- Mark Nash in Underneath the Lintel
In his role in the Vermont Stage Company production of Underneath the Lintel currently running at FlynnSpace, VSC artistic director Mark Nash has found his art and life imitating each other in uncanny ways. Nash’s turn as a Dutch librarian whose obsession with an overdue book sets him adrift in the wider world coincides with the director’s imminent departure from VSC — bound for an as-yet-undefined professional future.
The parallels struck him from the first lines of the script, Nash says, especially when his character insists he tell his story now, “because tomorrow I’ll be gone.” While Nash will remain with VSC for a few months after Underneath the Lintel closes this Sunday, including doing a directorial stint with Sylvia from April 20 to May 8, his acting career may be coming to an end. At the very least, “It’s the last time I can guarantee that I’ll be cast in a show,” he says.
Nash’s choice to bow with Lintel, in which he and director Jim Gaylord are reprising their respective roles in VSC’s 2004 production of the play, also resonates metaphorically with Nash’s VSC leadership. The play is a one-man show, and that’s essentially how Nash describes his Vermont Stage work. Since he became artistic director in 2000, VSC’s first season as the FlynnSpace resident company — also the venue’s inaugural year — Nash has produced 50 plays, directed 12 (plus six Winter Tales) and performed in eight, including his current gig, with the help of only one other staffer. Add marketing, fundraising, community relations and technical duties, and VSC “used every part of who I am,” he says.
Naturally, Nash sees Underneath the Lintel from both sides of the boards — the producer’s and the actor’s. “In my last season as artistic director,” he says, “I wanted to make things a little bit easy on myself, so I chose a small show that I knew I could do inexpensively.” As Nash’s “swan song,” the play also meets his artistic needs. “I think that my love of language and my facility with language is what makes me especially suited for this role,” he says. “And I will say, on a more personal level, it’s the story of a man who lives in his head who learns to live in his heart, and that has been my own spiritual journey for the last 20 years [in theater].”
Nash’s replacement as VSC artistic director has been selected — one of more than 100 applications from around the country, Nash estimates — but not yet announced. That news is expected to break next month. While Nash acknowledges the position is a “dream job” for an up-and-comer wanting to make his or her mark, he says the new director will need to focus on efficiency, crucial to VSC’s survival in these lean times. The company is currently operating with the same budget it had seven years ago, but it’s staging 30 percent more performances, Nash notes.
As he prepares to make his exit, Nash is looking to leverage his writing skills — honed in more than a decade of getting the word out and bringing support in for VSC — into full-time or freelance work. The sluggish economy notwithstanding, he says he’s “over–the-moon excited” about changing course. Again, he relates the shift to his Lintel character: “On the last page of the play, he says, ‘I will be there, following right behind, both of us, after so many years, at last beginning to learn how to dance.’ And when I conceive of my post-Vermont Stage Company life, it feels like an opportunity to dance again in a way that I haven’t been able to in at least 20 years.”