|Photo by Jay Thompson|
IT'S NOT EASY FOR A CASTING DIRECTOR to be beloved. As keeper of the opportunities, with the ability to give or withhold, he may be feared, respected or courted, but not necessarily loved. Stanley Soble, casting director for the Center Theater Group/Mark Taper Forum and Ahmanson Theater for the last 11 years, was the exception to that rule. The deep affection that the theater community felt for him was apparent at a memorial service held for him last Monday at the Mark Taper Forum.
There were eloquent appreciations from CTG artistic director Gordon Davidson and more than a dozen of Soble's colleagues and co-workers at the Taper, and from around the country. Philip Casnoff, Jennifer Leigh Warren, Eleanor Reissa and Camille Saviola provided musical tributes.
Soble's professionalism and charm commanded respect, but what really set him apart was his great love for actors, whom he was always eager to help, protect, fight for and encourage.
Soble died on July 6 following surgery for diverticulitis. Born in Richmond, Virginia, he began his career as an actor, appearing in the national touring production of Fiddler on the Roof. For a time he worked as an agent in the city, before joining the casting department of the New York Shakespeare Festival. At the Taper, his numerous assignments included casting Angels in America, The Kentucky Cycle and the repertory of Shakespeare plays, directed by Sir Peter Hall, currently running at the Ahmanson.
Of all the words spoken at the memorial, perhaps most stirring was a letter from Tony Kushner, the Pulitzer Prizewinning author of Angels in America: “The last time I saw Stanley . . . we were both watching a play . . . which we were both loathing, and since there has never been or ever will be a person born with whom it is more fun to share loathing than Stanley, the evening . . . felt entirely worthwhile . . . It gave me a chance to reconnect with a . . . man who, in the process of exploring his distaste and dismay, in his subtle and genteel and witty and bemused way, also made it luminously clear how much he loved that which the offending production had transgressed: the theater, the serious art of the theater . . . It all mattered very much to him . . . Stanley was a man of passion and taste, and decency and generosity; he was funny and brave . . . He was a marvel and a mensch and a lovely man . . . and he left way too soon.”