In our town full of struggling actors and others from all aspects of show business, it’s no wonder so many solo shows about the Industry make their way into local theaters. And any of us who have endured that backstage moment when overwhelming fear makes us forget every single line we were about to speak, or when a spotlight hits your face and makes you freeze will certainly understand many of the familiar moments shared by Steven Shaw in LOST & FOUND: A GUILT TRIP THROUGH SHOW BUSINESS, returning to Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills after a sold out run in January 2017.
Directed by Joan Darling, the winner of an Emmy® Award and a DGA Award for an ABC special, Mom’s On Strike, is a prolific director of episodic television as well as an actor. Her understanding of the pitfalls and pleasures of being onstage certainly added to her vision for the production, during which Shaw recounts how his life changed forever after appearing in his first play in second grade. (Mine was in first grade, by the way.)
Steven grew up in Brooklyn, so his exposure to the glory of The Great White Way began early in his life. Turning to show business after first trying out for the Detroit Tigers, Steven pursued acting as a young man but was frequently unemployed. He found success running the properties department at New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theatre for nine years, and subsequently worked as a Broadway stage manager for twenty years, working on the biggest shows with the most important directors and the most legendary stars. I found many of his “wink-and-a-nod” stories reflected similar experiences in the lives of every actor I know, no matter in which city their theatrical journey began.
Shaw’s began working as an apprentice in Summer Stock while a high school student, which led to his first stage appearance as a sailor escorting a goat, an animal he had never even seen before, in “Mr. Roberts.” Shaw then went on to share memories of how, like so many of us, early television icons Milton Berle, Red Skeleton, and even the Lone Ranger assisted in creating an image of the type of person each of us would grow up to be, whether in show business or not.
Shaw shared first “uptown” theatrical awakening happened in “exotic and mysterious Greenwich Village” when he was hired to stage manage “The Big Time.” I especially enjoyed his humorous recounting of his first after-show gathering at the White Horse Tavern, sitting among people more intelligent than he ever thought he could be. Of course, that evening among New York Bohemians led to one of those life-changing, over-night moments, after which Shaw felt he really “was in show business!” But I am leaving those details to your vivid imagination.
However, Shaw hid a dark secret for most of his life – one that often caused him to break into screaming rants during rehearsals as well as backstage at performances. The heartbreaking reality he shared was that as a 4-year old, he was a witness to his 12-year old sister’s suicide. The guilt he felt for not being able to help her, on top of his father’s accusation that he caused it to happen, led Shaw into “years of therapy” and no doubt launched his willingness to put his memories into script form so that he could share it with others struggling with the same negative influences in their own lives.
Proving it’s never too late to seek the kind of career you have always dreamed of, Shaw recounted finally returning to acting in his early 60s, at which time he finally struck performing gold and has appeared in over sixty feature films and television episodes (Suburbicon, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Two and a Half Men). His tenacity to achieve success, as well as his ability to share the joy of living his life in the exciting world of live theatre despite his internal struggles, make this play universally appealing to everyone.
Certainly Shaw’s tales highlight the old adage that the only person in the way of achieving your dreams is YOU. I hope you find his play as inspirational as I did and remember, all of us “freeze in the spotlight” every now and then!
Lost & Found: A Guilt Trip Through Show Business, written and performed by Steven Shaw, directed by Joan Darling, is being presented May 20- June 10, 2018 on Sundays at 7:00 p.m. in the Reuben Cordova Theatre at Theatre 40, 241 S. Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90212, on the campus of Beverly Hills High School with ample free parking in the structure adjacent to the theatre. Tickets are $20, available online at www.theatre40.org.