November 26, 2011

R I P Wally Coberg

The Internet is a funny thing. Particularly given the emergence of social media. I've found myself connecting with folks I've not seen or been in touch with for thirty or forty years. A case in point is Wally Coberg, whom I first met in the early seventies when I was part of The Electric Shakespeare Company performing outdoors in the Baltimore summer at Towson State College. We reconnected via Facebook last summer, and had planned to get together on my next trip to Baltimore, but then early this week I received word from another old colleague, director Paul Berman, that Wally had died. Today his obituary appeared in the good old Baltimre Sun.

The Electric Shakespeare Company performed two plays that summer, with the same company on the same set — which was Wally's design. Both plays were of a post-apocalyptic sort, about the collapse of society: Troilus and Cressida and Lear: A Rock Musical. Yes, you heard that correctly. I played Thersites in the first, which was set in a sort of pre–Mad Max world of motorcycle gangs — the Greeks — and cobbled together sports and military equipment — the Trojans: Priam looked like Alec Guinness in River Kwai. In Lear, I was one-half of the Fool (look, it's complicated: there was a young Fool and an old Fool). In any case, Wally's set was marvelous, especially in the outdoor setting of the natural amphitheater of Towson's "Glen." It resembled a half destroyed relic of the Globe theater, with many levels suitable for Thersites to clamber about on — which made the famous "spy scene" in T&C especially effective as there were literally three levels of action and commentary going on. The photo herewith is a picture which I didn't have, but which Wally sent me last fall, from that production, which I hope gives a tiny glimpse of his wonderful set. That's me on the left and the late Dennis O'Keefe (as Pandarus) on the right, in the closing scene of this dark comedy.

Wally's career had taken off in new directions recently, including work on Edgar Allan Poe, who used to live right around the corner from where I now abide. Small world. And smaller, in many ways, for Wally leaving it, though he did much to enlarge it with his art. God bless him.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

1 comment:

Mike Wicklein said...

Tobias, thanks for posting your recollections and the photo. Wally still had this set model. I came to Towson in '74 and took design classes from Wally and helped with both the theatre & film productions in those days.
We lost track of each other for about 20 years...but re-connected about 9 years ago. I enjoyed our breakfasts at Jimmies in Fells Point and helping him again with his projects. He was a special, creative human being.