A Stage Match
She's been called the 'Queen of Boston Theater'. He kept audiences in hysterics with his Richard Nixon. Now Paula Plum and Richard Snee give a he-said, she-said on life in the Boston theater--and 20 years of life together.
Richard Snee on Paula Plum
I've been asked write six hundred words about Paula Plum . I've been married to Paula for nearly 20 years, so that breaks down to about 30 words per year, or two-and-a-half words per month. Doesn't sound like enough, but here goes.
1980: We get married. Almost didn't. Neglected to pick up marriage license. Realized this at the rehearsal (our first rehearsal together) Friday afternoon, July 4th. Long story. Happy ending. Thank you, Ray Flynn.
1981: Still married. Paper anniversary. Paula is in her 3rd year of teaching drama, dance and sex ed at Buckingham, Brown & Nichols. I'm running a Boston City Council campaign. My guy wins.
1982: I go to work at City Hall. We become the first couple to move from Belmont to South Boston. Paula returns to the stage in the musical Clown Alley at the Alley Theater. I'm still humming the tunes. Really.
1983: Paula appears in Kennedy's Children at Spectator Arts Theater. I'm running a re-election campaign. We decide to wed art and politics by having a benefit performance as a campaign fundraiser. Bad idea. Show closes. Theater folds. My guy loses.
1984: We begin couples therapy. Paula does better than I do. She stars in Top Girls at the Alley Theater. I go to work for a Republican.
1985: Strengthened by therapy, we decide to test the marriage. Paula directs me in Lone Star at the Alley. Turns out she's a great director, too.
1986: We had so much fun the first time.... Paula directs me in The Lady and the Clarinet at the New Ehrlich Theater (now fondly remembered as "the old New Ehrlich")
1987: Paula and I appear in It's Only A Play, staged by the late, great Joe Braz in what is now the Boston Center for the Arts (you remember it as the old New Ehrlich). Paula has a brief career as a stripper--in Tom Stoppard's Jumpers at the Huntington Theatre Company.
1988: Paula joins Shear Madness. Contemplates suicide. (I'm kidding.) We get to work together and with some of Boston's finest actors in the basement of the Charles Playhouse.
1989: Cher comes into our lives. Paula appears as Wyona Ryder's guidance counselor in Mermaids, which is still paying residuals (thank you, Cher!). Paula does first of several productions of Happy Days. Sends mailer to non-Beckett-philes warning that Richie Cunninghgam and The Fonz will not appear in this production.
1990: 10th Anniversary. One-woman show time in Gloucester. Paula does Happy Days and Shirley Valentine.
1991: Paula does Table Manners with the cream of Boston's acting crop at the theater whose name we no longer mention in our home.
1992: At that same theater, Paula and I appear in Uncle Vanya. I play Paula's father. She finds this endlessly amusing. To this day likes to introduce me as her dad.
1993-95: The New York years. We rent a studio in the Village. Paula appears in several New York venues, but returns regularly to Boston. Makes her debut at the American Repertory Theatre in Picasso in the Lapin Agile. For her performances in Lost in Yonkers and Unexpected Tenderness she receives best actress honors by the Boston Critics.
1996: We share the stage again at the Wilbur Theater in Jackie, An American Life, playing, among many other roles, Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe.
1997: Paula gets animated, and goes national, as the voice of Alison Kremple on ABC's Science Court. She becomes the Perry Mason of Saturday morning cartoons--she never loses a case.
1998: Paula inaugurates a new theater space, directing Kathy St. George in Tell Me on a Sunday at the 57 Downtown. She appears in The Marriage of Bette and Boo at A.R.T.
1999: After a 13 year hiatus, Paula directs me in another show, The Baltimore Waltz at the Lyric. I join her in the world of animation, and The Dick and Paula Celebrity Special premieres on the FX network. Paula continues to appear all over: in John Kuntz's award-winning Sing Me to Sleep at the BCA (the old New Ehrlich), on Boston Common in Julius Caesar, and as a company member of A.R.T. A profile of her in The Boston Herald is headlined "Paula Plum, Queen of Boston Theater". 'Nuff said.
Meet my husband of 20 years: Richard Snee, fellow actor, comedian, voice-over talent and, in my utterly unbiased opinion, funniest man on the planet. I knew the day I met him that I wanted to marry to him. I married him because I knew he would make me laugh for the rest of my life. So far, he hasn't let me down.
So what's so funny? Richard is the master of surprise. Just when I think he's going to respond with an elegant retort, he streaks through the kitchen wearing only his socks. Or if I'm anticipating dinner with Bozo the Clown, I suddenly find myself chatting with Noel Coward. Unpredictable--that's my boy.
We met at Boston's Parker House Hotel in 1977, where I was the concierge and he the night manager or, as he referred to himself, the Lord of the Darkness. Instantly smitten, I quickly became not only a fool, but also a thief, for love, stealing his night manager reports from the security mailbox each morning to delight in his satiric accounts of hotel life after dark. I was fascinated by his twisted, anarchic sense of humor, and the fact that he looks great in a tuxedo.
You see, Richard has white white hair, and thick black eyebrows. He is hard to cast because his face is much younger than his hair, and he looks more like an elegant Irish lord than the charming buffoon he truly is. So, I married the guy. Five years into our marriage, I was given an opportunity to direct a production of Lone Star at the Alley Theater in Cambridge. I still recall the drunken night of celebration sitting in candlelight in our South Boston apartment drinking Scotch and sensing a huge change happening in our lives. I was going to cast Richard in this play. I was ecstatic thinking of the joy of this new, shared adventure: a life in the theater--together! Naive? You bet.
But Richard launched his career in that dear little dump of a space, and has been working ever since. His career has been blessed with many triumphs and happy collaborations. He was part of the original cast of Jackie at the Wilbur Theater, in which his imitation of Richard Nixon nightly caused near cardiac arrests in the house. He is a 13-year Shear Madness veteran, notching over 2800 performances of that who dunnit in his comedy belt. He has braved the terrors of stand-up with a unique set about Martin Luther writing the 99 theses. (Number 97: Why do we always have to wear brown?)