The place was a summer camp in Pike, New Hampshire, and the star was a 13-year-old kid from Brooklyn named Bill Shorr
."I was really good in it," Shorr
says today, just a few decades later."Everybody said how good I was, so that kind of put the notion in my head."The New York stage would have to wait a few more summers for Shorr
, until he
graduated from high school and made the decision not to return to his
beloved summer camp as a tennis and drama counselor.Instead, "I went to the New York Shakeapeare Festival and auditioned for Joe Papp.It struck me that that would be a fun thing to do instead of tennis."He
garnered a part in Taming of the Shrew and earned about ten dollars a week.But the die was cast for his
career in the performing arts.While he
studied American history at Columbia University
pursued theater as an extra-curricular activity.After college, he
became a member of the Phoenix Theatre Company
, a prestigious acting company in the city, and studied method acting with Uta Hagen and at the Actor's Studio
.Graduate school in theater seemed a logical next step, so Shorr enrolled in a Rockefeller program at the University of Cincinnati which included professional and academic experience.
"I was still an actor, but I started directing too," he
explains.He worked at the Playhouse in the Park in Cincinnati, "developing relationships with people" before heading back to Manhattan to direct.
After working successfully on shows off-off-Broadway, Shorr
and some friends from Cincinnati "decided to start a theater of their own, and Aspen seemed like a good place." So it was off to Colorado to launch the Aspen Playwrights Conference, a professional theater devoted to new American plays.The model for the Aspen theater was the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O'Neill Theater
in Connecticut.For six years, Shorr
and his colleagues produced plays by John Ford Noonan, Arthur Gurney Jr., Ira Lewis, William Gibson, Jules Feiffer, Harold Clurman and others.
..."Harold Clurman was our first critic in residence, what they call a dramaturg today," says Shorr.
...Eventually, Shorr left the theater he founded and started teaching at Aspen Country Day School.
It was there that he
first got involved with children's theater.Soon, the actor-turned-director created a children's theater program and wrote three plays that were produced.The years in Aspen grew to 20, and Shorr's professional life became immersed in children's theater. Then, two years ago, Shorr's wife Karen accepted at job at the Brookwood School
in Manchester, and the couple moved with their two young children, Sam, now 6, and Emma, now 8, to the North Shore.Soon after they moved, Shorr
saw the production of Fiddler on the Roof by the Children's Theater of the Jewish Community Center in Peabody."I thought it was great," he
says, and introduced himself to the director, Debby Krim of Peabody."We talked about me doing a show there," Shorr recalls.This year, that idea will become a reality, as he directs the JCC's production of Bye, Bye Birdie, which will be on stage at the Higgins Middle School in Peabody February 10 and 11.
Shorr's days are now busy teaching theater at Shore Country Day School
in Beverly."I don't perform any more.I don't know why.I teach, I direct, I try to spend time with my family," he
says.And twice a week, he
rehearses the 49 children, ages 8 to 16, who will bring the Elvis era back in Bye
Bye Birdie this winter."This is an appropriate show for kids to do.