10 September 2007

As Far As I Go

It seemed so simple: Rent a car, in order to commute between Prohibitive Standards rehearsals in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and the extended performances of As Far As We Know at 45 Bleecker Street in Manhattan, New York. Maybe you'll feel a little strung out, but you won't miss much back in Scranton, and hey, you'll achieve in a very strong manner that continued connection to your theatrical home you always struggle to maintain when you're doing the regional theatre. It's a win-win.

Wrong wrong!

There's a line in Kevin Smith's Dogma that springs to mind here. "Any moron with a pack of matches can set a fire. Raining down sulfur is like an endurance trial. Mass genocide is the most exhausting activity one can engage in . . . next to soccer." To that short list, I would choose to add working on two different shows in two different states (and by states, I mean every possible definition of the word). I was warned of this by a thesis defense I witnessed in college. A brilliant actor (who immediately ceased to act once he achieved his Master's, as I understand it), Greg Guy DeLeonardis, mentioned in his thesis defense that he would never again rehearse two shows at once. Both shows suffered, yet neither quite as much as he.

Now, for myself, I can't say that I suffered any great defeat or anything of the sort. It was simply exhausting to vacillate between the different mind states required by each show, much less adding a vacillation betwixt Pennsylvania and New York. In retrospect, too, it may be that any suffering the shows experienced was owing more to other circumstances than my own strung-out demeanor. But more on that later. Simply going between broad, physical comedy and quasi-Epic theatre with a dash of naturalism was a difficult transition. I have difficulty with such a stylistic shift even with months between productions. It seems no matter what I do to prepare for that kind of transition, some remnant of the last style I worked in remains hopping about in my brain. I suppose I had thought that my character in As Far As We Know was developed enough that I could slip back into him like he were my favorite pair of jeans; still, on the opening of the re-up, I found myself more a thinking actor than a feeling one.

As I say, there were other factors involved in this. There could hardly have been more, in fact. In addition to Laurie making some important changes to the play itself between The Fringe and the re-up, the space was vastly different from that we had become so accustomed to playing in. Essentially, take the Flamboyan space in CSV and turn it sideways with the addition of some more-awkwardly-placed poles and curtain slits for entrances, and you'll have some idea what we were confronted with at 45 Bleecker Street. The tech, which I was excused from owing to my commute, was apparently disastrous. Laurie was out of town working on a new job, and she tore back into town on a $500 flight after hearing how our opening night went.

The most interesting snafu that night--for me, that is--was the failure of the video to play. It seems the video projector will go into rest mode, or some such thing, if not set properly. This it did, and so the first video cue failed to play. It's not a particularly necessary cue. That is, not particularly necessary to the action on stage, but it is, however, necessary to cue Lea McKenna-Garcia to begin her drill sergeant rant about the war. The end of which is my cue to stop furiously doing push-ups. (You may be able to see where this is heading.) Fortunately, as I began to approach push-up 40 or so (Yay, personal best for single set!) and my back started to twitch involuntarily (Boo, muscle spasms!) Lea summed up the predicament and I was saved a trip to the ER.

There were plenty of other interesting diversions from the play as it is written that night, lending the whole thing a bit of the quality of a Zuppa del Giorno production. Suffice it to say, it was a godsend that Laurie could return to set things right. The successive performances just got better and better, and I think we may have even got the thing 'round to its lovable old self by closing night. In the meantime, I continued to spirit back and forth through New Jersey in my Enterprise rental car, chanting to myself, "It's all a tax write-off, it's all a tax write-off . . .." The truth is, it was a grand time. Once some of the fires got put out, and I resolved my feelings over missing a good chunk of the work on Prohibitive Standards, I relaxed and enjoyed being so thoroughly employed in the theatre. Last week, when we were learning some fight choreography for the show, Geoff Gould turned to me and said, "We're getting paid for this." It's funny after ten years how joyful that simple thing can feel.

The big question, of course, is if As Far As We Know will have any life after this experience. That was the point of all this effort, and no startling news has yet to filter my way, no offers of space or interest or passionate replies of sponsorship. In my typical actor sensibility, I take this to be a sign of moving on. Actors get used to this attitude--somewhat, at least--through continual auditioning. "Well, that's done. Mustn't dwell on whether I'll get the call." Fortunately, I have something altogether preoccupying (read: freaking difficult) to work on for the next month or so. Perhaps AFAWK will ripple out to greater effect; perhaps not. How I feel now, if this is the end, is that we created work that was good, and that mattered. That's the kind of work that you really learn from. That's the kind of work that sticks with you through the years and, hopefully, with others as well. I feel proud of that.

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