Thursday, May 28, 2009
We’re in previews, which means we have audiences in the evening and rehearsals most afternoons. We rehearsed the other day without an audience. We had full tech, lights and costumes—but performed in an empty theater. It felt strange and incomplete.
Then last night, we were in front of an audience again, and THAT felt strange at first. Given the choice, actors always prefer to have an audience. The audience gives us our rhythm and guides us where the show should go. It’s a cliché, but the audience really is a part of the ensemble and the show is not complete without them.
Every audience is different—every audience has its own personality—which makes every performance different. Any time you see a live play, it's a unique experience. You share that with the actors and the other audience members. No one else will ever have the same experience, nor will they see exactly the same show.
This is a big reason why I so deeply prefer working in theater to working in film or TV. (Well, honestly, I'd prefer root canal to film or TV, but please don’t tell any film or TV producers I said that…)
So, I've been working on reconstructing my teeth. I see Dr. Richard Hoffman in Lincoln Park. He's very good. My agent turned me on to him and I've never had a better dentist.
At any rate...
My lower-right set of teeth has a temporary crown—I guess it’s tooth number 13 (for those of you with dental schematics). It's been very comfortable, and we're making sure it holds before switching to the porcelain crown.
During tonight's show, around page 6 or 7, just after Tom and Karen have entered the back yard, I was enjoying a fistful of Ruffles, listening and engaged in the action at hand as I always am, preparing for my next line.
Suddenly I feel the equivalent of a joy buzzer shock my mouth where tooth number 13 should be.
Somewhere in my mouth, mixed in with the partially chewed potato chips is a temporary crown floating around.
Chips crunch and break apart. Temporary crowns do not. They shatter other dental work, teeth, gums and moments on stage.
I say my next line.
Now my mind is racing. I'm laughing and reacting to my scene partners on the outside, but inside my tongue is scanning my mouth like a guy who has lost his keys and is late for work.
I isolate the crown and stash it between my cheek and gum and wait for a moment when I can turn upstage and grab it out.
It seems like an eternity.
By page 15, the crown is in my pocket mixed in with my prop car keys (which come out of my pocket right before Windsong and I exit) and a random assortment of bottle caps. I spend the rest of my time on stage trying to forget about all of this. I do OK with it, but every time I take a sip of "beer,” the joy buzzer in my jaw goes off.
I found the crown and rinsed it off, got it back in place and settle down finally, once I get off stage.
The best part about all of this is that nobody knew. Not my fellow cast mates, not the director, not a member of the audience. It was own private wheel of pain. And it's satisfying to carry that burden and make it off stage with a story to tell.
Live theater, baby. Doesn’t get much better!
Saturday, May 23, 2009
We had an invited dress rehearsal for The Crowd You’re In With last night, and our first audience was a terrific crowd. It’s incredibly helpful to have actual human beings out there responding to the material and to our performances. We appreciated (and were sometimes astonished by) the laughs in unexpected places. And we relished the audience’s gratifying, quiet attention when the show slows down and becomes contemplative toward the end.
Rebecca writes dialogue the way people actually speak, which makes saying her words a genuine pleasure. After the show, I discussed the play with my 25-year-old unmarried niece and a few older, divorced friends, and the conversation really brought home the universality and relevance of the play.
Different people will respond to this play in different ways. I predict a lot of couples may find themselves in pretty deep conversations after seeing it… and who knows, some babies may be born as a consequence of these chats!
Thursday, May 21, 2009
I’ve been performing in Chicago for about three years now, mostly in television and radio commercials—and a good deal of what I call “live event” work. Let me give you an example: you go to a business meeting for a couple days and on the first night there’s a “get acquainted and get loaded” type of event. Well, look up to the front of the room on the stage and you’ll see a couple of guys doing improv or a custom sketch about acronyms or something…that’s me. It’s great work, and I love it.
In fact, I love the massive variety of work I get to do on my particular career path: I go from performing the voices in a video game one day to playing a coffee cup in front of a Dunkin’ Donuts two days later (true story for another blog). This is the nature of my work, and it’s exciting and challenging. The thing is, though, I often work alone in a voice booth. Of course I collaborate with the client, director/producer and mixer. But the work usually involves a couple of people sipping Diet Coke and eating Nutri-Grain Bars in a recording studio.
I must say that the cast, director Wendy C. Goldberg and playwright Rebecca Gilman of The Crowd You’re In With have been such a delight to work with. I’ll write more about them in the future, but right now, I need to talk about the crew.
We started tech rehearsals on Tuesday. This tech has been amazing. The level of the crew’s true admiration for each other’s respective labor has been unlike anything I’ve experienced. When you combine Rachel Healy’s costumes under Josh Epstein’s lights on Kevin Depinet’s set with Josh Horvath and Ray Nardelli’s sound design…suddenly there’s a backyard BBQ indoors.
