Jim's Richard III Blog

What had started as a blog of Richard III rehearsal process at Cal Shakes has now evolved or devolved into a small novella. The author is petrified to change the name for fear it'll disappear, and wouldn't know what to call it anyway. Many stories are included and questions are even answered sometimes!

Friday, May 18, 2007

W.I.L.M.H.G.S.L.A.S. , Part II

Stanley. Stanley in The Birthday party! A great hair role! When I did McCann at Ashland I'd grown an enormous handlebar mustache that I was very proud of, but the hair potential for Stanley is fantastic. Break out the Dippity Do, Martha!

Stanley is a slob, a shut in, a paranoid individual who's having an affair with the landlady and despises himself for it, doesn't bathe and doesn't contribute -- I begin to let myself go a little bit; I shave less and less, I bathe when I begin to smell myself or when my cat begins to make love to my shoes. I stop taking out the trash. I find odd mannerisms and body language I can use in the show and slowly I achieve that slightly frayed and decayed look of someone on the fringes--one of those guys you see on the street and first ask yourself "Should I really do this?" before you ask him directions to the theatre. Yeah, THAT guy. The one you're not quite SURE has taken his meds. My neighbors cease talking to me................security guards drift closer in stores, everyone asks to see some form of ID. Even my wife.

We had a bang-up cast that included Julian Lopez Morillas (one of my dearest friends and hence to be known as J-Lo) as Goldberg, Michael Ray Wisley as McCann, Phoebe Moyer as Meg, Chris Ayles as Petey and Emily Jordan as Lulu and to top it all Tom Ross as Director. Even better it was at the Aurora, a wonderfully intimate space--even better for Pinter.

I love this play--it has a musicality of language that is deeply strange, deeply unsettling, and hysterically funny. We launched into it with abandon and trepidation all at the same time; we weren't alway sure we were doing what Pinter had intended--some of the notes and stage directions were Pinter's and some were from other productions, but ultimately the choices we made had to be our own. We all constructed backstories for ourselves--who were these men? Who is Stanley? Why are they after him? What did he do? The script doesn't tell you any of this exactly -- it's all implied and both actor and audience must hash it out. The audience talkbacks were interesting to say the least--some guessed EXACTLY what our constructed history was and some had completely different scenarios. I trusted to my hair. My hair would serve as my divining rod, my hairball of truth. This show would be a swan song-- my hair aria.

It's a neat moment for me in rehearsal when after working on bits and pieces of a show it ceases to become this amorphous blob and suddenly snaps into being and I "see" the play --it takes that extra step towards life and what it will finally become. The first time Julian and Michael nailed the extremely difficult interrogation sequence--got all the lines right with no air between them tight and clean, I, pinned between the two of them, felt an almost palpable arc, that climbed into a riveting, ominous and savage song. Weird--like being between two poles of a battery. It made the hair on my arm stand on end. Really.

Ultimately it was a great chance to work with some wonderfully talented people, to revisit a show I've always loved and perform a role I'd not normally be cast in. Thanks to all who made it possible, and thank you my dear J-lo for being such a fine man. Love ya.

Coming Up: Jim Goes to Tennessee!


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