in all things throughout his life, and in the theater. Yet, he never left the stage. Working in New York theaters and taking shows on the road, he took what roles he could to make a living and satisfy his true passion. He talks of tying a play set to the roof of three station wagons, loading the cast and their luggage and driving from town to town, each night entertaining a different crowd, meeting new fans, and moving on the next day. Remember, in those days there were many places that were segregated. MacNeal, later also owned and operated The Creative Arts Center in New Milford and Brookfield Center for the Arts, both in Connecticut. Brookfield Center was an outdoor summer Shakespearian theater with medieval performers, jugglers, and side-shows.... and it never rained for a performance. Even as a practicing Psychologist in the Danbury Hospital, he never gave up his need for the theater and was always directing or rehearsing. His favorite Director? Paul Newman, who along with his wife Joanne Woodward, and Geraldine Fitzgerald, cast Wendell in a small role in the four time Oscar nominated movie, Rachael, Rachael, which was Newman’s directorial debut. He is quick to add Shakespeare’s quote, “There is no such thing as small roles, just small actors”. Newman’s style was quite, calm, instructional and encouraging and did much to fashion Wendell’s directorial style in years to come. His favorite play? West Side Story. “It requires good actors, good singers, and good dancers”. Of the hundreds of plays Wendell has been in or directed, this play requires the most talent and experience yet is so full of energy and magical moments. Wendell, “retired”, and moved with his wife Bernadette, an RN that gives her time to Hilton Head Volunteers in Medicine, to Sun City. In his seven years in the Low Country he has directed eight shows. His directing style is calm, deliberate, and encouraging. He is engaging and brings the best out of each individual performer as well as binds the entire cast into “one”. He understands the importance of the small details. He is quick to provide positive reinforcement or instruction and direction when needed. His warm smile from ear to ear creates a sense of calm and confidence with in the cast. Wendell’s favorite saying, which came out of a children’s book he wrote is: “Who we are or what we should be depends on who you are and what you want to see”.
Acting is about developing a character and he encourages each performer to find “their character” and never leave it while on stage. At a recent Man of La Mancha rehearsal, two of the three principal actors, Dan Cort, playing Don Quiote and real life wife, Debbie Cort, playing the prostitute Aldonsa, began singing to each other. Stop! Wendell exclaimed. Drop the sword! I feel you can express your emotions better in the song having both hands free. And in a calm quiet voice, almost a whisper “I want you to let it go, show your feelings, bring it to me!” Dan and Debbie began to sing to each other, and it became so powerful that they began to breakdown from emotion and sob. The cast began to shed a tear and when it was over all were emotionally exhausted. Now, quietly spoke Wendell, you see what it can do for each of the actors on stage, imagine what response will come from the audience. Man of La Mancha, opening May 9 at May River Theater, is a masterpiece that has survived because of it’s brilliant use of irony. There is a play within a play. The 1965 Broadway production ran for 2,328 performances and won five Tony awards, including Best Musical. Don’t miss seeing Wendell’s magical moments!