April 8, 2013
Field's Last Role Out of Character, Except it's Twain
Exposing the biggest scam and cover-up the world has ever known doesn’t seem like the kind of send-off a guy whose career has been mostly music and dancing, who once garnered a New York Outer Critics Circle Award for "Best Musical Revue," would want.
There’s not a song to be heard during Community Arts Theater Society (CATS) presentation of Mark Twain and the Shakespeare Mystery during seven April shows at its Warehouse Theater (story page 8). Ironic but not surprising that in Robin Field’s last show for CATS, an original he wrote, he didn’t pen himself a single song or step.
Then again, the idea that William Shakespeare did not—in fact could not— have written his own plays was postulated by Twain, who Field has had a fascination with since he was a kid. Playing a lifelong idol who in his later years began to suspect that someone else besides The Bard had written all those great plays, come to think of it, just might be the perfect way for Field, who turns 66 in April, to go out.
After all, Field has an estimated 400-500 books by and about the great writer in a room in his cozy mountain home dedicated to Twain. Many of those volumes and the other memorabilia will be used on stage in Shakespeare Mystery, like the working handcrank phone, appropriate because Twain was one of the first private citizens to possess a telephone.
The next phase of his life leads down the mountain for Field, who has had a home in Big Bear for decades but really began to live here a few years ago when he started performing for CATS. Field may have made a living performing for 20 years in New York City, including headlining a sold-out Carnegie Hall, but the spring in his step was most pronounced on the Big Bear stage, as Harold Hill in The Music Man and Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady.
A medical condition is forcing Field to retire—again—to a Lake Forest mobile home community where he will be closer to friends and family. "This will be my last show up here and possibly anywhere," Field said. "I find I no longer require an audience. I’ll still write, record, compose and read audio books (he has made a living recording the great classics)."
If this is to be a final live performance for Field, he’s undertaking a doosie. One of the lesser-known Twain volumes on his shelves "Is Shakespeare Dead?" caught his fancy and Field trimmed it in half to create a show that brings out the best of Twain.
"It’s Twain at his funniest and angriest," Field said. "It’s such great material, one of his least known works and yet so him. He wants to prove that Shakespeare couldn’t have written (those) works. He’s furious how the hoax has been perpetrated all these years. He was one of the first celebrities to doubt. His purpose is toe break the news to the world."
The show features Field as Twain, welcoming the audience into his study. "This last show is quite a challenge," Field said. "It’s always a great challenge for an actor to do a one-man show. It’s mostly a laugh riot, till he gets very serious."
His relationship with Twain is long-running. At age 9 Field started writing his first musical Tom Sawyer and had a full draft of the show done when he was 10. One night his mom invited Nancy Ebsen, wife of star Buddy, over for dinner and Robin asked if she’d like to hear his show.
"I sat at mom’s piano and read the script and sang every song," he said. "It took four hours and she listened intently. Finally she said `You have a good four-hour show. Cut it in half and we’ll do it.’ "
Field didn’t finish that task for 40 years, till he promised Tom Sawyer to Bear Valley Dance Studio which presented it as a fundraiser in 1997 to acclaim. "As the adult me I edited the young me," he said.
Four years later Field portrayed a 40-year-old Twain in an original concert revue. The late Dom DeLuise, who in 1972 presented Field as a discovery on "The Merv Griffin Show," saw the show and was duly impressed. "How do you know how to get a laugh after they laugh?" Field remembered his late friend saying.
When Field met CATS’ Karen "Sarge" Rachels four years ago he gave her a CD called "Plum Roles" which amounted to his bucket list. Hill and Higgins were on it. "We’re halfway through it," Field said, citing Man of La Mancha and Sound of Music as remaining shows.
After the curtain closes on Shakespeare Field will pack up his 2,000 sq. ft. home and squeeze into a 1,700 ft. triplewide. That means moving 5,000 albums, thousands of books and hundreds of videos, posters and paintings along with his studio where he records audio books and pays tribute to Judy Garland, another idol.
"Hope I don’t disturb my neighbors because I still want to sing," Field said.
I don’t think they’ll mind.
Have a good one.