Thursday, October 29, 2009


A New York Times article about prompters and learning lines.

Seems an actor at Hartford Stage may have been caught using the Peter Brady method of remembering lines. (To be honest though, it appears there is a more to the story than is being reported.)

But now the use of prompts has become a matter of inquiry for the Actors’ Equity union, which is investigating a recent dismissal by the Hartford Stage theater of an actor who peeked at bits of dialogue that he had taped inside his character’s hat for a difficult scene.


In the Hartford Stage incident, the fired actor, Matt Mulhern, 49, was appearing in Horton Foote’s “Orphans’ Home Cycle,” a series of three plays over nine hours. Mr. Mulhern said he never received any warning from Hartford Stage that his job might be in jeopardy; “Orphans” is a co-production with Signature Theater Company in New York, where it is transferring next month.

In an interview, Mr. Mulhern described the prompt in his hat as a “crutch” that he relied on because of script changes during rehearsals. He said he had been “emotionally devastated” by his Sept. 22 dismissal, the first of his 27-year career. He also acknowledged he had “ruffled feathers” among colleagues for a variety of other reasons after rehearsals began in July.

Michael Wilson, the artistic director of Hartford Stage and director of “The Orphans’ Home Cycle,” declined to comment, saying the theater did not discuss employment issues. Maria Somma, a spokeswoman for Actors’ Equity, also declined to comment.

Hartford Stage has yet to give Equity a formal reason for firing Mr. Mulhern, according to the actor. Ms. Somma again would not comment on the matter.

“Actors being fired for this reason vary by the situation,” Harry Weintraub, general counsel of the League of Resident Theaters, which includes Hartford Stage, said in an interview. When asked if the production created hardships for actors because it spanned nine hours and included script changes, Mr. Weintraub said, “I wasn’t aware that Mr. Mulhern had nine hours of lines to learn.”

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