Martha E. White: Our Assistant Director and Early Encourager

Martha White

Richard Schechner influentially described “The playwright as wright — the play being wrought from the interrelationships among all the artists.” Wright is a very old word in the English language signifying an artificer, a creator, a joiner as in cart-wright or ship-wright. I like the building aspect of being a playwright, the joining together of different parts; perhaps my favoring the word is because one of my grandfathers was a wainwright in Ireland, a wagon builder. We build our plays hoping to convey the audience somewhere interesting so I claim a kinship of craft with Grandfather Conn Connaghan whom I never got to meet.

That description of being a ‘wright’ influenced me as well when Schechner in his experimental work emphasized how “‘Performance’ ties together the performer, director, designer, and audience.” And the Assistant Director – the person upon whom the entire ensemble depends for so many things as these disparate elements join together.

When we did our initial Zoom reading of Genealogy in preparation for its opening this Friday night, November 5, at Broom Street Theater in Madison Wisconsin, the script was a mere frame upon which the reading allowed us to see how all of these other people could construct a meaningful and entertaining performance. But first we needed their opinions as to where we should shave and where we should extend this frame. And the opinion expressed by Martha White, now Genealogy’s Assistant Director, mattered a great deal to me. She told me critical feedback and then concluded our call by stating that if this play moved forward that she wanted to be involved. From the little bit that I knew Martha at that point, her expression of commitment to our play meant a great deal. Encouragement matters a great deal to the builder.

Besides being our Assistant Director, Martha is an actor who has appeared recently in Alice Childress’s classic play “Trouble in Mind” and Jan Levine Thal‘s “Fake Mom”, both with Krass Theatre in Madison. Martha has hosted several television shows, including the Emmy Award-winning “Cultural Horizons of Wisconsin” for Wisconsin Public Television [which is now called PBS Wisconsin]. We are so grateful that along with the authors, cast, crew and audience she is helping to #maketheaterlive. 

(l-r) Top Row: Atticus Cain, T.J. Elliott, Dana Pellebon, Jamie England, Martha E. White Seated: Quanda Johnson, Donavon Armbruster, Jackson Rosenberry photo by Karl Reinhardt

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