Albert Pia is an award-winning director. He took acting classes under the esteemed tutelage of Uta Hagen, Herbert Berghof, and Bill Hickey. He has founded more community theatres than most people have acted in and has many well-known connections. That being said, Albert Pia is not a novelist, and this memoir of his life is a bit repetitive and difficult to get through.
On Stage! The Communal Magic of Theatre is marketed as somewhat of a manual on how to start a community theatre and inÂ the author’sÂ own words is supposed to “aid all theater-minded individuals to achieve higher levels of performance artistry and to experience the joy and appeal of theater involvement.” However,Â On Stage! is merely a reflection on Pia’s life: an autobiography detailing his history in the performance arts, starting with grade school and leading up to the founding ofÂ The Sterling Barn Theater in theÂ 1970′s.
While many of Pia’s accomplishments are quite impressive; founding an American community theatre in Munich, working as a voice over director on foreign films, working with director Allan Schneider before he was popular, most of them are not too out-of-the-ordinary. His various governmental and teaching jobs are extensively explored. These are the details that might belong in a typical autobiography written for consumption solely by friends and family, but have no place in a for-profit published novel.
The quality of Pia’s writing, and his ability to keep the reader engaged, in no way reflects poorly upon his life and the major accomplishments and trials he has been through. But readers will find it difficult to pore over the life details of someone they haven’t heard of before. I say, friends of Albert Pia rejoice, for this book has been written for you. Others will not be as excited to open this book.
Brief mention is made of acting technique and directing tips are thrown in for good measure, but both are buried amidst the recounting of Pia’s life. Constantly mentioning “rave reviews” for stage productions he directed and reiterating the high quality of his shows, On Stage! feels too much like one long pat on the back to be ultimately enjoyable to the average reader.