"They say a lot"
Lifetime Achievement in Theater Tony Winner Marshall W. Mason - author of "Creating Life On Stage"
John Yearley - playwright
"As a writer, working with Erma Duricko is to be held in an all-loving embrace and, at the same time, held to the highest possible standard. An impossible combination. She's the only person I know who can do both."
Arlitia Jones - playwright
“Before I met Duricko, I was a playwright using words to connect with an audience. Duricko taught me to speak with my vulnerable and brave heart, with my whole being to the world that stretches far beyond the walls of a theatre.” .... geez, that was easy!
PS “Come for the theatre, stay for the shoes!”
Karen Eterovich – playwright/actor
"Erma Duricko is a director of the highest caliber. She offers Broadway class dramaturgy, coaching and direction. Her wide ranging skills would benefit anybody from the neophyte to the professional."
Jim Ireland – actor
“Erma is hand-down the best actor's director with whom I've worked, including academy award winners! From beginners to consummate professionals, she gets actors to tap into their visceral needs like no other acting coach I've had in my 32 years as a professional actor. The result is comedy from the heart and drama from the soul.”
Dawson Moore – playwright and coordinator for The Valdez Last Frontier Theatre Conference
“Erma Duricko is that rare mix of intellectual precision and spiritual sensitivity. Her life in art has given her an incredibly broad range of skills which she is adept in turning to the advantage of her students.
We regularly employ Erma Duricko as a play respondent at the Valdez Last Frontier Theatre Conference. Invariably she is very popular with the participants for the intelligence, analysis, and compassion with which she gives her feedback to authors on their work.
Erma Duricko is an asset to any community lucky enough to have her be a part of it.”
Kara Corthron – playwright
"Erma Duricko has a deep passion for theatre-making. Her specialty is the work of Tennessee Williams, but she's dedicated to supporting the work of up-and-coming playwrights of all ages."
Tom Matthew Wolfe – playwright/actor
"Actors on the quest to build vibrant life on the stage will find no greater guide than Erma Duricko. I can't overstate her influence on my work (as actor, then playwright). Watch a play she directs and you'll hear its heartbeat. You'll hear how it breathes."
Dominic Comperatore - Broadway actor
"I've been a professional actor for over 25 years. Along the way I've been privileged to have studied with some of the most esteemed teachers in our profession. Yet 25 years on... it's still Erma's standard to which I challenge myself to rise.
She's a rare gift."
Speech by Marshall W Mason
If you open the Oxford English Dictionary and look up these terms: dedicated, passionate, loyal – you should be redirected to look under "D" for synonyms: Duricko, comma, Erma.
For 15 of the past sixteen years, Erma has been a tireless champion of the developmental process at the Last Frontier Theater Conference. The only year she missed was when we were upstaged by the domestic drama of her husband's heart attack. You should have heard her critique of that.
In 1993, Edward Albee and I were the first honorees of what was then called the Prince William Sound Community College Theater Conference. In the interest of brevity, I suggested they rename it The Last Frontier Theater Conference, and it only took them eight years to take my advice. But from the beginning, Edward insisted that the focus of this annual gathering should be a playwright's lab, so that the conference would honor not only distinguished accomplishment in the theater, but to honor the process of playwriting.
The second year of the conference, we honored the playwright Lanford Wilson and the director Joe Mantello, both from Circle Rep, the theater whose 27-year run of creating new plays was coming to an end. Michael Warren Powell, who had succeeded Danny Irvine as head of the LAB at Circle Rep, accompanied Lanford to Valdez, and was invited by Jody McDowell to set up a system of play development that would fulfill Edward's vision of what the conference should be about.
The following year, Michael instituted the process that remains intact here today, and one of the first beneficiaries was a fledgling student of theater named Dawson Moore. A year later, in 1996, Michael called upon the indefatigable Erma to join him in facilitating the developmental process.
She became the most persistent presence at the conference, as ubiquitous as a sea otter. She seemed to be everywhere. If you had a reading at nine A.M., Erma would be there as a panelist to share her insights. You would catch her charismatic workshops in the afternoon, and then the evening performance would likely be directed by Erma, as was Monday night's presentation of our Featured Artists reading from their own work. And then, you'd run into her surrounded by an adoring entourage, holding forth at the Fringe, with a continually replenished glass of wine. Erma is a theater-junkie's supplier.
Perhaps the years have mellowed her a bit – she no longer stays up all night with the kids matching their enthusiasm with boundless energy, but she is as avid in her heart as ever, and as enduring in her devotion to excellence.
