About 30 members of the University community kicked off the brown bag series “Broadway 101” at the Hippodrome Theatre Nov. 12. J. Wynn “Judy” Rousuck, longtime theater critic at The Baltimore Sun who now is featured on WYPR’s Maryland Morning with Sheilah Kast, regaled the audience with behind-the-scenes stories.
“I reviewed more than 3,000 plays in my 23 years as The Sun’s theater critic, which works out to maybe three to five per week,” said Rousuck, who left the newspaper in 2007. With WYPR she’s “only” seeing maybe 75 plays a year, though the theater lover says she often fills open dates in her schedule by dragging her husband, Alan Fink, to a show.
“He’s spent a lot of time in the dark with me surrounded by hundreds of people,” Rousuck joked.
Rousuck’s humor and reminiscences entertained the UMB gathering. She spoke of attending the Tony Awards with John Waters and producer Margo Lion during the heyday of Hairspray, a show that Rousuck wrote a three-year series about for The Sun.
She recalled taking actor Richard Chamberlain, star of hits ranging from Dr. Kildare to The Thorn Birds, on a tour of Baltimore, starting at Café Hon. When he said he liked “sparkly things,” Rousuck knew their next stop would be a hit — the Christmas lights on 34th Street.
Some stars have proven more elusive than others. It took “from four to eight years” for Rousuck to land an interview with legendary composer Stephen Sondheim. A photo he liked taken by a Sun photographer at that interview has made him more accessible to Rousuck since then.
An instructor with Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth, Rousuck also discussed the nuances of being a theater critic, such as taking notes in the dark and the need to sit close enough to see the actors’ faces.
“I know of no greater joy than encouraging theater audiences,” said Rousuck. Asked about unfavorable reviews, she said, “My job isn’t keeping people away from the theater … but I can recommend another show they might like better.”
UMB’s “Broadway 101” brown bag series is a partnership with the Hippodrome Foundation. Keep an eye on The Elm for future events.