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!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Curiousity Killed the Skunk

Ahhh, Hilda.

You make my heart glad. Thank you for confirming that people actually are reading this; I mean, I know you, Martha (aka Bruce) and a few people (who might be just one person) who go by the moniker of Anonymous read this regularly, but actors are used to aural (say that carefully, please) stimuli and confirmation of appreciation such as boo's, cheers, hisses, or applause. And the occasional solid object.

I'm going to say here that this is not a deeply funny story--I mean you won't be clutching your sides or leaping out of your chairs like that funny little man in the Chronicle theatre reviews--you may just smile a little and go on to someone else's blog, OK? Ready? Here we go.

I was playing Richard II in the play titled the same at Cal Shakes about 1994-ish; if you don't know the show, it's about an impulsive, ineffectual king who is deposed by Henry Bolingbroke (who later crowns himself Henry IV and whose son, Prince Hal becomes Henry V) is imprisoned and later killed--the sin of Regicide, which haunts both Hal and Henry.

I was costumed in a white robe, had a wig and beard and looked uncannily like Jesus Christ himself; my entrance from stage left was slow -- pained but dignified -- almost sacrificial, one might say. I regularly heard murmurs from the audience on my entrance, whispered remarks like "Why, he looks uncannily like Jesus Christ himself!" or "Doesn't he look almost sacrificial, Honey?" -- "Yes! And so dignified--slow too!" on my appearance. There was also the occasional "Why is he wearing a dress?" or "Gee, I wish I had sandals like that."............

One night the sounds from the audience were particularly audible; I'd had a very good show thus far that night, in the zone, sharp and focused and was feeling good. I said as much to myself. "Damn, I'm good!" I said to myself. Only later did I find that a skunk had followed in my wake from offstage left, changed his mind (stage fright?) about participating in the scene with the oddly clad yet dignified and sacrificial personage ahead of him and gone into the audience. Hence the gasps.

But it didn't stop there--he apparently then worked his way through the crowd and helped himself to the choice tidbits in everyone's picnic baskets; there were no protests -- they all leaned back in their seats as far as they could, said "Nice skunk, niiiice skunk, oh what a pretty little skunk you are--go on, take as much as you want!" and other kind declarations of generosity.

I'd been acting my pants off up there and I don't think a single person heard the scene. It kind of brought me down a notch or two...........not many actors can claim having been upstaged by a skunk.

But to allay any fears and contrary to the murderous title of this piece, the skunk lived, though obesity may have claimed him in the end. The little stinker.


Anonymous Josh said...

Dear Mr. Carpenter,

First of all, just wanted to say that you were utterly captivating as Edward IV in Richard, truly first rate. Secondly, I too am a blog-reader, so have no fear, there are at least more of us than of you.

And since the blogging seems to have veered off into any and all topics, not necessarily Richard-related, I thought I'd ask: how did you get to where you are?

In other words...how did you start out? Drama school or no? What was your first professional production? And how did you end up in the Bay? (I should mention that my curiosity stems from being an aspiring actor myself, but I thought your answers would interest the general blog-reading populace too.)

And on a related note, how diffiult and/or great is it being an actor in the Bay Area? I go to college on the East Coast where NYC is seen by most of my peers as the be-all end-all of theater world, while I for one, a Berkeley native, look to people like you and Ron Campbell as career role models. (I mean, I see you've gotten to play as diverse/incredible a collection of parts as Macbeth, Richard II, Uncle Peck, Reverend Shannon AND Jim Tyrone!)

AND you've had a skunk as an impromptu scene partner.

So, apologizes for the million questions but basically I wonder: how does one become a James Carpenter?


June 22, 2007 at 3:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your description of your walk into the hills around the theater. I enjoy walking around the East Bay Hills and thought of taking a walk around the Bruns before a performance I wasn't sure if it was OK - I'd hate to be humiliated in front of the audience because I was trespassing.

I really enjoyed the show - the performances were strong throughout. I heard the crows too!

Thanks again for generously answering my questions. I notice that you write of painful incidents such as sitting on a dagger, forgetting lines and entrances or of performances that require one to go to "those dark places" - I hope that acting also brings much pleasure to you and other actors.

Your pictures of actors backstage made me wonder What is it like backstage before and during a performance? I imagine that, like athletes, everyone has their rituals. Do some remain in character even when they're backstage?

I hope you don't mind my questions - if I've exceeded my quota I totally understand. I look forward to your answers to Josh - I'm really curious to find out.

Thanks again,

Bruce (aka Martha)

June 24, 2007 at 1:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

didn't you know that you ARE jesus? i mean come on... J.C.? Carpenter? silly.

August 31, 2007 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger James Carpenter said...

Daddy? Is that you? You haven't written since I was risen. Let's keep in touch, OK?

March 5, 2008 at 10:51 AM  

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