And as amazing as the design team is, the running crews and stage management department, who often bear a really heavy load during tech, have been so professional. And on top of everything, Kim Osgood and Sylvia Fellin have just been fantastic.
The thing that has impressed me the most about working at the Goodman so far is not just the prestige and history of the theater, but the people who occupy it today. From Kelly Ann and Erin, to Adam and Logan, to Patrick, Nick, Matt and Yvette, Christina, Sara, Jess…it doesn’t feel like a family, it feels like a crew—and that’s even better than family in my opinion.
In your family there’s always somebody who’s tripping or making decisions you question, but in a crew everybody has everybody else’s back, and no matter what your responsibility is, no one person is more important than the SHOW.
That’s how I approach my position as a cast member: it’s my responsibility as a member of the crew. I take that very seriously. And I have to bring my performance up to the level of Josh Epstein’s lights and Kevin Depinet’s set.
The bar has been set very high.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Go behind the scenes with the cast of The Crowd You’re In With, an intimate and relevant new play from Chicago playwright Rebecca Gilman (Boy Gets Girl, Dollhouse, Spinning into Butter).
We also want you to feel welcome to respond—either to the thoughts of our artists, or your own feelings on The Crowd You’re In With. We'll see you at the theater!
Monday, May 11, 2009
It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to visit and explore the Goodman’s 2009/2010 season on a special new website we have created just for you. Here you will find useful information about all of our upcoming plays, including biographies of the principal artists, historical and dramaturgical information which contextualizes each of these shows and interviews with some of the major creative forces behind each production.
The 2009/2010 season is already shaping up to be one of the most exciting and varied in our history, and I hope that the material that you will find here will add to your enjoyment of this remarkable array of theater offerings.
We hope that you will feel free to let us know of any additional information that we can provide in order to make your Goodman experience as rich as possible. We welcome you to share your thoughts, comments and questions about the new website by clicking comment below.
I hope that you will enjoy the glimpse into each production that this website provides you—and we’ll look forward to seeing you at the theater.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
I’ve been to a lot of great concerts: Creedence, Ten Years After (Alvin Lee!), Jethro Tull, Eric Clapton, Miles Davis, James Brown and a Motown revue that changed my musical life—but for Rock ’n’ Roll, here goes:
#5 B.B. King, The Byrds and Jefferson Airplane in 1968
A great concert with my brother Michael at the old football stadium at IU in Bloomington, Indiana. (Remember the race in the movie Breaking Away? That was the place.) B.B. had a big hit with “The Thrill is Gone” and educated Hoosiers on the finer points of the blues. The Byrds were morphing into something beyond “Mr. Tambourine Man” but Roger McGuinn was still playing his Rickenbacker. And Grace Slick was simply the coolest and sexiest woman on the planet.
#4 The Small Faces
Again in Bloomington in 1973. This was a great gritty band when Ronnie Wood was still lead guitarist and Rod Stewart (before disco) was one of the gutsy-ist singers in rock besides Joe Cocker. The J. Geils Band opened, which was great as well.
#3 An all-day outdoor concert on Bull Island near Evansville, Indiana, in 1971
My memory of the day is a little haaaazy shall we say, but not the music. The lineup went: Boone's Farm, Black Oak Arkansas, Howlin' Wolf, Sleepy John Estes, Mississippi Fred McDowell, The Ike and Tina Turner Revue, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Procol Harem and The Steve Miller Band. Howlin' Wolf crawled out on stage on his hands and knees growling with the mic in his teeth. My friend John Long and I got right up to the stage for Ike and Tina and got whiplash from dancing.
#2 A tie: The Rolling Stones in Indianapolis in 1972 and Prince at First Avenue in Minneapolis in 1983 or 84
The Stones were fabulous and Mick and Keith were in rare form. The revelation was Mick Taylor's guitar work. Stevie Wonder opened. He had just released Talking Book and played every instrument on the stage.
Prince was doing an unannounced preview of Purple Rain at the club and a friend told me to hustle over. My Lord can that dude do it all! The place was electric and The Kid burned it up with his guitar.
#1 My claim to rock immortality: The Last Waltz at Winterland in San Francisco in 1976
A buddy was working security and got me in about a third of the way through the concert, so I stood along the wall house-right. The Band has always been one of my music totems and all the other incredible musicians that night made it very special. It had a real communal feel. And of course there was this dark little guy with a movie crew doing a guerilla shoot of the concert. People kept saying "stay out of Marty's way." Who knew? Whenever the movie is playing on TV, it brings back warm memories.
Friday, May 1, 2009
Do you have a coming-of-age tradition you’d like to share? If so, please share your comments by clicking the link below.
Learn more about High Holidays, and all of our 09/10 Season here.