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This article by Sally Friedman was prepared for the November 17,

2004 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

From Hardware to Harlequin

Amazing how actors come to their craft. Case in point: Mark Young.

Admittedly so painfully fearful of speaking that just getting up to

give an oral report in history caused him angst for weeks back in his

hometown of Bridgewater, Young realized in college that he would have

to face his demons if he was going to succeed in life – and in

teaching, the career he hadchosen back then.

"So I got my courage up and decided to audition for a play – but with

a really zany audition piece," he recounts. "I figured nobody would

want me, and somehow that was the subconscious agenda."

So much for Dr. Freud and agendas: Young not only attracted the

attention of the director of the musical in question, he also was

noticed by another theater director who happened to be sitting in on

the auditions. "The next thing I knew," he continues, "I was in a

straight one-act play – a drama – and I’ve never looked back. The

minute I got up there in front of the lights, something clicked."

Today Young, a resident of Lambertville, has a life wrapped around

theater despite a day job selling hardware in Hopewell. While he’s

never gone for the professional acting route, wanting, he explains,

the "fun part" of the theater world, his resume with community theater

is dazzling. Much of it is centered on the Westwind Repertory Company,

which Young co-founded with his wife, Julia Ohm, who serves as the

theater director at the Hun School.

Launched in 1995 with "A Doll’s House," the company has ventured into

all sorts of works including ambitious projects like "The Tempest,"

the play that got Mark Young doing the daunting role of Caliban, and

also took him from behind the scenes as production manager to facing

the footlights.

"The concept has always been to present meaningful theater using the

wonderful Hun School facilities," says Young, who has also directed

the special classics program and production for youngsters each summer

at the school called "Hun Summer Classics."

Center stage right now is Westwind’s production of "A Company of

Wayward Saints" by George Herman, a play that reaches back to the

Commedia dell’arte tradition, the dramatic species that had a long

life in Italy, and flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The play traces the internal conflicts of a troupe of actors from

modern times performing Commedia dell’arte, and will be on stage

starting Thursday, November 18. Those "on stage," in this case, will

also include the audience.

"In the tradition of the genre, the audience will be right on the

stage with our cast of nine actors," says Young, "which will make it a

unique experience for them – and for us."

At the heart of the mostly comedic play is the serious question of

putting aside petty selfish interests and egos for the good of the

group. Young plays the character Harlequin, the de facto leader of the

troupe, and the one hoping to repair the schisms.

"All of the characters are on stage all of the time, so it’s a very

different kind of play for audiences," says Young, who hopes that

modern spectators will not only have an entertaining evening, but also

gain insight into this historic theatrical tradition.

And how does theater fit into Young’s life at the J.B. Hill & Son

hardware store of Hopewell?

"When people want the straight scoop on hardware, they may go to my

colleagues," says Young. "But when they want creative, artistic

solutions, I’m their man!"

– Sally Friedman

A Company of Wayward Saints by George Herman, Westwind

Repertory Company at the Hun School, Edgerstone Road, Princeton.

November 18, 20, 26 and 27 at 8 p.m.; November 28 at 2 p.m.; December

3 and 4 at 8 p.m. Tickets: $15. 609-397-7331.

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