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Minding the ‘Gaps’ at Purple Rose world premiere

Mark Colson photo
Courtesy photo
Purple Rose Theatre
Mark Colson portrays an anthropologist in a romantic relationship with a much younger student in 'Gaps in the Fossil Record.'

The current show at the Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea is a world premiere. “Gaps in the Fossil Record” runs through May 28th. We talk with Purple Rose artistic director Guy Sanville and the show’s star, MSU Theatre professor Mark Colson.

The Purple Rose Theatre is Chelsea is known for staging world premieres of new plays. Their latest is called “Gaps in the Fossil Record.” It was written by actor Matt Letscher, a Michigan native and University of Michigan graduate with ties to the Purple Rose that go way back.

“Gaps in the Fossil Record" is the story of a May-December romance. Current State producer Scott Pohl speaks with the artistic director at the Purple Rose, Guy Sanville, and Mark Colson, the MSU Theatre professor who has the only male role in “Gaps in the Fossil Record.” opposite Purple Rose veteran Michelle Mountain and a young actress named Aja Brandmeier.


Synopsis of the story

“Gaps in the Fossil Record is about a 60-ish year-old paleontologist who learns to look up. He spends his whole life dusting bones, looking in the dirt. He falls in love with one of his students who is forty years younger than he is. The play starts with her bringing him home to meet her mom, who is a single mother. It’s also about the gaps that exist - not just in the fossil record - but in our lives.” -- Guy Sanville

What was the appeal of the story as an actor?

“It’s a really complex script, so you need to read it about three or four times before you start to get it. The first time I read it, I was like ‘What’s this piece about?’ I didn’t even know that I was the protagonist at that point; I thought it might have been one of the other characters, Susan.

It’s a huge journey for an actor to make. I have years to cover in this piece - that was part of the appeal. Also part of the appeal was working with Guy again. We haven’t worked together for about 24 years. To reconnect with him really interested me.” -- Mark Colson

On Matt Letscher, actor and Michigan native

“Matt and I met in 1992. We were both cast in a play by Jeff Daniels, called ‘Tropical Pickle’. You see certain people and you just know [they're going to be successful.] He’s done a lot of film and a lot of television. You can see him currently in a show on the CW called ‘The Flash’. He’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever known.” -- Sanville

How much has the film changed since the previews?

“It has changed quite a bit. That’s the terrifying - and exciting - part of working on a new piece. We’re really trying to shape this thing so that it’s going to be palatable to an audience, and that we’re telling the story the right way. I think the last monologue that was rewritten was two days before the opening.” -- Colson

On the hectic theatre life

“Once you get in the room and you’re around all these incredibly smart, gifted people - all that goes away. I think I have the best job in America. Yeah, I work a lot. But I live two blocks away from the theatre, and I get to spend my day with amazing people telling stories. I’m very fortunate.” -- Sanville

Scott Pohl is a general assignment news reporter and produces news features and interviews. He is also an alternate local host on NPR's "Morning Edition."
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