Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Back to Praying Small...

When I first started this blog it was with the intention of using it as a chronicle of sorts for my work in Praying Small. However, in the meantime, we did From the East to the West and Praying Small was put on the back burner. Now EAST/WEST, the benefit production, is done and this Thursday night we have auditions for Praying Small. The opening is April 9, 2010. I have been asked to take the massive lead role of Sam, the man struggling through his first year of sobriety after having lost everything.

The role is written for an actor between the ages of 28 and 33. So I've added an opening scene that puts the play squarely in the category of "memory" play. A memory play is when the character has aged but is remembering something important in his or her past. Glass Menagerie is a memory play.

So as I said, it is a huge role. Sam is never offstage for over two hours. There are a bunch of long monologues to the audience. The fourth wall is broken consistently throughout the play. The "fourth wall" is the imaginary wall between the actor and audience. To break it and talk directly to the audience in "real time" is always a bit dicey. It is episodic writing and very difficult to pull off in a theatre (easier in film - in film it is called a "voice over").

So, as I've documented here, as I get older, remembering lines, even lines I have written myself, is getting difficult for me. I have a strategy, though. I have a whole bunch of different productions of Praying Small around the country on DVD. So my plan is to constantly have one of them playing, without the picture, all day long. I'll hear the words for the next two weeks all day, every day. Have no idea if that will work. But it's worth a try. I have till April 9th.

I did the play once before as an actor in Chicago. I stepped in to play the supporting role of Greg, the AA sponsor, in the play. I had one day to learn it. The previous actor playing it was a tapper. That is to say, he was one of those actors that gets so nervous onstage he constantly taps his feet. When I first saw the play with him in it I thought Fred Astaire was playing the role. So he was fired and the director asked me to step in. So the next day I spent ten hours with the actor playing Sam at the theatre learning the part of Greg. After all was said and done, it worked out okay. A lot of the Chicago critics came back to re-review the play with the playwright actually in it. Also, I'm sorry to admit, I had developed a reputation in that city as the hermit-like actor that would come out into the light once a year or so to do a little piece of work that was usually roundly applauded by the critics. The Sun-Times wrote, "Mr. Morts gives us a rare glimpse into why this critic thinks he's the best actor currently working in Chicago. Problem is, Mr. Morts apparently doesn't like to act." Another backhanded compliment in a career of them.

So now, upon moving to LA and changing so very many things in my life, I'm taking on the role of Sam, the big kahuna himself.

The play is written with fourteen characters. But it can also be done with six characters, with two of the actors taking on all of the smaller roles. That's the version we're doing.

So, Thursday auditions. And I'm guessing, rehearsals starting immediately after casting. This is all very exciting. More will be revealed.

See you tomorrow.