Sunday, June 13, 2010
My old, old buddy, Brad Greenquist, popped over to see the play last night. Pictured above. I honestly think Brad works more than any other actor in L.A. He is constantly in motion as an actor. Even though last night following the show he was telling me about the dismal state of affairs it is for actors currently in this town.
Brad's a funny guy. Very courtly. Very old school. He stands ramrod straight, with perfect grammar and diction, hands behind his back as though lecturing, barking laughs at the most surprising moments. Everything I remember about him from those many years ago in NYC when we were both flailing about as young actors. He is also, and perhaps most importantly, a very kind man. I have never, in all the years I've known Brad, heard him say something negative about another human being. It's not something one notices at first. But as time goes by one realizes there is something different about him. At least this is how it worked for me. And then one day I realized he doesn't speak out of school. Ever. It's an enormously attractive trait. And incredibly rare.
We met when I started studying with Michael Moriarty in 1986. Brad's career was, it goes without saying, moving much faster than mine. He had just finished two large roles in two major films: Bedroom Window and Pet Semetary. It was clear he was Michael's favorite pupil.
One night, after several months of studying together, I asked him if he wanted to grab a beer after class. We did. And thus started a friendship that has lasted twenty four years now. Some time later, I was doing a few segments of my play DAD/SONS in class and Michael asked me if it was finished, if the play was ready to go. I said yes. He said, well, let's produce it. It was a two-person play about two estranged brothers, one steeped in the lifestyle and colloquialisms of Southern Missouri, the other an intellectual of sorts who had moved away to make his mark in New York. It was a young play from a young writer. My friend and longtime director, Jeff Wood, was helming it. So Brad and I rehearsed it and performed it for a bit at Theatre 22 with Michael Moriarty producing. It was, if I don't say so myself, a good, little piece of young writing.
Brad hit a dry patch in his career for a bit in the late eighties. I was working as a waiter at a place up on 56th street. Brad told me he needed a job. So I got him hired on to wait tables there. It must have been hard for him because at least once during every shift one of his tables recognized him.
In any event, Brad moved to L.A. about the same time my stage career began to boom. He wanted to work on film. I never had any interest in that. So while I began a good run of work that lasted about ten years on the East Coast, Brad began booking tons of gigs on TV and film on the West Coast. He found a niche of sorts out here and began working nearly non-stop. It seemed for awhile there, I couldn't turn on the TV without seeing him in episodic television. Always the best thing in it, too.
He had some really wonderful things to say about the play last night. If the play moves to a larger venue, I kind of had it in my mind for Brad to take over the lead role of Sam. Frankly, I just didn't want to keep doing it. There is talk and some early negotiations for Praying Small to move to a very well known theatre out here. I told Brad about my idea. He said, "I'm flattered but sorry. No one can play that role now that you've done it. It is yours. You owe it to the play to act it yourself from here on out." My thoughts were to slip Brad into the role and then direct it myself.
But he loved Praying Small. He said it was like watching open heart surgery. Hm.
We have known each other a long time, as I said, and we both approach our work in a very similar fashion having both studied with Moriarty. So his criticisms, albeit minor, were taken very seriously. I suppose I'm not surprised but essentially he has the same criticisms I do about the piece. And none of those involve the artistic work by the actors.
The play was all over the place last night. Lines dropping in here and taken out there. I think four or five scenes with the other actors were all rather scattershot. Although, oddly, I don't think we actually DROPPED any lines. We just didn't say them in the right order.
The tech stuff continues to plague the play. I have reached an impasse of sorts with the director. He appears to be happy with the way things stand. I am not. That's the long and short of it.
Today a thee o'clock matinee. No idea what the house is. I'll call Teal in a bit and ask. Angela and I have a few friends today in the audience and no doubt we'll meet up with them afterwards and have something to eat. And then a four-day, much-desired rest.
This is, at this particular time anyway, not really the forum to go into the myriad of things bothering me about the technical aspects of the show, but suffice to say, it is reaching a boiling point where something either must be done or we simply accept the fact that it will forever be sub-standard. I do not think it possible for me to ever accept sub-standard work. In the theatre I have always believed there are only two speeds: Brilliant and then everything else. If it's not brilliant there's no point in doing it. Nightly I am appalled when I think of the $25 tickets being purchased and then giving them less than what we are capable of. I feel like we're giving the $25 ticket holders a $15 show.
In any event, not sure how I can handle all of this, but I'll call some close friends and advisors today and get a read on it all. Talked to my buddy and closest friend, Jimmy Barbour yesterday about it for hours. As always, he had some great insight into my frustrations.
The play is working. The play is at times a soaring piece of work. I'm happy with the words I've written and I'm terribly pleased with the fine, fine interpretive work from the other actors. We will all do our best again today. And the next day. And the next. That's what we do.
See you tomorrow.