Thursday, December 07, 2006

Nicholas Martin Leaving the Huntington

In 1990 I got a message on the aswering machine at my dorm room at Boston College. There was a team meeting to be held at the Conte Forum. It wasn't necessarily out of the ordinary, as the season had just ended, but as we all gathered in the room, one of my friends, a running back, said he bet that it was bad news, "really bad news."

Just before we were able to say anymore, Head Football Coach, Jack Bicknell walked into the room. He had hardly reached the front when he said, very succinctly, "Well, they just fired my ass."

Though it was not entirely shocking, (we had gone through some dismal seasons,) it was hard to believe that the man who had built the football program, marshalled them to national rankings and coached Doug Flutie to a Heisman Trophy was gone.

The replacement was named very soon after: Tom Coughlin. Yes, that Tom Coughlin. Coach Coughlin was coaching in the NFL and was to bring his calculating, winning formulas to the Heights and get us out of our losing seasons and into the next level...permanently. Who could argue with that?

And Coughlin was a natch at the recruiting game. He was phoning key recruits from the locker room of then Superbowl Victorious New York Giants. Coughlin didn't mean much to my life; I was senior and graduating. But his martinet style and his regimented coaching was something that took players a little getting used to after the more laid back coaching of "Cowboy Jack."

Coughlin won football games. And at the end of the day, that is what he was paid to do. But everybody knew that Tom Coughlin was never going to stay in Chestnut Hill, at least not while there was a chance at getting to be a Head NFL job. (Similar to Governor Mitt Romney's political aspirations here in Massachusetts.)

Boston College now has Tom O'Brien settling in as a possible long term situation as an institutional man.

The Globe reported yesterday that Nicholas Martin will leave the Huntington Theatre Company after the 2007-2008 season.

Thomas Garvey at The Hub Review has some thoughts that I share about Martin's tenure, and he has some fears that I share as well.

His accomplishments here were significant for the theatre scene: building a legitimate second stage, opening that second stage with the work of a local playwright, his new plays development program, his attempt to establish Jon Robin Baitz as a resident playwright, and I could go on.

Martin states that he would like to concentrate more on his freelance directing career. This makes sense as Martin always appeared to have one foot in New York City, (or Williamstown.) The life of the successful freelance director is in always keeping irons in the fire, angling for the next job, keeping in contact with the right person. This is in Mr. Martin's blood and it was to the Huntington's benefit that Martin was able to lassoo some of those Big Apple contacts and pull them into our regional orbit, however briefly.

As Thomas Garvey states, we can't underestimate the emphasis Martin put on local talent, even reaching across the Charles river and pulling in some of the actors from the ART. (One of my most indelible theatre memories is Will LeBow's hilarious turn as Anthony Absolute in The Rivals.)

But, the freelance man can have a hard time becoming the institutional man. As much as I admired Mr. Martin's tenure and his talent, many theatre people in Boston always understood, (if only in the back of their minds,) that Martin's was a temporary gig, though he stayed for a good long while.

Like Tom Coughlin, (but without the abrasiveness,) Martin won games. The Huntington is functioning on higher level because of him. I thank him and wish him the very best in his career.

I am interested in who will be found to replace him. The search process should be intriguing, and with the HTC now sporting a second stage the short list could get very exciting.


Thomas Garvey said...

Good points all - but as I pointed out, in a way it didn't matter whether this or that Huntington production was good or bad - it was the INFRASTRUCTURE Martin and his colleagues were putting in place that mattered, and which made the Huntington a far more important cultural institution than the ART - which has actually been taking apart its infrastructure. (Harvard's billions, and its deep reach into the ranks of almost every institution in town, tended to obscure that.) Whoever takes over Martin's position, we can only hope that she or he will maintain and expand the programs Martin put in place.

YS said...

Very True,

I also just realized I should stick to theatre, as my sort of prediction about Tom O'Brien as an institutional man turns out to have been unravelling as I was typing.

He is leaving BC.