W.A. Walters photo

W.A. Walters

Birth name:
William Albert Walters
Date of Birth:
11 December 1937 Columbus, Ohio, USA
Height:
5' 10" (1.78 m)
Bill is known to thousands of concert goers in New York and around the country as the irascible and irritable but always efficient apologist and stage manager for Peter Schickele's presentations of the music of PDQ Bach. With his impatient good grace, he is the ever-present voice of reason in contrast to the wild and unpredictable Professor Schickele. Amidst waves of affectionate hisses from fans at Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Symphony Space, The Kennedy Center, and many more performing arts centers around the world, Bill carries out his duties, setting the stage, moving pianos, dropping music stands, and making excuses for the always late Professor. His pre-concert chore is to stall for time while an army of backstage personnel supposedly searches for the missing soloist. He has to explain to the seemingly unsympathetic and hostile audience an increasing series of implausible reasons for the delay. At the same time, he takes the opportunity to harass the late-coming stragglers in the audience. This ritual has become such a tradition that at almost every concert, the more masochistic people will purposely delay taking their seats in order to be insulted by the alert Walters. The process serves a fourfold function, however. One: the prudent, less masochistic concert-goer will never again be late to a performance; two: after Walters deals with his latecomers, the audience is warmed up and ready for anything; three: since Walters appears exactly at the advertised curtain time, the concerts technically ALWAYS start on time; and four: once he gets done with the latecomers, the performance can start with the entire audience in their seats.Despite his on-stage persona, however, Bill is really the backstage heart of the "Evening of Musical Madness" as the concerts are called. He is the technical coordinator, production manager, road manager, and the REAL stage manager of the series of concerts that began in 1965 with the first public performance at Town Hall in New York. Starting in 1966, and for many years of bus tours, one-night stands, airport departure lounges, and appearances with every major (and most minor) symphony orchestras in the United States, he is the person who coordinates all touring logistics, handles the advance technical arrangements with each orchestra management, and designs the special props (including such unlikely concert hall items as an exploding piano bench, a collapsing conductor's podium, and a "chamber" calliope, among others). He once said that he felt like Sky Masterson, the gambler-hero of "Guys and Dolls", who noted that: "There are two things that have been in every hotel room in America: Sky Masterson and the Gideon Bible."Bill was born in Columbus, Ohio in December of 1937, and attended Grandview High School and the Ohio State University where he was a fine arts major hoping to get into advertising or cartooning. Among his mementos are a sheaf of rejection slips from The New Yorker and Playboy. He was introduced to the theatre by volunteering to design the set for a friend's student production. "What's a set?" he had naively asked. He was the staff artist for both the Ohio State University Department of Motion Pictures, and the television station, WOSU. He acted in and designed plays and musicals, performed a TV puppet show for children, and in 1963, after the usual summer stock assignments, he arrived in New York City, where he worked at NBC as a page and as a production assistant. He rapidly gave up the idea of being a stage designer or actor, and instead became a backstage jack-of-all-trades with The New York Shakespeare Festival (where he was the assistant props manager under Steven Shaw), and The Playhouse of the Ridiculous, and many other off-Broadway groups. He became a stage manager, and after being hired by Peter Schickele for PDQ Bach, continued in the off-season to work in concerts, theatre, television, and film. He worked at Chamber Music Northwest in Portland during the eruption of Mount Saint Helens, and spent seven seasons as production manager with The Acting Company of New York, coordinating all their technical and touring activities. Besides Peter Schickele and the many super-star conductors and soloists who insisted on performing the music of PDQ Bach, he worked with many of the other major and minor luminaries of the show business world. Uta Hagan, Sam Waterston, David Shifrin, Serge Luca, Charles Nelson Reilly, Paul Tripp, and Charles Durning were among the many beneficiaries of his knowledge and experience.In 1998, he was asked to oversee the design and installation of the lighting and sound equipment and stage machinery for The Falaki Center, a new theatre and performance space at The American University in Cairo. He spent much time in Egypt, supervising the project and visiting the monuments he had only seen in his art history textbooks in college.Recently he has been giving a series of walking tours of the Broadway Theatre District, dabbled in extra work in movies and TV, and has written lots of unproduced plays and film scripts, and has taught film-making and video for children. He also works for Gray Line New York Sightseeing as a tour guide riding around on the top of a double-decker bus telling lies about New York City to gullible and unwary tourists. But the ever-ubiquitous PDQ Bach has always remained an annual event for him. He looks forward to the insulting of concert-goers as much as they love booing him.In the spring of 2000, Walters achieved, what was for him, the high honor of being elected to the Players, the Gramercy Park association founded by Edwin Booth. He can be found there many an afternoon, shooting pool on Mark Twain's billiard table and trading endless theatre stories with anyone who will listen.He is married to the actress Donna Browne. Their daughter Samantha Browne-Walters is also an actress.
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