Friday, September 10, 2010
A New Company...So Many Possibilities.
Yesterday I erroneously wrote that The Blank Theatre in Los Angeles was started by the very fine actor, Noah Wiley. I was politely corrected by the Producing Artistic Director and Founder, Daniel Henning in a comment about the blog (see yesterday's comment section). That's what I get for not taking the time to check my facts and simply writing what others have told me. The Blank Theatre, oddly, is always referred to as 'Noah Wiley's Blank Theatre' in conversation. I don't know why that is, now that I've done some research. I suppose it's because that's where Noah Wiley first began working in this city way back when he was 18 or so. The truth is Daniel Henning started the enterprise and still guides the company all these many years later. I do, however, know this much...in theatre circles out here in LA, when the finest and most courageous small companies are discussed, there are nearly always three that make the conversation: Open Fist, Pacific Resident and The Blank Theatre. My apologies to Mr. Henning and his remarkable and durable operation.
A friend of mine told me yesterday that back in the day, very early in Steppenwolf's history, it was often referred to as 'Gary Sinise's Steppenwolf Theater." Makes sense, I suppose. Gary and Terry and Jeff started it. Gary was probably the most visible back then in the theatre community. I don't know. It's been a long while since I've seen or talked to Gary Sinise. Next time we cross paths I'll ask him. The last time we crossed paths was on the opening night of something or other and mostly we argued politics. Gary's rather conservative, to say the least.
I sent The Blank Theatre a DVD of the benefit performance of From the East to the West some months back. Also sent the working script. Yesterday, while doing a bit of organizing around the office, I came across some DVD copies of the play and watched it again. I'm still happy with that hurried production even though time and distance have given me a new viewpoint on some of it. I will definitely be going back to do some rewrites in the second act. I'd like, at some point, to mount it with the original actors attached to it: the wonderful John Schuck as Harry, Jim Barbour as Cory, John Bader as Stevie and Nickella Moschetti as Eileen. John Schuck has been battling an eye injury for months now and should soon be back in the saddle and ready to work on it again. That's good because John is picture perfect for the role. He gave an amazing reading in the role last December. Barbour is perfect for the lead role of Cory and also one of my closest friends. He's coming up on concert season, but tells me he's ready and willing to tackle it. And of course the wonderful actor, John Bader, is still my choice for the hapless Stevie in that play. Nickella played the role of Eileen in the benefit performance and impressed me more than I thought possible. She very well may be the only actor I've ever directed who managed to get through an entire rehearsal period without a single note from me. She was so spot-on, I didn't want to mess with whatever process she was going through. She gave a sterling performance in that short-lived production. She and her husband Jed are hard at work these days on an upcoming production of their original musical, Sick People in Love.
But writing yesterday about starting a theater company and reading Reggie Nelson's book and getting the comment from Mr. Henning have once again stirred the fire within me to get something going. Jimmy Barbour is always telling me to 'make our own work.' Jim does this all the time with his concert venues. He may be right. Of course, Jim has a much bigger name than I do in the theater world what with his long and varied experience on the Broadway stage. But I think he's on to something. We should make our own work. What's more, I now know and am familiar with about a dozen actors here in LA that I'd love to have come on board as original ensemble members of the company. Actors like Brad Greenquist, whom I've known since about 1990 from NYC. John Bader, Rob Arbogast, Bonnie Cahoon, Melanie Eubank, Brad Blaisdell, Nickella Moschetti, Joe Hulser, Tara Lynn Orr, Ryan Keffner, JR Mangels, Chad Coe, Jay Willick, Michael Catlin, Tanya Lane, Teal Sherer, Bob Morrissey, Mary Evans, Clarrisa Park, Theo Marshall and Malcom Devine. A great core group should I ever actually start this thing and throw myself into it. Diverse, too.
I need two things, essentially: a space and some seed money. Sort of reminds me of Steve Martin's old line: 'Here's how to make a million bucks. First...get a million bucks.'
I'm even tossing around the idea of getting as many of the aforementioned people together in the next month or so and brainstorming a bit about getting a company going.
Starting and running a small theatre company requires an unbelievable amount of passion and discipline. Not to mention sacrifice. People like Daniel Henning of The Blank and Michael Colucci of Chicago's Redtwist, have my unyielding respect for doing something so noble and difficult. To be perfectly frank, I'm not sure I have that kind of discipline and passion. I think I do, but who knows.
Anyway. I'm gonna discuss this with some close friends this weekend. Yesterday I called a close friend of mine who happens to be independently wealthy. He's always said if I wanted to really get serious about a company, he's be on board financially and as a board member. I've never taken him up on it. Maybe it's time to stop yammering about it all the time and get off my ass and do it. It's an unimaginably huge undertaking.
Today, I'm learning some new music for an upcoming project and working on a decent Swedish accent. Ah, the life of an itinerant actor. Have Dialect, Will Travel.
See you tomorrow.