Next time someone wails, “Is there a doctor in the house?” don’t be surprised if Dr. Robert Maurer steps out of the wings. But forget the woman giving birth in the audience--Maurer is more likely to leap on stage to figure out why Willy Loman refuses to die.
Brooklyn-born Maurer, 44, is director of behavioral sciences for the Family Practice Residency program at Santa Monica Hospital--a front job for his true passion: counseling testy troupers. It started six years ago, when director Phil Killian brought in Maurer to mediate quarrels and investigate chronic illness, scene stealing, out-of-control rape scenes and physical violence among members of the Los Angeles cast of the quasi-interactive mystery “Tamara.” After nearly two years of weekly visits and numerous individual sessions, Maurer switched to twice-monthly “Tamara” visits, which he continues today.
“I often deal with actors and technical crews who feel unappreciated,” says Maurer, a University of Houston graduate who lives in Santa Monica. “I’ve worked with actors who were playing suicidal characters (in “Tamara”) and who were suicidal themselves. They needed help quickly just to stay alive.”
Maurer has also mediated cast problems and disputes during local runs of “Stage Blood,” “Burn This” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” After six years of thespian therapy, he feels he has a bead on L.A. actors.
“The specter of Hollywood looms large,” Maurer says. “Actors here question their dedication to the stage, knowing they could make a small fortune in TV or film.” Maurer also counsels individual theater people, including writers who want advice for the characters in their scripts. But for his group work, he accepts no pay. “I feel I’m paying the theater back for the magic that is worth much more than the price of a ticket,” says Maurer, who was hooked on theater at age 21 by “Man of La Mancha” at the Ahmanson. “Besides, I get all the ‘Tamara’ tickets I want.”