by Jeff Calhoun, Director
Where do you begin when putting together a show about a life as deep and rich as that of Maurice Hines? Well, Maurice and I began at my kitchen table. Along with Arena Stage's Director of Artistic Programming, David Snider, we would sit for hours each week while Maurice would regale us with story after story, intermittently producing accompanying black and white photos from his family's scrapbooks. Some stories were about the likes of Frank, Sammy, Dean, Lena, Pearl, Judy and Duke (to name but a few). Maurice not only knew these entertainment icons but also performed with most of them! Other stories were about the exciting yet volatile era in our country when African American stars could play the most renowned showrooms in the country, but were not yet permitted to stay there. And some of my favorite stories were about Maurice's hero, his mother – the matriarch who always nurtured her family and taught her two boys that their place in this world would be upon a stage, a sentiment she reiterated to Maurice from her hospital bed as they spoke for the last time.
Well, it didn't take long to realize that the show we were trying to create should be exactly what David and I were experiencing at these meetings: a narrative of Maurice's life told through first hand stories, family photos and Maurice's favorite songs and dances. As a kid from Pittsburgh who began his career tap dancing with Ann Miller at the age of 16, I looked forward to Maurice's arrival to my apartment the same way my younger self would anticipate the appearance of Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Dick Van Dyke, Ray Bolger, Buddy Ebsen, Ken Berry, Arthur Duncan or Ben Vereen on television. It’s safe to say I've always been obsessed and in love with the song and dance man!
My hope is that everyone seeing this show experiences the same sense of awe and privilege David and I felt listening to Maurice at my kitchen table. Tappin’ Thru Life is meant to be a time capsule of joy – an uninterrupted 90 minutes of class, elegance and showmanship that, once a staple of American entertainment, is all too rare in today's theatrical landscape.