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11:37 pm - 04.12.2008
Theater Geek-ery

Theater Geek-ery

Sat 4/12/08 (11:17 a.m.)

In looking for something to write about that has nothing to do with ArcLight and “availability”, I happened across this MySpace “Theater Geek” survey.

Here goes...

1) What was the first play you ever did? What role/job?

I have a very vague memory of a play in church (The Free Methodist church in Durand, MI), when I was a kid...I don’t remember the title or anything about it, really, except that at one point I had to pretend to be asleep, so my “dream” could play out in front of the audience. Pretty forgettable stuff (Clearly “forgettable”, since I’ve pretty much forgotten it).

My real “first play”, in my mind, was Dracula, when I was a freshman in high school, back in ‘76. I played the title role. And while I don’t know about my performance - I probably wasn’t very good - it’s a great role; less than 50 lines, but you’re basically the whole show. Anytime you’re not onstage, everyone’s talking about you. (And I like the pressure of “living up to that”). And, far as I can recall, it’s the only part I’ve played where I got to be an elegant, powerful, sexy “bad guy” (Kind of a fantasy role).

2) What was your most recent show? What job/role?

The last play I did was here in LA, years ago now (I’m not even sure how long ago. Five years, maybe...?). It was an original one-act, part of a double bill, called Crossing The Line. And it wasn’t very good. I was the lead, which was written as an elderly black man (For the record, I’m not an elderly black man. And I was double-cast with an actual elderly black man playing the role on alternate days). I still find it all quite odd.

3) What was your most fun show/role?

The nice thing when considering this question is that it’s very hard to narrow it down to just one (Show or role). In fact, I really can’t do it.

I enjoyed the three “rock shows” I’ve done (Hair at LCC, Jesus Christ Superstar at the Okemos Barn, and Godspell at Thunder Bay Theater). Hair, in particular, was a perfect combo of fun show, great role (“Berger”, my first major role in Lansing theater, was a blast to play), and a well-funded, well-staffed production, headed up by the late, great Bob Burpee.

Working at the Riverwalk theater (Actually, I think it was still The Barn) was tough during the rehearsal process, but very fun to perform (And had a cast of some of the very best people in Lansing; I was particularly dazzled by Dick H., who was an acting hero of mine, and Janine S., who I had a serious crush on. Talented folk like Bruce B., the late Bruce G., Wendy F., and Yours Truly, who later became forces in local theater, were relative neophytes at that point).

Lies & Legends at Riverwalk was a great experience, top to bottom. One of the shows I’m most proud of. Maybe the show I’m most proud of.

Emma’s Child at the Lansing Civic Players was a great experience, the rare drama on my theater resume (Though with a couple of great comic scenes as well). And my role as “Henry” was one of my favorite things I did in Lansing (An all-too-rare, fully fleshed out, three-dimensional part. I kept it pretty close to who I am, but at the same time, it really felt like honest-to-God “acting”, which was exciting).

I had great fun playing “Delmount” in The Miss Firecracker Contest at (And was always grateful to Mark Z. for going against the obvious typecasting). That was a great group of people, and I enjoyed that whole experience (I only wish more people had seen it).

It was challenging, and I don’t know that I was entirely successful - I guess that would be for others to judge - but how could you not love getting a shot at playing “Don Quixote” in Man Of LaMancha, one of the great roles in musical theater? I just wish I’d lost more weight before playing the role (In the first production of “LaMancha” I was in, at the Barn - where I played “Carrasco/Knight of the Mirrors” - Bill S. played “Don Q”, and looked like he’d walked directly out of the novel). And I wish I’d been able to afford to have a private voice coach help me out outside of rehearsal.

Though the show really didn’t work, and I’ll never forgive Mona G. for her terrible decision about the lighting during the climactic fight scene, I liked playing “Roat” in Wait Until Dark (A show which Tom H., noting the aforementioned “terrible lighting decision”, rechristened “Way TOO Dark”).

In my last years in Lansing, I had a great run of “fun shows” and “fun roles” - To Gillian On Her 37th Birthday (I’d wanted the lead - which went to my friend Kevin K. - but had a lot of fun with “Paul”, the funny friend of the lead), the previously mentioned Lies & Legends (Where getting to sing “Taxi” and “Odd Job Man” were particular highlights), Big River (Where I played “Pap” for the second time, and played harmonica in the pit), and Oliver (Where I played “Fagin” - one of my handful of genuine “great roles”, and one I’d played previously at Thunder Bay Theater in Alpena - and where I got to work with my best friend Jane Z., who was co-director, and act with Jennifer E., the unrequited love of my life. A nice way to finish my time in Lansing community theater).

I could go on, but you get the idea - I had loads of fun doing theater (Which begs the question - Why am I not doing it now?).

4) What was your most challenging show/role?

Probably “The Creature” in Dr Frankenstein’s Creature, an original adaptation of Frankenstein, written by Keith Titus, at Thunder Bay Theater. I probably didn’t have it as bad as Boris Karloff, but I was padded, and heavily made up, and had made the acting decision to do the role with one droopy eye, and a speech pattern somewhere between a stroke victim and someone with cerebral palsy, which just seemed to make sense to me (like the book, the play’s “Creature” could speak). So it was physically challenging, but it was also emotionally challenging, playing a lonely, unlovely creature, when I was a pretty lonely, unlovely creature myself.

5) What is the most bizarre show or role you've ever done?

For a friend’s MSU directing class project, Bruce B. and I did the first act of a two-character play called How I Got That Story. Bruce played the role of “The Reporter”, and I was “The Historical Event”, which was basically all the other parts in the show (I played 11 or 12 different “characters” in that first act). I have no real gauge of how “successful” I was, but it was a pretty cool thing to get to try.

