BACK STAGE WEST
December 04, 1997
Wyle Fills In Blank
"ER" Star Takes Top Spot at L.A. Theatre Co.
by Rob Kendt
Actor Noah Wyle has announced that he will serve as the new artistic producer of the Blank Theatre Company, an L.A.-based producing ensemble probably best known for staging a hit small-theatre run of Chess an acclaimed production of Breaking the Code with Dennis Christopher. Indeed, Daniel Henning--the Blank's artistic director and central engine--gave Wyle his first L.A. stage job, in a production of Sexual Perversity in Chicago in 1991.
"He had done two small films at that point--I guess he was 19 years old," Henning recalled. "We were having a real tough time casting this role. He walked in and we went, 'Wow.' "
Since then, as Wyle's career has grown in film and TV, most notably in his role as emergency resident John Carter on NBC's ER, he has kept one foot in the theatre, directing and performing in the Blank's informal "living room" series of play readings and skeletal productions, as well as appearing in its Young Playwrights Festival. Wlye also starred with Peter Berg at the Coronet in the play The 24th Day.
It was in conversation with Henning recently that Wyle decided to cast his lot officially with the Blank, which has several Ovation and L.A. Drama Critic's Circle Awards to its credit.
"Now that I've got a little dough, I thought I could parlay that back into the theatre," said Wyle. Henning promised that Wyle will likely both act in and direct future Blank productions, but said that one of the jobs of his new "artistic producer" will be fundraising.
In that capacity, explained Wyle, "I'll ask my famous friends to remember there's a theatre scene here, as nicely and politely as I can." In Wyle's opinion, "There's just as good a theatre scene in L.A. as in New York. It's just so fragmented. There are great theatres in L.A., but they're so spread out; if you consolidated all of them into one place, you'd have the biggest theatre row in the country."
Speaking of a theatre row, the Blank's current home, the 2nd Stage Theatre, is on the makeshift "Theatre Row" on Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood, roughly between Hudson and Cole. It remains the home of the Blank--though a rental, Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?, occupies the space now--but it's unclear whether Wyle and the Blank want to stay in the neighborhood. Before taking a lease as the 2nd Stage in '96, the Blank was more or less homeless, staging productions everywhere from the Hudson Theatre to the Lost Studio.
Wyle shares the "artistic producer" title with actor Christopher Collet. Other notable actors who have worked in Blank shows or workshops include Jeremy Sisto, Marcia Mitzman, Douglas Sills, Sara Michelle Gellar, Lenny Wolpe, Katy Selverstone, Jason Raize, Peter Van Norden, Steven Gilborn, and Steve Scott Springer.