Cape May's Bruce M. Minnix directs "Rain" for East Lynne Theater Company

Posted 09/27/05
By Lee O'Connor, East Lynne Theater Company

CAPE MAY, NJ - During his forty-five-year career of directing television and theatre in New York and Los Angeles , Bruce M. Minnix lived in Cape May , NJ , but he refused to direct in his own hometown. This fall is different.

He's directing a revival of the long-running play "Rain" based on Somerset Maugham's famous short story, "Sadie Thompson."

It centers on the encounter between a free spirit, Sadie Thompson, and a Missionary during the rainy season in Pago Pago.

In a recent interview when I asked what changed his mind, he thought for a moment, laughed and said, "Gayle Stahlhuth! She's not just a pretty woman, a fine actress and talented writer, she's Artistic Director of The East Lynne Theater Company and an all-around wonder. One day, she casually asked what famous American play I'd like to see the company present. When I said "Rain," she said she do it if I'd direct. I'd been hustled!"

Bruce's reticence was an effort to separate his business persona from his personal life. Certainly he was active in both places.

In Cape May , he was the Mayor who had Cape May designated a National Historic Landmark.

As a founder and three-term President of The Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts, he led that group in saving the Physick House from demolition, and creating the way for Cape May' s Victorian Tourism.

Guiding Walking Tours through the Historic District year after year, he was not a secret resident. Still, he refused to direct. Two years ago he had a supporting role in an East Lynne Theater play, but that was it.

Starting in October, 1948, Bruce climbed from messenger to one of the top Associate Directors at CBS. He worked for Studio One, Playhouse 90, six years with "Bernstein and the Young People's Concerts" from Carnegie Hall, Omnibus, and U.S. Steel Hour.

He spent days in the White House working on Mrs. Kennedy's Tour. He was sitting beside Edward R. Murrow when he exposed the truth about Senator Joseph McCarthy. His work on the "Jackie Gleason Show" made him a popular choice when Hollywood stars brought their shows to New York . He worked with Jack Benny, Red Skelton and George Burns and Gracie Allen.

In 1961, he became a director, and for three years was a regular on The U.S. Steel Hour. He directed the TV version of three of Joe Papp's Shakespeare plays done in Central Park : The Emmy winning "Merchant of Venice" (1962), "Anthony and Cleopatra" (1963), and "Hamlet" (1964).

Other Emmy winners were "Richard Burton Reads Dylan Thomas's Child's Christmas in Wales" and "Essay on Doors with Andy Rooney."

In Hollywood , he did a Rock 'n Roll Soap Opera titled "Never Too Young." As dramas moved to California , Bruce moved to Soap Operas. For seventeen years he directed for "Search for Tomorrow," "All My Children," "As the World Turns," "Another World" and "Texas," among others..

" The moment I read "Rain," I loved it," said Bruce.   "It is beautifully written and tightly constructed. All the characters contribute to the story. I'm amazed at how contemporary the issues are. There's talk about Darwin' s Theory. Women had just gotten the vote. Society was in upheaval. And the final scenes are killers."

He stopped talking. I asked him to go on.

"Oh no. If I do, I'll say something to spoil it. You should see for yourself." And that's all he said.

"Rain" opens on September 21 for a four week run.  For information and reservations, call (609) 884-5898.

Note: On Thursday, Sept. 29, half of the evening’s proceeds will go to the Kiwanis Club of Cape May. On Friday, Sept. 30, the company is providing a special American Sign Language Interpretation with theatrical interpreters Kathleen Filippo and Tom Mazetis.

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