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!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Goodbye Party, Hello Tennessee!

So Birthday Party closed. They all do. Well, maybe not Cats, but MOST shows close eventually.

You get inured to it--you may not like it but you take it as a fact of life, trust to the Gods that you'll see the good folk again and the bad ones nevermore and go on to the next gig. Or unemployment--also known as "resting". Some shows are harder to shake off than others and if you don't have a gig right away you can go into a slump.

Me? I was very sad to part company with that show and those people but glad I had another job--we closed on a Sunday Matinee, I had a nice dinner with my wife, and then hopped on a plane the next day and flew to Knoxville, Tennessee to do a production of A Flea In Her Ear at the University of Tenn. @ Knoxville. Why? Well, a few reasons follow:

1. I had no other job offers in that time slot.
2. I wanted to open a new door opportunity-wise.
3. Flea was one of the very first shows I did in College--I played the jealous butler, Etienne.
It was also the show that I missed my very first entrance in.........that's another story.
4. I never bin to Tennessee befo'

The last and most vain reason was that the director Cal Maclean remembered my performance in Importance of Being Earnest 15 years ago at Berkeley Rep. and that was the reason he offered me the role of Chandebise/Posche, the lead in the show. That's a long memory.

You notice I said I was playing Chandebise/Posche? Yes, that's 2 roles--one is the Director of the Paris Life Insurance Co. and the other is a doorman in a very garish Bordello, and yes Timmy, a Bordello is a place where the naughty ladies hang out. And the naughty lads, come to think of it--The Frisky Puss Hotel....

Flea is the French Farce to end all French Farces and has dopplegangers, revolving beds, aforementioned naughty people, hookers and hookahs, jealous butlers, French maids, nephews with speech impediments, retired French Legionaries, old guys popping up out of beds, lost suspenders, garters, and pissed off Spaniards.

They'd originally scheduled 2 1/2 weeks of rehearsal before Cal realized he was insane, and added a week to the rehearsal process--there's so much business, so many timing issues, that with the one extra week we barely made it.

It was exhausting process-- Very physically demanding and very hard on my butt--I got kicked by the manager of the Frisky Puss at least 15 times (not all at once, thank God) and he didn't always, well, hit his mark shall we say? To be fair, I was a moving target most of the time. They finally got me something called--no lie--an Azz Pad. For skateboarders. Say it like Arnold. AAHZZ PAAD.

I crammed lines during the day and was on my feet most of the rehearsal day, learning lots of biz and blocking, and running during a good deal of it. They'd joked about having oxygen tanks backstage....I was half hoping they would, as I had multiple quick changes, some of which had to take place in about 10 seconds AND my next entrance on the opposite side of the stage--I didn't think I'd ever get through the thing until I realized............I wasn't breathing. I was talking, I was running but I wasn't breathing or rather I wasn't breathing in the right places and as a consequence was running out of gas the way a runner or a singer might.

Then came the ultimate sacrifice to my craft; cutting my hair, which by this time was down to my shoulders and which I was becoming inordinately fond of............ of course I'd trimmed none of my other hairs, so when my ears were again visible I was slightly aghast at the plethora of fur that abounded there. Tufts. I could've done cornrows............Nobody told me when I was a boy that I would turn into a Hobbit. I think I screamed--- a shrill girly scream which lasted till my razor had done it's work and they were nude again.

So to sum it up, Delilah: I did the show, had a grand time, met some old friends and gained many new, acquired many dings and nicks along the way (you know, sometimes you just forget to wear the ol' AZZ PAD) and saw the tiniest portion of Tenneessee, but it was bloody beautiful, blooming, and bliss to a tree freak like myself--I wanted to turn everything into a Bonsai--said goodbye with some promise of coming back, closed the show on a Sunday, flew out on Monday and started rehearsals for Richard III on Tuesday with my short hair, and my pink shell-like ears.

And now I'm home. Performing in Richard and looking for work to fill in after it closes and King Lear starts. Anybody need coaching? Acting lessons? Seriously.

Coming Up: Things I've Been Hurt With!

I'm running out of subjects here, folks! Questions?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my questions. Again I want to thank you for your views on what it's like to be an actor. I can see that after having worked together closely and getting know each other that it's often sad to see a production close and have people's paths diverge. I often wondered if that was the case and I appreciate that you wrote about it.

I hope you're enjoying writing a blog as much as I do reading it - I'm sure that others do too. Many theaters have some sort of audience involvement such as post-play discussions with some of the actors. Do actors find these things interesting or if they are viewed less fondly?

I can definitely see that actors don't enjoy the various distracting things that some audience members do but I didn't realize how acutely actors sense the actions of the audience. I remember seeing a play where some in the audience were so worked up that they were saying things out loud - I can imagine that must've been really distracting. Are there times where an an audience's reaction really help to bring out the best in an actor?

You described the evolution of a play as a process of discovery. That's a big reason why I enjoy live theater so much - it gets me to wake up from my daily concerns and explore different viewpoints and hopefully to challenge my own views. Have any roles made you reassess a long-held view?

I'm looking forward to seeing Richard III.

Thanks again,

Bruce(aka Martha)

June 8, 2007 at 2:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My thanks to you as well for taking the time to write your blog. Your posts make me laugh out loud. Bruce (aka Martha) asked several questions and perhaps you don't need any others, but in case you'd like one: In your last posting you mentioned missing an entrance. What goes through an onstage actor's mind when another actor or offstage colleague forgets a line or misses a cue? Is it like blind panic and your heart freezing as you think "what am I going to do? how are we going to fix this?" or is it actually not so difficult to compensate for or recover from? Is it easier to fix when the language of the play is contemporary, as opposed to Shakespearean? Or do such goofs not even happen all that often?

Again, many thanks for your blog. It is a joy.

June 11, 2007 at 2:33 PM  

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