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 13, 2007

Things I've Been Hurt With

I've been hurt with a lot of odd things when I think about it. Onstage? Lemme think, here; Broadswords, court swords, daggers, icepicks, shields, door frames, nooses, other actors........I'm think I'm leaving something out.

The off stage grouping is more mundane and includes, BB guns, hatchets, baseball bats, and cactus.....How does one hurt oneself with a cactus, you ask? You sit on it! I've also sat on daggers. How does one sit on a dagger, you ask? Unintentionally! Things I've ALMOST been hurt by include baby elephants and tigers.

It's SO easy to get hurt onstage......What's that Timmy? Would Uncle Jim tell you his dagger story? Sure kid, but only because I like you, see? I was doing a fight from Romeo and Juliet for the Ashland school tours, see? Sword fighting at 8:30 in the morning. I mean, what was I thinking!? I died at the end of the fight by getting "run through" with the sword; I'd drop the sword in my right hand, then drop the dagger (which was a cut off and blunted epee blade about pencil width) and fall on to my right knee, and expire dramatically.

This particular show I did all of the above correctly, but when the dagger fell it apparently hit point first and bounced upright, hilt on floor point in air as I was falling to my knee......Another one of those moments that's hard to describe. It felt like...what? A cattle prod? Something cold and electric and very sudden. My fight partner said my eyes grew to the size of dinner plates. We were in a gymnasium filled with about 800 teenagers and I was run through with my back to them, so everyone saw the whole event and when I reached down and pulled out the point (which had gone very, very deep indeed into the back of your Uncle Jim's upper thigh) They. Went. NUTS. They screamed, they hollered, they laughed, they begged for more; they wanted my blood......Shades of Rome. And yes I finished the performance (a very long hour that was), went to the doctor, and got a tetanus shot.

And that, mister, is the story of How Your Uncle Sat on His Dagger. You go to sleep now, OK kid?


Re: Cold and Light

Carrie K asked these:

I've got a Richard III costuming question for you- are you all freezing at the end of the night?

A: It depends on the night and the costume--I could've gone on wearing only my crown last night. It's always a guess as to what it's going to be like out there; I've developed a keen weather eye, and can often be found atop the men's trailer moist finger raised to the blustering wind and crying things like "It looks like a Nor' Easter Captain!"
Seriously? It can be glorious, it can be nasty. I try not to let costumers put me in skimpy outfits after wearing a kilt in a production of Henry IV we did in '95 -ish; I didn't have to paint myself blue at all, I was blue, and freezing, and holding onto my 6' broadsword hoping my fingers wouldn't stick to it. But it works the other way as well--I was clad in one production in a blue leather suit and during one week we had a matinée that was 104 degrees.......my chair stuck to my butt when I tried to stand up. EEwww.
Sorry. Too much information.

Q: Grateful for the gambling metaphor that inspired the Las Vegas style strip lights?

A: Grateful? I'm not quite sure what you're asking, but it sounds as if you didn't like them -- and that's OK. No. would be my uncertain response--I don't like strip lights or any kind of lighting that shines directly into my eyes, BUT -- if it wasn't there? No one would see me. Direct or angled front lighting I find the easiest to work with, but footlights and neon are quite popular now. I'm not fond of neon either. Makes you look like a zombie. NIGHT OF THE LIVING RICHARD. CAL SHAKES ZOMBIES FROM THE GRAVE. OK, I just made myself snort. It's fun--try it yourself! THE AUDIENCE FROM BEYOND THE TOMB. Lord, I'm a silly man.

You get used to working with the lights, get used to "finding your light" so that your face is lit and not your feet, know where the darker spots onstage are. Lighting designers are essentially painting with lights, and that can be tricky--when is it calling attention to itself, when is it supporting rather that detracting from the scene?

It's all pretty tricky.