Erma came into my life in 1995, when I answered the telephone in my office at Arizona State University; a former ASU Alum and a member of the SDC (the director's union of which I'd been the president) was calling to ask if she could ever serve as my assistant on a production. As it happened, I was soon going into rehearsal on a new play calledRobbers by Lyle Kessler at the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, Connecticut. Erma, it turned out, lived in Pennsylvania, a nearby state, and she'd be able to join me in New England to serve as my Assistant Director.
I had no idea from the telephone conversation that she would materialize as the etherial, evanescent beauty that glittered into my rehearsal room, with flowing locks of chestnut hair, Maria Callas-eyes, Garbo cheekbones, and six feet of gorgeousness. I later found out that her dearly beloved Dad nicknamed her "Sparkle," for what reason I can't imagine.
She was a perfect collaborator, sensitive to every subtle need of the artists in the room, responsive to the slightest necessity. When Robbers transferred a year later to the American Place Theater in New York, Erma accompanied me every step of the way. Once you know the vortex of energy incarnated as Erma, it becomes difficult to conceive how the world could turn without her.
With this production, Erma was returning to a life in the theater after taking off years from her profession to fulfill the demands of motherhood. It is said that when her cherished children Jeff and Marissa were born, the first word they uttered was not "Mommy" or "Daddy," but "Tennessee." Erma returned to the theater, fully devoted to fostering and preserving the influence of Tennesee Williams for a new generation.
She founded the Blue Roses Theater Company in New York, where a committed collection of artists strive to continue the excellence Williams inspired, by celebrating his work and creating new work to carry on his tradition.
Her theme became: "I want magic," and like a sorceress, she creates it wherever she goes. For example, after four days of Valdez rain, Thursday night I thought I heard Erma demanding : "I want magic, goddammit!" and we've been wearing sunglasses for the last two days. Even at midnight.
It is fortunate that Erma is married to Allen Duricko, a psychotherapist who patiently weathers and nurtures the creative whirlwind that is his wife. She calls him her Romeo.
I am proud to call her my friend, my colleague, and my enchantress. When you want magic, call on Erma. I'm honored to call the Siren of Valdez to the stage to receive this prestigious award. We all love you, Erma.
Tim Brown speaking:
[The text between the brackets was edited from the final speech]
Full disclosure: Yes Erma is my best friend and artistic soul mate, and yes: she is my mentor and my muse and yes: we have enjoyed an artistic collaboration for 20 years -- all this is true. Full disclosure: it always amuses me when journalists use that phrase because it is literally an economic space/time impossibility to fully disclose any personal experience that lasts more than a week -- never mind twenty years.
So I give you partial disclosure:
I met Erma over 20 years ago while I was directing at the University of Scranton. My first theater mentor J W Roberts used to tease Erma because he had worked with Circle Rep and stage managed for Marshall W Mason. Erma was a great admirer of Circle Rep and Marshall’s work [long before they met. J.W. introduced our community to the plays of Lanford Wilson having directed “Serenading Louie” and “Fifth of July”.] Erma would come to see most of the plays that J.W directed – I did not know Erma then – I was aware of her – because if Erma is in the room watching a play you can’t help but be aware of her – her presence is magnetic. A few years after I graduated J.W unexpectedly passed away.
Enter Erma, a goddess then as she is now – she was my Savior. I was slated to direct my second main stage production at the University. I choose “Moonchildren” because it was a large cast and I wanted to work with all of my friends (ill advised as that may be). Erma came to see that production and then she did a remarkable thing– something I will never forget – she took copious notes on the production and then invited myself and a few of my partners in crime up to her abode in Gouldsboro (or Goobersville as she calls it) [She invited us for dinner. She made her famous stuffed peppers – (little know fact and probably for good reason – Erma is an incredible cook.)] We had this amazing Italian dinner by lake Watawga and maybe a bottle of nice red wine (this was way before Erma learned to drink - but as we found out later she was a quick study). Afterwards Erma, as promised, proceeded to do just one of the things that she does exceedingly well -- and that is offer constructive criticism. On this occasion my direction was the target in question.
Before I met Erma I was kind of blissfully satisfied in my ignorance about the Art of Directing. [Erma was gentle and she was honest and she was fair – always mentioning something that she thought was good or something that I got right before deconstructing the bad and the ugly. I will never forget the high praise that she awarded my picturization and composition. Neither will I forget the fact that she quite correctly observed that my actors were not playing action – they were mired in mood and result. My play was inert – dead on arrival. I thought I knew what an action was but I couldn’t get my actors to play one even if their pants were on fire (note to self: make friends with better actors). But that night – that dinner – that kindness – that willingness to reach out and help a young artist – to tell them the truth – to serve as a beacon in the wilderness – that was a gift.] She opened my eyes to the world of theater in a way I had never experienced before. It really was the start of my serious creative life. Because you cannot create serious art in a state of blissful satisfaction or ignorance. What Erma did for me I’ve seen her repeat hundreds of times – with her students – with her workshops – in her direction – here in Valdez. I’ve seen her transform jocks in to thespians. I’ve seen her turn wandering actors into serious playwrights.
