Longtime executive producer Paul Blake is in the midst of his final season at The Muny. With three shows left of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and an ending run next week of Bye Bye Birdie, which he directs, Blake took a few moments to muse over what he calls his ‘second act.’
LN: HOW DID YOUR CAREER BEGIN AT THE MUNY?
PB: In 1990, I received a phone call from then-president and CEO of The Muny, Bill Culver, and he said, I want you to come talk about running the theater with me. I flew out to St. Louis, and he talked me into staying.
LN: HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT CLOSING OUT YOUR CAREER WITH THIS SEASON’S LINE-UP OF SHOWS?
PB:Well, it’s very bittersweet, but I think it’s important to pass the torch. It’s sad to say goodbye, but as I’ve said, it’s not goodbye. It’s just another way of moving on in life together.
LN: WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MUNY MOMENTS?
PB: The most memorable thing is the St. Louis audience— the letters people have sent me over the years. They understand what we do, appreciate what we do and encourage what we do. And that’s extraordinary to find that you’re doing shows for an audience that you’ve come to know. In Singin’ in the Rain, a show we did a few weeks ago, there’s a little film clip where I appeared as the inventor of sound pictures. Well, every night after that clip, they applauded. It’s that kind of relationship. It’s been so thrilling to find it here at The Muny.
LN: WHEN YOU ANNOUNCED YOUR RETIREMENT LAST YEAR, THE AUDIENCE WAS VERY MOVED.
PB: I was surprised by the reaction. I said, I’m going to leave next year, and then there was this big Aww. At first though, I didn’t understand what the noise meant. I thought they were cheering the idea, but then I realized it was the opposite. It was very sweet—I was very touched.
LN: WHAT WILL YOU MISS MOST ABOUT THE MUNY?
PB: The whole Muny family. Earlier this week, it was Ken Page’s (an actor who has played at The Muny for about 20 years) last show with me here, and we were both teary.
LN: WHAT ARE YOU PLANNING NEXT?
PB: The Muny has been my second act, and now I’m going to start my third. Next year this time, a show I wrote based on the Paramount movie Roman Holiday, with songs by Cole Porter, will be starting at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. After that, we’re going to take it to New York.