Friday, April 30, 2010

...the show must go on.

Final dress for Sanity 2 last night.  What a traffic problem.  But it's being fixed by smart, capable people.  It's just the nature of the evening.  Eight one-acts, one after another, is bound to create a bit of scene-changing chaos.  I'm not too concerned.  It's a very casual evening of theatre.  The audience realizes this.  The point of the night is to showcase some writing and acting.  That's the gist of the whole thing.  So towards that end, I think it will be successful in the final analysis.

Still some line work to be done today by yours truly.  Pacing, shouting out loud, mumbling curses when I can't find the line in my memory.  The usual.

The good news is my director for Praying Small and one of the acting artistic directors for the company, Victor Warren, brought me an amazing suit to wear in the plays.  It fits like a glove and it's sort of 1940's looking.  I feel like Edward G. Robinson when I put it on.  "Where's your Moses now, see?"

I have, throughout my career, had some wonderful costumes to wear.  Had a great one in both 1776 productions that I did.  In fact, you can see the one I wore for Richard Henry Lee to the right of this page.  Every single time I did Lost in Yonkers (five to date) I had a suit BUILT exclusively for me.  In hindsight I wish I had purchased one of them at the end of one of the respective runs.

I remember doing Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls some years back.  Had on an all black suit with a shining white tie.  Opening night I'm backstage having a cigarette and dropped ashes on it (I was supposed to be wearing my "smoking frock" but I wasn't).  Tried to rub the ashes off.  Ended up with a huge black spot on the tie.  Costumer saw me before curtain and turned a shade of red I didn't think possible in a human being.

The first 1776 I did was with Jim Barbour as Jefferson in Virginia's Mill Mountain Theatre.  I had to wear tights.  They didn't quite fit.  So I would struggle with them every night.  The upshot was that they would droop.  They sagged.  Jim said to me after one performance, "You are the most talented scene-stealer I've ever met.  But I didn't think even YOU would stoop so low as to steal a scene by making your tights sag."  As God is my witness, it was entirely unintentional.

When I did Sunday in the Park with George at that same theatre they rented all the costumes from the Broadway production.  When I got my costume I was putting everything on for the costume parade and inside the socks was sewn a label that said M. Patinkin.  I was star struck.

Here's an odd one.  First time I did Arnold, the mentally handicapped character from the beautifully written Boys Next Door, was at The Wayside Theatre outside of D.C.  I was wearing Keds Tennis Shoes.  I thought it might be a nice touch to label them.  Something I thought the character might do.  So I wrote, in magic marker, on the toes of the sneakers, "Left" and "Right."  So, you know, Arnold would never be confused.  Two years later I did the same role in a small Equity theatre in Florida.  Unbeknownst to me that theatre had done some sort of 'costume trade' with The Wayside.  So I get my costume for Arnold and what'd'ya know.  There are the Keds.  Written prominently on the toes?  "Left" and "Right."

The very first play I was ever in was MacBeth at the local college in the town where I grew up. I played MacDuff's son.  One small scene in which MacBeth's murderous henchmen stab me and my mother, Lady MacDuff.  The tech people decided to put a blood packet on my back so that when I'm stabbed I turn, back to the audience, and they can see the blood stain all over my back.  That was how it was ostensibly supposed to work.  Opening night I got the biggest laugh of the play (although to be fair, MacBeth doesn't have a LOT of laughs).  The murderer grabs me, turns me upstage and stabs.  The packet on my back burst with a loud POP (I think they used a balloon half-full with water).  And then a cup of water fell between my legs.  It literally looked like my water had burst.  Big laugh.  I was mortified.  It's a wonder I even continued in the theatre.

My buddy Jay Willick, a very fine actor himself, and I were talking last night about how sometimes the costume can completely find the character for you.  It's true.  I recall Brando's dismissive quote about acting once, "I haven't acted in years.  I just put the costume on and let it act for me."  There have been many times when I couldn't find the character completely until I put the costume on.  Especially the shoes.  Once I get the shoes on and find the walk, sometimes the rest just follows quite naturally.

I'll end with the famous Streisand audition story, which may or may not be apocryphal.  A director recalls her coming to his audition before she was a star.  The stage manager calls her name.  "Barbra Streisand?  You're next!"  A few seconds pass.  Finally she stumbles onstage for the audition wearing high heels with one heel off.  She's lurching to the stage and talking all at the same time, "I'm so sorry, I just got my heel caught in a grate.  Was stuck for ten minutes trying to pull my foot out.  People were lined up tugging me.  It was a mess.  I kept telling them to pull harder.  A whole line of people I don't know, lined up on the sidewalk, pulling me and my foot out of this grate.  Finally it popped out, my foot, I mean, but the heel was still stuck in the grate.  Anyway, I'm here.  I'm ready to sing for you.  Just try to ignore the shoes."  And she lurched up on stage and sang.  Unbelievably well, of course.

A month or so later, this director is talking to another director and told him this story.  The other director looked at him in disbelief.  He said, "She did the same thing at my audition."  Pretty smart cookie, that Streisand.

See you tomorrow.