6) Has anyone ever written a show for you?

No, but I’ve sometimes thought of writing one for myself. I just don’t really know how to go about it.

7) Have you ever gotten romantically involved with a co-star?

Not that I recall. But I have gotten romantically involved with the director of a show, with the choreographer of another show, and have later done shows with someone I was romantically involved with.

I’ve also had the odd experience of having a love scene onstage with someone I was powerfully attracted to in real life (But more on that later in the survey).

8) Have you ever quit a show to accept a better one?

No, I don’t think so.

9) Have you ever completely blown character on stage?

I’ve “gone up on my lines”, but I don’t think I’ve ever completely “blown character”. Short of having a stroke or getting seriously injured during a scene or something like that, I don’t even know how that would happen.

10) What show are you just dying to do?

Right now, it would just be nice to do anything good (And it would be nice to get paid, but that’s a pretty tall order out here, to get paid for doing theater).

11) Have you ever done one of your "dream" shows?

No. The closest I’ve come is that I was cast out here in The Music Man (A favorite musical), but not as “Harold Hill”, which is the “dream role”, but as the “Mayor”. And it turned out to be only a single performance, so I passed on it.

12) Who was your favorite director?

Nancy K., who directed Emma’s Child. She knew her stuff, she knew how to direct actors, and I thought she did a great job of letting me “fly” when I was “flying”, but stepping in to give me - and the other actors - help when we needed it. I have always thought it’s a pretty neat trick, finding that balance (Most directors in community theater, in my experience, were basically “traffic cops”, so it was always a treat when you had someone who made you feel like “Okay, they know what they’re doing. It’s going to be okay”, someone who could actually help you get your performance from “good” to “great”).

I also have a very fond memory of working with Dick H., my previously mentioned “acting hero”, when he directed me as “Annas” in Superstar; giving notes after one rehearsal, he told me to “give myself a raise” because of the good work I was doing. Coming from someone I respected as much as Dick, I was thrilled.

13) Who was your least favorite director?

Probably John Peakes at the Boarshead, when I played “Medvedenko” in The Seagull. He micro-directed my performance to such a degree that I had absolutely no confidence in what I was doing (As an actor, you want help if you need it, but at the same time, you want to feel like it’s a collaboration with the director, and not have them tell you when to blink or take a breath).

14) What is the most surprising role you have ever been offered?

When Dick H. fired the actor playing “Milos Gloriosus” (sp?) in Forum, I was very surprised when he called on me (With the show set to open in a few weeks). I don’t think I’m who you’d think of for the role of a Roman Centurion, or whatever he was, but I did okay.

15) Have you ever injured yourself onstage.

Never seriously, that I recall, but I’ve ended up with bumps and bruises and assorted “owies” on any number of shows (Very understandable when you’re talking about a “career” containing a number of high-energy, big cast musicals).

16) Have you ever worked on an original play?

Emma’s Child was an original. And Crossing The Line. I think that’s been it (Editors note: Oh yeah, there was also an original musical at TBT called My Oh MI).
17) What show have you done multiple times?

I’ve done Fiddler On The Roof twice (One as the “Rabbi”, once as “Perchik”), Oliver twice (As “Fagin”), The Odd Couple twice, (As “Murray” once, and one of the other card players another time, I forget which one), Caberet twice, and Big River three times (twice as “Pap” and playing harmonica in the pit, and once at the Croswell Opera House just playing harmonica).

18) Have you ever done different adaptations of the same show?


19) What roles do you usually get?

In theater, back in the day, I had such a wide range of roles, it would be hard to actually say “what kind of roles” I’d typically get. Character roles, the occasional “Character Lead”, but usually “Supporting” character things.

But coming to my present day “acting career” - It struck me recently, when looking at my “reel”, that a common denominator is that I’m often cast, for want of a better description, as “Put-Upon Guy”. Because of the dark circles under my eyes and general hangdog appearance.

20) Have you ever had an onstage kiss?

A couple times. Usually for the sake of comedy. But because I’m “Character Guy”, I’m rarely the guy who kisses/gets kissed (One of the reasons I liked Emma’s Child was for the chance to play a character in a relationship. We didn’t kiss in the show, I don’t think, but there was one scene where we were very snuggly and couple-y, and I really enjoyed that, even though I wasn’t particularly attracted to the actress. It was just fun to get to portray that).

In Lend Me A Tenor, I had a makeout scene with Jennifer E. (Who was Jennifer M. at the time). And - this may be TMI - but on one night, and one night only, I found myself getting a bit...aroused, if you know what I’m saying (Fortunately, I was wearing baggy pants, and the scene goes to a blackout).

21) What was your scariest moment in a show?

You mean, beyond starting to get a hard-on in front of 250 people...?

Easily the woman from the audience who came onstage during Superstar and tried to stop Jesus from getting the 39 lashes (I’m not sure, but I think she just might have been a touch insane).

22) What is your best show memory?

Singing “Let The Sunshine In” at the end of Hair. Particularly the last night, when we all kept running into each other because we couldn’t see through our tears (It was a very special experience).

23) What is your worst show memory?

Doing My Oh MI at TBT. A four-person musical where the other three people didn’t like me. And the show sucked besides.

24) Have you ever pulled a prank on someone in a show?

No, I don’t believe in it (During brush-ups, however, a little “pranking” is fine).

25) Have you ever been the recipient of a prank during a show?

I have a vague memory or two of centerfolds in closets and that sort of thing, but nothing I couldn’t handle..


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