Honorary prof recalls glory days

Before an audience of about  50 theatre majors and professors, three-time Tony Award-winner Stuart Vaughn performed an hour-long one-act play alongside actress and spouse Anne Thompson at UVM’s Royal Tyler Theatre on March 19. As an honorary member of the James Marsh Professor-at-Large Program, Vaughn is currently a member of UVM faculty, teaching University theater students from his more than 60 years of experience from major Broadway, and off-Broadway plays.  Lacking props, costuming, varied lighting and movement of any kind, Vaughn’s “Return Engagement” was written specifically for his pupils.  Written by a a seasoned veteran of his trade, the one-act play contains more than a few inside jokes into the biz — unfortunately, those unfamiliar with the dynamics of onstage acting may not catch on.The act consists of a dialogue between former couple Sean and Regina, reminiscing together about the heydays of their past theater performances. The audience realizes that the unaware couple stands within a theatrical venue minutes away from being destroyed, typical of dramatic irony. Thompson plays Regina as a sweet, feminine woman with a fond, lifelong passion for the theater even though she sits still in her chair for the whole of “Return Engagement.” Vaughn’s character, Sean, characteristically repositioning his legs, mimicking his excitement at the couple’s past success and memories, provides a boyish and youthful charm to his often cheeky, animated character. The chemistry between Thompson and Vaughn is tender, perfect and assisted by the fact that the two have been companions within their medium of expression for “44 years,” read the playbill. With this connection, however, comes many references to  real-life history between the two as actors and confidants. Sean and Regina delve into interactions with anonymous actors which, judging by the sporadic hearty laughs from theater faculty in the audience, apparently are universally observed by the theater community. Yet, to the casual Broadway enthusiast, the  references cause the audience to feel clueless and uninformed. Regardless, the intended audience for the one-act is Vaughn’s theatre students — their warm reception depicts his success in keeping their attention.The theme of keeping alive or reviving an art form gave the chatting former lovebirds “[and continues to give] the opportunity to celebrate life.” Audibly and lovingly communicated, it is apparent in the genuine twinkle of Stuart Vaughn’s eye and spring in step how much  he  “loves the tradition of the art form to which [he] belongs” and can’t deny himself his passions. As cheesy as that observation and “Return Engagement” is, the work and voice of Vaughn go unappreciated.