by Rita Charleston
Even after hundreds of years since it was first performed, audiences still seem to love Moliere’s classic, “The Miser,” now continuing through Dec. 10 at the Stagecrafters, 8130 Germantown Ave., where it is directed by Barbara Mills.
The plot centers around a brother and sister, both ready to set out on their own with their true loves, but they must conspire to find ways to get around their overbearing, skinflint father, Harpagon.
In the dual role of Master Simon, a usurer, and the Chief of Police, is Clint Cleaver, a man of many talents. Brought up in Appalachia, Clint, now 70, says he had no exposure whatsoever to the arts. Rather, graduating at the top of his class, he was accepted into the medical program at Ohio State University at the age of 16. “But while I was there, I happened to take a theater course, and I was off. Eventually I decided to change my major, which was okay with the people in the medical school who actually like those who are well-rounded.”
But two years into the theater program and given a scholarship to study in Russia and Poland during his senior year, he was hooked. So after getting his B.A. in Theater, Cleaver headed off to Tulane University in New Orleans to earn an M.F.A. in directing. While there he met the woman who would become his wife, the future best-selling novelist of historical romances, Natasha Peters.
The couple moved to Philadelphia because Cleaver next decided to enroll in the Academy of Vocal Arts with an eye to becoming an opera singer. “And that made my wife start looking around for a portable career just in case I started singing all over Europe. That’s when her writing really took off.”
Then, with dozens of books published and two young sons to care for, the couple moved from Europe back to Philadelphia to start anew, eventually becoming involved in community theater.
Now retired and living in Rydal, Cleaver spent many years acting and directing at Playcrafters of Skippack. He’s also appeared at Village Players of Hatboro and Old Academy’s One-Act Bonanza. This is his first time with Stagecrafters, but he hopes to be with them many more times in the years to come.
“Because I have two small roles in ‘The Miser,’ my only challenge is the time it takes to change my makeup and costumes so that I look like a completely different person in Act I and Act II,” Cleaver laughs. “There are many people my age trying out for roles such as these, and I think the only reason I got it is because I’m the only 70-year-old who can fall on the floor and jump up again.
“Both parts are small, but that’s probably good because at this time in my life I sometimes worry about being able to memorize too many lines, although it’s probably good to exercise you brain that way.”
And today, Cleaver thinks he’s finished with directing and will concentrate on acting. “As a director I tend to take on too many responsibilities. In addition to everything else I do, I’m also a costumer. I sew. In fact, I made my wife’s wedding dress. So as a director, I would take on too many things, and I just don’t want to do that anymore , so I’ll stick to acting. Then all I have to worry about are my lines.”
For more information, call 215-247-8881.