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!

Monday, May 5, 2008

'Tis Pity

Today's the first day of rehearsals for 'Tis Pity She's A Whore at ACT, so I thought I'd get the first thoughts about it in now as life may get in the way of blogging later.

It's a cheery little piece, A Jacobean Revenge Tragedy written by John Ford which was published in 1633 and first performed I find, by Queen Henriatta's Men sometimes called the Queen Majesty's Comedians, or other variations of that name. (Thank you Wikipedia.) It's a twisted Romeo and Juliet (published in 1597) about a brother and sister who fall in love, have a child and watch the world go to hell; it has some beautiful language and wonderful scenes and will be directed by the talented La Perloff herself.

It'll be the second time I've done the show--the first time was Ashland in 1981, and it was a bit of an accident that I got in the cast at all.

I'd been cast in Two Gentlemen of Verona on the outdoor stage which conflicted with Tis Pity playing inside in the Angus Bowmer. The show featured Joe Vincent and Barry Kraft in the two leads whilst I filled out the roles of "Presenter" and "Forest Creature"........... Now if you look in the text you'll see neither of those roles are actually listed in the cast--that's because the Director made them up.

Yes......This was one of those Productions. One of those concept shows, one in which the director had all the characters represent something and stand for those qualities in an abstract way--Sir Eglamor was Chivalry for instance, the maid was Loyalty, the blah was this and the did-de-blah was that. Oh, what a stinker. The capper was when an old friend of mine, James Avery (he played the Uncle on Fresh Prince of Bel Aire--a fine actor) who is easily 6'4 and weighed around 300 lbs., got cast in the roles of the Innkeeper and The Road. Look in the cast list again. Not there is it? Now, Avery was not happy about this casting and I can't say that I blame him--not a lot of acting choices to be made as The Road. But being a pro he did his damn job like it or not.

How does one act a road, I'll just bet you're asking. And mere acting challenges aside, how does the audience know you're supposed to be a road?

You give him a cape, silly.

You give him a big ass cape, with a road and trees and bushes and coaches and people and houses and horses and dogs painted on it and you have him walk ever so slowly across the stage with it, but Oh Martha, being a cape it lies flat so you need people to hold it sideways, and being a Road Cape and necessarily large, say 30 plus feet, you need several people to hold it sideways. The final effect?

A Large Grumpy Black Man with a huge painted drapery thingy affixed to his neck and threatening to strangle him entering from stage right whilst several nameless others struggled to unfurl the whatever it was that was dragging behind him as he walked slowly from stage right to stage left throwing occasional glares toward the audience and Director. I couldn't watch his entrance, or if I did I had to cover my mouth so I didn't snark or make odd noises thru my nose.

I was luckier. My succor came in the form of Jerry Turner, the Artistic Director of Ashland, who approached me after our first preview and growled out something akin to "How'd you like to get out of this piece of crap?"

I don't remember if I actually kissed his shoes, but I do have a distinct memory of falling to my knees........

One of the cast members of Tis Pity (his show) had dropped out due to another offer in New York and Jerry decided to let me have a go at it. The role was Soranzo, Annabella's suitor, and later jealous husband and I had precious little time to learn it and about 5 onstage rehearsals, but I damn well did. Anything to get out of being a Forest Creature.

But there were repercussions; the cast of Two Gents didn't speak to me for about 2 weeks, and I inherited one of the smelliest costumes I've ever had the displeasure to wear--wardrobe was unable to dispel it. But it could've been worse.

I could've been a Road.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

But you got to work with Barry.. god I was just born too late. Wish I could have seen that cape! Still trying to catch up with all your past entires- which one has the great shot of you snoozing backstage, as usual?
Former Youngster now Bavarian

May 7, 2008 at 12:07 PM  

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