Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Spotlight on Pierre-Jacques Brault

Profile: Pierre-Jacques Brault—theatre founder with an eye on the future

In this age of diminishing corporate support for the arts, the tight economy, limited theatre venues and a competitive market for audiences, what would motivate a young college graduate and some of his friends to create a professionally based, not-for-profit community supported stock theatre?

The odds obviously didn’t phase creative and dedicated Pierre-Jacques Brault and his life-partner, Brian Marshall. In 1998, they dedicated themselves to providing entertaining, enlightening and high quality premiere or rarely performed works for the audiences of Greater Cleveland. Ten years later, while other well-intentioned theatrical venues have come and gone, Mercury Summer Stock (MSS) is alive and well.

How and why did MSS come into being? In a recent interview, with eyes flashing and an endearing smile creasing his handsome face, Brault, a 1997 Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin graduate, related the story of a stage struck Beachwood kid, with a dream to create theatre. He started at age 8, being the only child in the Music School Settlement’s ‘AMAHL AND THE NIGHT VISITOR.’ He continued to perform under the guidance of Jill Koslen and Laura Gee, the artistic directors of the Beachwood and the Heights Youth Theatres. He even found himself on stage with his mother in Solon Player’s production of ‘MAME.’ It was only natural that he gravitated to Baldwin Wallace, with its nationally recognized musical theatre program headed by Vicky Bussert.

During their freshman and sophomore years, Brault and Marshall wanted a new challenge. They realized that Cleveland had no musical summer stock company. Borrowing seed money from friends and family, the dynamic duo, produced ‘FALSETTOS’ in the Ensemble Theatre space in the Civic in Cleveland Heights. They continued to use the venue through 2001 after which Ensemble had to abandon the space when the building was sold.

Brault, who has directed and taught at Stage Door Manor, the well-known Catskill Mountain summer theatre camp for aspiring theatre students (grads include Natalie Portman, Zach Braff and Jon Cryer), directed at the Virginia Musical Theatre, Chagrin Valley Little Theatre and Willoughby Fine Arts. He also was involved in productions of the Repertorie Theatre of St. Louis and the Great Lakes Theatre Festival, where he was the assistant to Choreographer Janet Watson for ‘GYPSY,’ which starred Donna McKechnie.

Kids often recognize Pierre-Jacques for his run in ‘BLUES CLUES.’ Broadway? Well, close. He appeared in the off-Broadway show, ‘IN MY DREAMS I’M SURROUNDED BY NAKED MEN. (“Yes,” he said, with a sly grin and a slightly red face, “I was a naked man!”)

Since MSS found a home at Parma Little Theatre, it has grown its audience by 47%. The patrons include young families, adults ranging from 25-45 and a strong senior citizen following (about 40% of the audiences.) Braunt feels the theatre is having an impact on the west-side of Cleveland, Parma, Parma Heights and Bedford Heights.

The future for Mercury Summer Stock? For its 10th anniversary MSS will present revivals of ‘HONK,’ ‘BLOOD BROTHERS,’ and a premiere production of ‘THE UTTER GLORY OF MORRISEY HALL.’

The future for Pierre-Jacques Brault? Next spring he will be directing ‘THE FANTASTICS’ for Ensemble Theatre and the summer will find him directing at Cain Park. He and Marshall, who is presently appearing in the Hanna Theatre’s ‘FORBIDDEN BROADWAY,’ have been out and partnered since their freshman year of college and are house looking. The duo who graduated from Baldwin Wallace in 2001, have “a healthy jealousy” and “challenge and learn from each other.” “I’m looking for a place to do my masters.” “I’d like to direct in New York.” “I’d like to …! “You know, anything is possible!”

Yes, for this special and talented young man, anything is possible!