Full disclosure: Erma Duricko is one of the best directors working in America. She reads a phenomenal number of new plays every year and she participates in their development. She is a gifted director adept at overcoming and fixing problems! (“Directing is problem solving” is her mantra) She is a true champion of the playwright and relishes working on new plays. When BR was invited up for that first year in 2005 she read every single play of each featured playwright, every published and unpublished work she could get her hands on.
That meeting by the lake was the beginning of our 20 years of artistic collaboration. What Dawson referred to has Erma’s Tennessee Williams fetish – well it’s a good fetish and it was shared by quite a few of my friends and me. [Of course at the time beyond the major plays I was fairly ignorant of Tennessee’s life -- the lesser known plays, the poetry -- they were exotic – and compared to Erma – I knew practically nothing at all – I just knew I loved his work. TW was and is in my mind America’s greatest playwright.]
Not long after that first meeting, Erma was invited to direct a main stage production at the University of Scranton. She chose four one-act plays by Tennessee Williams [Surprising I know.] I auditioned and won the role of Monk in Confessional. Being directed purposefully and with passion by someone who knows what they are doing – what they want and how to get it – was another enormous revelation for me – an epiphany – this woman had knowledge and she executed it with wit, clarity and determination. I wanted that knowledge.
[From that production Blue Roses was born with Erma as Artistic Director. Early on we called ourselves 4xTenn. We produced a lot of work for such a small company with our fearless leader at the helm. We traveled to New Orleans, Clarksdale Mississippi for the first annual TW/Literary festival and eventually Valdez Alaska in 2005. In continuing with Erma’s artistic mentorship a true friendship was established. Erma conceived wildly ambitious projects that we brought to any one that would have us.]
One of my artistic dreams was to direct A Streetcar Named. So the first thing I did was quit my job. You can’t direct Streetcar and also have a full time job – it’s another one of those economic space/time impossibilities. With Erma as my muse. And as she was itching to act again –naturally she was my Blanche. While I was still relatively a young director I realized my dream. Flash forward two years later and 18,000 dollars in credit card debt – I am now living in NYC and Blue Roses production of “Battle of Angels” starring Erma Duricko and directed by myself is debuting at the Neighborhood Playhouse. We used the acting version that first debuted in NYC by Circle Rep directed by Marshall Mason in collaboration with Tennessee Williams.
I would never have had the courage to write the plays and direct the work I have in the last two decades without my friend and mentor.
Needless to say I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Erma – I came to a happy realization this week at the conference and that is -- over the past seven years the place that I have spent the most time in -- apart from NYC is Valdez Alaska - more than my Mom's house in Scranton Penn, more than Erma’s abode by the lake. There's NYC then Valdez and I am fully content with this fact. I wouldn't have it any other way [- I love the city of Valdez and my friends at the Last Frontier Theater conference.] This conference is an artistic oasis for me. Every year it refuels that creative tank and prompts me to renew the fight. Without Erma in my life -- I don't think I would have found my way here by myself. [ There might not have been a Blue Roses company to invite to the festival that first year Dawson took charge. ]
There are things that cannot be disclosed or understood even between the two individuals that experienced them: A short hand is created for these events that defy articulation: These are private events publicly experienced that only a best friend can comprehend: Erma I speak to you directly:
Falling down the rabbit hole in the Vieux Carre.
Getting the fuck out of Dodge.
Dancing at the Roxy.
The magnetic vortex on Bell Rock mountain
The moon dance in Nay Aug Park.
And yes I think we have finally have done the Cabeza De Lobo:
We have shared a life:
A life imprinted with joys, sorrows, defeats, triumphs and through it all a gigantic fuck you to the dark forces, the ever present knowledge of the brutality of existence -- its inherent unfairness and cruelty -- but we dare to hope, we are armed with hope, armed with the knowledge that love will conquer and that theater is life and the royal road is more than magic – more than a dream and that healing is not only possible but mandatory:
And after all those travels we’ve been through and all those endless trips vanishing into nowhere Zen New Jersey, full disclosure: Thank you Erma, my best friend, artistic soul mate, collaborator, mentor and muse and congratulations on the receiving the Jerry Harper Service Award.
Jerry Harper Service Award
Erma Duricko SDC