It isn’t every day you get to sit around and talk with veteran company members Bill Van Horn (12th Season), Janis Stevens (13th Season), and Mark Cartier (18th Season). Most of the time you just watch in awe as they effortlessly cavort from character to character onstage. But to wrap up the 45th Season at TAM, we asked the trio to share some of the highlights of their time treading the boards in Cumston Hall.

Q: What are your favorite moments from this season?

Mark: I enjoy playing Sir John in A Woman of No Importance because it’s a very low impact performance for me and I get a lot of mileage out of not a lot of time onstage. It’s a lot of fun.


Bill Van Horn, Chris Allen, and Janis Stevens in Henry IV, Part I

Janis: I feel the same way about LeBeau in As You Like It. It’s my show where I can take a breath and just enjoy having this little walk on role. But I will say I feel like this season I’ve enjoyed all three shows because there’s been a really great balance of a bigger role, a medium sized role, and a smaller role. It’s been really balanced that way, and it’s been great.

Bill: And I’ve enjoyed putting Romeo & Juliet together. I thought Dawn did a really good job. It’s just a story we all know so well but the cutting was so clean and quick and to the point and I really enjoyed watching that be put together and being part of that.

Janis: And fresh. The approach makes the play fresh.

Bill: I love all our shows, and I love this company as much if not more than any company I’ve ever worked with here in twelve years. I really think everybody was focused on one goal this year. I think that’s been my overriding joy. This company came ready to work. Also that Mark, Janis, and I got to play supporting roles to younger company members which is really a fantastic shift. In years past, we’d each have leads in each of the three shows and this time, since we’re getting older, it’s great to see the younger members of the company take the lead and we work in support. That’s been really gratifying.

Q: What are some of your favorite moments from your overall time at TAM?

Janis: There are a whole lot of them.

Bill: Just doing classic theatre; getting to do all these plays that you grew up wanting to do.

Janis: Just the fact that I’ve gotten to do so many of the great, great leading ladies of Shakespeare: Beatrice, Cleopatra, Paulina, and then Amanda in Glass Menagerie and Amanda in Private Lives, so that not only the great Shakespeare classics but the great, great modern classics as well.

Bill: And getting to direct. Janis directed my second year here. She did an awesome job of Talley’s Folly that Mark starred in with Sally Wood and he was fantastic. That was a great show that I remember. And in that same year I directed Henry V, and I really loved directing that show. And playing Shylock and playing King Lear of course.

Mark: I’d say that there are many roles that I’ve been given the opportunity to play here that I would never get in Boston or anyplace else.

Janis: Like what? Antony?

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Mark S. Cartier and Bill Van Horn in The Merchant of Venice

Mark: Oh God, no one would even let me audition for that, let alone play it. But beyond the Shakespeare, some of the lesser known plays. Like Talley’s Folly was just an incredible experience. Or the Stage Manager in Our Town.

Bill: No other theater affords you that rich a selection of roles you can play over a ten year period of time. You might get one or two of those roles in another company, but because classics are the focus here, we’re constantly doing these great plays that we all dreamt about doing when we were studying in school.

Q: What’s different about working here than other theatres?

Bill: I think falling in love with Maine and the people of Maine and what this place means.

Janis: Yes. Forty year theatre company that we’re getting the opportunity to be a part of.

Bill: I think Maine offers a lifestyle that not many places in America offer anymore where everybody waves to one another and neighborliness is number one and community. Also that no matter if our audiences are blue collar workers or professors, they all come with this keen knowledge of having read these stories. Maine is a reader’s state. People in Maine read. Cause the power goes out a lot.

Janis: What else do you do in the wintertime?

Bill: You need to have a lot of books and candles around. So our talkbacks, I’ve always said, are more effervescent and

Janis: Intelligent

Bill: And more challenging than any talkbacks anywhere else. The audience that we attract is one of the great pleasures of working here.

Janis: There’s a sense of history and ownership. And a lot of the audience have had their tickets at this theatre that have been handed down in the family over the years.

Mark:  And there are board members who have been on this board since the theatre was founded in 1970, like the Heckmans. I get to know these board members personally, which I don’t at many theatres that I work at. The support is just incredible. They’re great people.

Janis: It’s kind of a paradise.

Bill: It really is.

Janis: I look forward to coming here every summer because it’s my getaway from the hectic race that I’m in in California. I come here and I have one focus and that is just to honor this theatre.

Bill: Every year it’s always great to see young people, recent college grads on and off stage. There’s a look of fear in their eyes when they realize “we’re doing four plays in four weeks?” But this year, the team, they caught on to the method and the spirit and the madness right away. Everyone was focused on one thing. There are other years that have been like this, but this year particularly everybody was working as a well-oiled machine.

Q: Any embarrassing moments?

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Mark S. Cartier, Bill Van Horn, and Dustin Tucker in King Lear

Mark: Even today an actor tripped over the ropes on the ring and brought it down before the wrestling in As You Like It. There have been bats flying overhead in the hall over the years. We had a bat in King Lear, we had a bat my first season in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was tremendous. When Bottom says “My soul is in the sky,” a bat flew over and got applause.

Bill: It’s funny how whenever a bat appears, it seems to be an appropriate line. In King Lear it appeared with “Well flown bird of the air.”

Janis: Stop!

Mark: They were well-trained bats.

Janis: Well if Mike Anthony was here he could tell the story of seeing the ghost of Harry Cochrane who came and watched his performance of This Wonderful Life two years ago and sat down which means that he was enjoying it as opposed to looking and saying “Eh, this isn’t worth me sticking around for.” I don’t know if this is a funny story, but it’s one of my seminal moments when we opened Antony and Cleopatra, and, for whatever reason, I went completely up on my lines in the second scene. Thank God Cartier was there to pick up the verse and carry on.

Mark: I don’t even remember this.

Janis: Thank God. Because I’ll tell you, I was catatonic.

Bill: We all have moments like that where the lines leave you. It happened to me in The Tempest one night. The mishaps and mess-ups are just as rich as the good moments.

Mark: Like the puppets in Antony and Cleopatra.

Janis: I look back fondly on that production where I wore a set of drapes for a costume at one point in that show. I felt very Scarlet O’Hara.

Mark: And you got to strangle a puppet.

Janis: And I got to strangle a puppet. I mean, honestly, what else do you need?

Mark: How often can you do that in Shakespeare?

Janis: I’m in my drapes, and I’m strangling a puppet.

Bill: And in Henry V, when we did that we had a young actor named Sarah Hoyer who had just graduated, and she was certified in quarter staff. So, everyone fought with quarter staff.

Janis: She was about three feet tall.

Bill: So she played the boy, and then these huge hulking monster Frenchmen attacked her—

Mark: The tallest company of men ever. They were massive. She fought them off.

Bill: We staged this fight where she whipped out on all these big guys, and that’s one of my favorite moments ever.

Mark: That was amazing.

Janis: What about you and Bill doing The Odd Couple?

Bill: Well that was just type casting.

Mark: We lived it and we played it at the same time.

Bill: TAM’s a fantastic place that attracts true artists. So much of this business is spent on the nuts and bolts, on the money and how much you make and are you going to be able to make your rent, because it is a very precipitous business. You never know where your next job is coming from, so to have this paradise for twelve years, or for eighteen in Mark’s case, or for thirteen in Janis’, as a steady source of true artistic expression—what more could you ask for?