Remembering the `perfect fellow cast member'

Actor: Stanley Morrow was adept at comedic and dramatic roles.

Arundel Live

September 09, 2004|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The stage lights at Colonial Players, the Annapolis Summer Garden and other community theater venues will seem to shine a bit less brightly this season because of the death of Stan Morrow, one of the area's finest actors, who died of cancer at Anne Arundel Medical Center Sept. 3. Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1928, Morrow moved in 1954 to Maryland, where he worked for the American Automobile Association as group travel director and operated a travel business after retiring.

His greatest passion was the stage. He performed in New York's Yiddish theater as a young man and met Ros, his wife of 50 years, while both were working at a resort in the Catskills.

His flair for ethnic humor never left him. The timing he drew from the setups, facial takes, punch lines and stories told in a perfect dialect was evident in his comic touch and dramatic acting.

"Stan had a sense of natural timing that was almost like breathing," says actress Dianne Hood, who starred with Morrow in Colonial Players' 1986 production of Arsenic and Old Lace and directed him in several subsequent shows. "With one shift of posture, one change of facial expression, he'd have the audience and the whole cast in the palm of his hand. He'd raise an eyebrow or give you a look and you'd fall out of your chair laughing."

I got a sustained close-up of Morrow's flair for the dramatic when both of us were cast as members of the Second Continental Congress in the old Annapolis Dinner Theatre's 1994 production of the musical 1776. From my vantage point at the South Carolina table playing Edward Rutledge, the South's songful defender of slavery, I had numerous opportunities to be absorbed by Morrow's rendering of James Wilson of Pennsylvania, the legislator whose agonized vote in favor of Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence helped propel his colony into the pro-independence camp.

Wig askew, his face contorted to the breaking point, Morrow repeatedly dug into the guts of this unassuming man who became such an unlikely linchpin in the success of the Colonies' revolt against the British crown.

I also recall us decked out in breeches and wigs backstage, conducting 18th-century legislative business in thick Yiddish accents.

"Stan was the perfect fellow cast member," says Ed Wintermute, who performed with Morrow many times and also was a member of the 1776 cast. "There never was a more comfortable person to be around, on or off the stage."

The irony of theater is that the harder you work to portray someone else, the more you reveal of yourself. And Stanley Morrow on stage was a reflection of Stanley Morrow the man.

"He was especially wonderful doing theater for children," says Hood. "He respected the kids immensely and never acted down to them. He gave them the same energy, the same devotion he gave everyone else."

Even as cancer had him reeling, Morrow performed brilliantly last season as one of the grandfathers in Colonial's Over the River and Through the Woods, his final role. Chemotherapy and all, he finished the run in fine style, failing to rally for only one show, his first missed curtain in 65 years on the stage.

"He was the very best," says performer Carol Cohen. "For years to come, I think a lot of us are going to find ourselves saying, `You know, Stan would be perfect for this part.'"

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