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INTERVIEW: Director Joan M. Lyons On Center Stage’s Presentation Of Edward Albee’s "A Delicate Balance"

T.J. Clemente

In a lively conversation with Joan M. Lyons, who is directing Center Stage's A Delicate Balance at Southampton Cultural Center (SCC), Lyons explained the choice of this Edward Albee play. "Years back, seven or eight years ago, I was a student of Steve Hamilton [son-in-law of Julie Andrews] who had an acting class. I was going to his acting class with April Schiavoni who was also in class and we were assigned a scene from A Delicate Balance, a sort of mother/daughter scene which we worked on for weeks. We worked on it in class, at her house, we really enjoyed working on it because I loved the scene so much that it always remained in the back of my mind. But this play is a monster, it's long, it's three acts and I wondered is this something I really ever wanted to do? I tried to get the rights for it and just couldn't get the rights for it. This year I was looking for something to do at the Southampton Cultural Center when [SCC Artistic Director] Michael Disher said, 'Why don't you do A Delicate Balance, because I think you can get the rights, so I applied and somehow acquired the rights.'"

Lyons said it was going to be the toughest project she has ever undertaken, but predicts, "it will be the most satisfying." She said, "A Delicate Balance is a very intelligent show. This show really makes you sit and think and for me, that's what I like. There are a lot of lessons about lost opportunities and fear in this show that people can take home, because it has more than just entertainment possibilities. I think people will want to see it more than once."

About the length? Lyons replied, "Well it's three acts but I am going to change it into two acts with one intermission. I feel it will be too long with two intermissions. It will be about 2 hours 15 minutes long." I asked her if she was going cut anything and she said, "Absolutely not." Lyons is proud of her cast that features Bonnie Grice, John Leonard, Joanna Mincarelli, Tamara Salkin, Kristin Whiting and Scott Wilson.

She sent out this synopsis of the play: "In A Delicate Balance, Agnes and Tobias, a wealthy middle-aged couple and Agnes's witty live-in alcoholic sister have their complacency shattered when longtime friends Harry and Edna appear on their doorstep claiming an encroaching, nameless 'fear' has forced them from their own home. They are soon followed by Agnes and Tobias's bitter 36-year old daughter Julia who returns home following the collapse of her fourth marriage. These events bring a firestorm of doubt, recrimination and ultimately solace, upsetting the 'delicate balance' of Agnes and Tobias's household."

A Delicate Balance premiered in 1966 and went on to win the 1967 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, a Drama Desk Award and three Tony Awards.

Performances of A Delicate Balance will run Friday, January 10 through Sunday, January 26, with performances on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.

General admission is $25 and student and group rates available. Brunch/theater and dinner theater packages available at five different local restaurants.

This is one show I plan on seeing more than once.

Southampton Cultural Center is located at 25 Pond Lane in Southampton. For more information, call 631-287-4377 or visit www.scc-arts.org.

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