her life. Eight hundred of her paintings, complete with narrative and musical cues, survive her, and this play is based on them.
A "dynamatologist" who helps people achieve even their most impossible dreams helps a melancholy Irishman to sing like Italian tenor Beniamino Gigli. Ms. Clarke played the dynamatologist's mistress and muse.
This was part of the 2002 season of the Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre (as was the next entry).
Why "dynamatologist"? Probably because its root word, dynamis, is the most common word for "miracle" in the New Testament.
A wealthy but decaying Irish family is in turmoil over the coming wedding of the youngest sister and a visit by a nosy American academic. Ms. Clarke plays the eldest daughter, the de facto family head who cares for the senile patriarch and his mute brother.
One of the actors on Aristocrats, Joe Schutz, keeps an online journal, which describes his experiences with the play in several entries during July and August 2002. It's a joy to know that I am not the only one who is a 'fawning idiot' over Ms. Clarke! :)
Ms. Clarke speaks and sings about her life in the entertainment industry—an difficult and mostly unglamorous, yet rewarding life.
The cabaret was given as a benefit for the Women's Club of Sewickley.
This would be Ms. Clarke's last performance.
Most of my information on Ms. Clarke's career on stage is based on the reviews for the plays she had a role in (primarily The New York Times) and on the two book series Guernsey's Best Plays and Willis' Theater World.
Of Indiana's big three universities, only Indiana University has both series. The other two — Purdue and Ball State — never had them or stopped buying them. The public library in Indianapolis has only Guernsey.
This lack of ready theatre references was why, until the 1990's and the coming of the World Wide Web, the entries were so sketchy. Another reason was Ms. Clarke's branching into television during her time in Los Angeles during the late 1980's. Most of the television shows she appeared in are on network television — which I do not normally watch.
The Web and its search engines have really made my work a lot easier now. Google and (at first) Northern Light have been very helpful in finding for me articles about Ms. Clarke's performances from regional theatres.
Note (15 September 2004): I felt it appropriate to bookend this list of Ms. Clarke's theatrical career with her two performances at the Edgeworth Club of Sewickley.
Note (25 February 2005): After reading Brustein's Making Scenes (ISBN 0879100028) I can conclude that Ms. Clarke must have proven an excellent actress to have done well during her stint at Yale Rep despite the hostile miasma during Brustein's last year — a year marked by struggle with the university's traditionalist president, who saw no value in Yale Rep and sought to undo all of Brustein's work. (At least, that was how Brustein saw it.) In the end, Brustein replanted his theatre at Harvard, and Ms. Clarke got out with her MFA.
Note (28 March 2005): A correspondence with a former colleague of Ms. Clarke's revealed a play not with Ms. Clarke but about her. I have written more about the play's history in this essay.
Lewis Black of The Daily Show started his career as a playwright during the late 1970's at Yale School of Drama. He was also Ms. Clarke's boyfriend for three years until she went to England in 1980 to film Dragonslayer — and came back with a fiancé.
Black, as you can read in an article in LA Weekly, was understandably furious. Then he contemplated what would happen if he showed up at the wedding. And out came this play.
Although the play shows Caitlin/Courtney in a less than flattering light, it gives a glowing portrait of her parents, with whom Black got along very well. At least that's what the reviews of the L.A. production (all negative) report. I would like to confirm this by reading the book, but the play is currently unavailable; indeed, as one of his fans sadly notes,
The Holy Grail may be easier to find than a script by Lewis Black.
The play started life under the title Hitchin', where it got a couple of readings in the Washington-Baltimore area in 1982 before being staged at Kenyon College in 1983.