Friday, June 25, 2010

Making God Laugh.

No Times review, either online or in the paper.  I have no idea what's going on.  My buddy in Colorado, Michael Catlin, a fine, former LA actor, seems to think they might save it for the Sunday edition because it's a special notice.  I don't know.  All I know is we need the review right now.  We need the word out there about this play.  We need outside confirmation that what we have done is worth seeing.

It was a bit of a surprise that the Times even showed up in the first place.  We didn't expect them.  In fact, our producer, the astonishing Teal Sherer, received the call the very afternoon they attended.

I almost stepped away from the theatre back in 1989.  I was in NY and couldn't get arrested.  Try as I might I couldn't get in the door.  Couldn't get an agent.  Couldn't get my plays mounted.  Couldn't get hired to do anything in a decent house.  I was just one more of a thousand twenty-something actors wandering around New York City.  Some with talent, some not.  Either way, it didn't seem to make much of a difference.

As I've mentioned before in this blog, I started studying with the brilliant actor Michael Moriarty in 1987.  I learned more from Michael in one night about acting than I had, it seemed, in the previous eight years.  Michael was never interested in teaching the actor how to rehearse, like most acting teachers, but only in teaching one how to perform.  Teaching one how to get a job.

He's a tremendously positive teacher.  Always starting criticism with positive comments.  Saying first, "you do such and such very well here..." and then moving gently into the real criticism.  As a world-class actor himself he was always more than aware of the young actor's fragile ego.

So at the time I was working at a restaurant on Fifth Avenue in the city.  I was climbing the ladder of in-house, restaurant politics quickly.  If I had wanted I could have moved quickly up that ladder and been making some very good money in the restaurant business.  But it was wearing me down.  The servility alone was making me a bit crazy.

One day in class, I did a few monologues from a new one-person show I was doing at the time called Our Generation.  As was Michael's custom, he started out by asking how I was doing.  I told him I was thinking of getting out of the business.  That I had been in NYC for almost four years now and hadn't had a real break come my way.  He nodded and asked me to show him what I had that night.  Following the monologues he didn't offer any criticism, he just asked me to see him following class that evening.

When class ended I stuck around.  After the last student had wandered out he asked me to take a seat.  He said, very simply, "You are one of the best I've ever seen at this.  You are in the one percent of one percent.  You mustn't quit.  See you next week."  It meant more to me than I can ever say, even today.  So I kept plugging away.  And eventually, if not becoming a "star," I got to the point that I didn't have to do anything but act to make a living.

Some years back I read an interview with Joe Pesci in Rolling Stone.  He was talking about his early years as an actor.  He, too, had a similar story to mine.  He was working as a restaurant manager in NYC.  Gigs were occasional.  Some years better than others.  He decided to quit.  Just make a living in the restaurant business. And then he got a call from Martin Scorcese's people about a call back for a new film called Raging Bull.  He decided to give it one last shot.  And, as we all know now, it changed his life.

Eventually, I did end up bowing out of the theatre business for a few years.  I had an epiphany of sorts and decided to go back to school and get my C.A.D.C. (Certificate of Alcohol and Drug Counseling).  I chucked my stage aspirations for a few years and decided to get my hands dirty doing "real" work for a change.  I became a counselor on the north side of Chicago, working with newly sober and low-bottom alcoholics.  It was demanding and heart-breaking work.  In fact, it was during this period that I wrote Praying Small.

After a few years in the mud I came back to the theatre.  I realized my noble epiphany was misguided.  That the work I could do in the theatre was every bit as noble and life-changing as my one-on-one work as a counselor.  I don't regret it.  Not for one instant.  Being poor and an artist is infinitely preferable to being rich and a counselor.  Besides, my sorjourn into the counseling world was a useless period of running into brick walls, anyway.  The relapse rate, I discovered, was nigh on %100.  Addiction is not something one can be talked out of, I discovered reluctantly.

Now, in Los Angeles, I feel a bit like I did all those years ago in NY when Michael offered me those kind and  well-timed words of encouragement.  I keep sending my resume out and hearing absolutely nothing in return.  I don't have an agent or a "reel" yet.  I am spinning my wheels, it would seem.  I can't get anyone in the industry to come see my play.  I watch others around me land audition after audition and I sit idly by waiting for my cell to ring.  And considering Angie's and my financial concerns, it would appear I'll soon have to do something else to make a living for awhile.  Something I haven't had to do for a good many years.

We shall see what we shall see.  My old buddy, Father Joe Sampson, of a parish in Brooklyn, at one point my best friend in the world and someone I credit with saving my life, once said to me, "Do you know how to make God laugh?  Tell Him your plans."

Having said that, we shall, indeed, see what we shall see.

See you tomorrow.

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