Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lucky. Grateful. Terrified.

Posted by Cliff Chamberlain

Ah, my first blog post.

This is exciting.

“Where do I start?” I wonder.

I guess I might as well start by introducing myself.

Hello reader.
My name is Cliff. I’m one of the actors in Magnolia.
Let me re-phrase that.
I’m one of the “extremely luckygratefulandterrified to be a part of the cast” actors in Magnolia.

I’m lucky because Anna Shapiro is directing Magnolia.
She won a Tony Award.
She’s a Tony Award-winning director.
You may remember her acceptance speech because it was the best acceptance speech in the history of acceptance speeches.
And let me tell you.
Anna Shapiro makes a Tony Award-winning acceptance speech pretty much seven times a day, just minus the Tony Award-winning part.
She’s just naturally that good at, well, the art of speech.
The art of communication.

And she’s super smart and patient and kind and funny and wears cool scarves and even though she won a Tony and could probably be directing on the moon, she makes a living right here in Chicago and she tells the truth and likes her actors to turn upstage if that’s the natural thing for her actors to do and she can sum up the human condition more precisely than anybody I’ve ever met so that I find myself constantly nodding my head and going, “Yeah...Totally. That story totally makes sense and ohmygodthat’swhatmycharacterisfeeling you’re a genius.”

Also, she’s in my Top 5 list of The Coolest People I’ve Ever Met.
So she’s got that going for her.

I’m grateful because Regina Taylor has written Magnolia.
Regina has written, like, 4,000 plays.
Many have been performed at the Goodman.
And somehow I’m now in one of them.
I have an actual part.
And Regina is okay with that.
Regina Taylor is okay with me being in her play and saying her lines.
I know.
It’s a dream.
You know what else is a dream?
Regina Taylor.
Seriously, just having a normal conversation with Regina is like talking to somebody in one of your dreams. And by that I mean that you can swear that you hear music playing somewhere in the distance and you’re pretty sure it’s a harp or maybe a trumpet and time seems to slow down and you feel you’re in quicksand and you’re thinking, “This woman is tapped in to something more powerful than the rest of us and when she talks to me I feel gooooood.”

Regina was the first black woman to play Juliet on Broadway.
Scratch that one off the list of fantastic things to do in one’s lifetime.

I’m terrified because Anna Shapiro is directing Magnolia.
I’m terrified because Regina Taylor has written Magnolia.

Terrified because they’re on top of their game.

They’re like Tom Brady in the 4th quarter (before he hurt his knee).
They’re like Tiger Woods on the back nine (before, after and during his knee problems).
They’re like Kirk Gibson, bottom of the ninth, ’88 World Series. Home run. Game over.

I’m just hoping that I can keep up.
So the pressure is on.

I mean, even without two forces like Anna and Regina in the room,
I constantly find myself being driven by two things when I act:

1. Make honest, specific and brave choices.

2. Don’t get fired.

Like I said.
It’s still early.
A little terror is a great motivator.
Maybe I’ll get lucky and make a few nice passes.
And I’ll be grateful to have been given a chance to play.

Being in plays is fun.

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