Monday, December 15, 2008

Matthew Costello Remembers Hutch

Posted by Matthew Costello (pictured below)
Thanks, Bruce, for inviting me to take part in this tribute to Hutch. You have spoken eloquently about this extraordinary man and he deserves the honor you give him. He was my mentor and a great friend.

Mallory Freeman once told me of his high regard for Hutch and recalled Hutch’s outstanding performance in The Royal Hunt of the Sun at the Virginia Museum Theater in the 1960’s. "He is an Actor’s Actor," he said.

Hutch was an inevitable force in the Richmond theatre community and also in the community-at-large, having served the Boys' Club for so many years and had the vision to spearhead and guide the International Food Festival. There are many other contributions for which he will be remembered. I am truly grateful that his life touched mine with such deep blessing.

I met Hutch shortly before the Experiential was formed. He was directing a production of Does the Tiger Wear a Necktie? at Barksdale at Hanover Tavern, and it included many of the young actors from the Boys' Club with whom he had worked in previous years. He asked me to fill in for the role of Tonto. We rehearsed in that basement at the Boys' Club and for the following years, as the Experiential took off, I felt it was my theatrical home.

It was indeed in 1975 that the Experiential Theater opened its doors. Hutch once shared with me his progression from Stanislavski to Grotowski and then his exposure to the "environmental" theatre ideas of Richard Schechner which led to the inception of the Experiential.

As I recall, its first production was of Of Mice and Men. Hutch’s son Jody (now deceased) played Lenny. I played George. We had the opportunity to reprise the roles a few years later in a second production. To my knowledge this was the first of only two plays that were ever repeated in Experiential’s history.

I was fortunate to appear in many shows there, among them: Hamlet ESP, The Diary of a Madman and the first Experiential production of The Seagull, where I played Treplyov to Jenny Brown’s Nina.

It was twenty years later after Hutch had revitalized the Experiential banner that he produced The Seagull again at the Windy River Winery in Beaverdam. Indeed Erin Thomas was stellar as Nina. I was Trigorin in that production and Justin Dray played Treplyov.

I also remember the early Experiential productions of Alice in Wonderland and Ubu Roi.

It was, I think, 1978 when that first incarnation of the Experiential settled into a pregnant pause. Demands of his family life and the duties with the Boys' Club were in need of his attention.

In 1996 Hutch asked me to "direct" him, that is be his "third eye," in a production of Darrow for the Defense that he performed at Firehouse Theatre under the Experiential banner.

He later produced the earlier mentioned seasons at the Windy River Winery, starting in 1998. I remember The Importance of Being Earnest (Erin was in this as well), Playboy of the Western World with Justin Dray and Tom McGranahan, and Night Must Fall with Justin (again) plus Stephanie Kelley and Sara Heifetz.

I hope I have helped to fill in some of the history here. I know I have failed to mention many of the performers who worked onstage for Hutch. My apologies.

In the late 1990’s I had mounted a website for the Experiential. It’s long been removed and I’m not quite sure where it is in the mountains of archives in my studio. It is my intention to find it and to try to assemble a better history.

--Matthew Costello

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