Sunday, June 27, 2010

Refusing to Take a Knee...

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.  More senseless, pointless, egocentric battles with the director last night.  It's gonna be the death of me.

In other news...quiet house last night.  And full.  Kinda surprised me that such a large house would be so terribly quiet.  Too quiet, as they say in old westerns.  Nonetheless as I was meeting Angie after the show up front, I was stopped by a group of folks who'd just seen it and they were wildly enthusiastic.  So once again I was reminded that quiet doesn't mean bored.

There is a great deal of very dark humor in the piece.  Sometimes we get a house that really lets go and yucks up a storm at the humor.  Sometimes, like last night, not so much.  Friday night, strangely, was very much a yucking house.  Lots of laughs in the right spots.

Couldn't sleep last night because I was in a semi-rage over the director stuff.  Best not to go into all of that now because I'm still miffed and I'd probably just start ranting.  Suffice to say, it's simply inexplicable.

Had a quick audition yesterday for a 'documentary pilot,' whatever that means.  Read a few lines of a script into a camera and left.  Very good pay for what appears to be little to no work.  My kind of gig.

This weekend we had both Backstage and L.A. Weekly in the house.  Those should both be out by Wednesday and Thursday of this week.  No idea whatsoever what to expect.

Had Rob Arbogast over yesterday and helped him work on the role of the villain for a new film he's up for.  Unexpectedly had a really great time helping him find the pyrotechnic side of this guy.  One of my favorite film villains of all time is Gary Oldman in a movie called The Professional.  It is a virtuoso performance.  Bombastic, smart, edgy, surprising, unpredictable and some might say, over the top.  But it's a reminder to me that there is no such thing as overacting or underacting.  There is only honesty and dishonestly.  As Rob and I were working on the script yesterday (a surprisingly good one, in fact) we were keeping that amazing performance in mind.  Sort of using it as a blueprint for Rob's character in the film.

Once I pointed out the possibilities of being so gregarious with this character, Rob quickly caught on and started having a great deal of fun with it.  The old adage is true - it's more fun to play a bad guy than it is to play a good guy.  The restraints are taken off and the actor can stop editing himself so much and really go for broke.

There are a lot of great bad guy performances out there...Pacino in The Devil's Advocate, Malkovich in In the Line of Fire, Hackman in The Hunt for Red October, Lee J. Cobb in On the Waterfront, Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter and Cape Fear, Henry Fonda in Once Upon a Time in the West, Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs and of course, the granddaddy of them all, Olivier in Richard III.

And they're all roles that one remembers upon seeing these films.

I've had the opportunity to play the bad guy a few times onstage and it's just downright fun.  The racist prosecuting attorney in To Kill a Mockingbird comes to mind.  Had a ball with that one.  The sociopathic killer in Wait Until Dark.  Jigger in Carousel.  And perhaps the most fun, Jessop in A Few Good Men.

So once Rob got the hang of it and started playing a bit, he was a joy to watch.  Moving quickly from menacing to amusing, exasperated to controlled.  Swinging every club in the bag, as a friend of mine used to say.  I think he's got a good shot at the film.  He's definitely got a hook into the guy and that's what counts.

I spent a lot of my teaching time in Chicago working with young actors.  People that needed firm guidance.  They wanted me to tell them exactly how to do the role.  This can get really tedious for me.  With Rob I enjoy myself so much more because once he grasps what it is we're doing with the character he starts, almost immediately, to fly on his own.  It's the difference between working with a pro (my preference) and an amateur.

Matinee performance today of Praying Small.  All of the actors, myself included, are pretty much exasperated with the power struggle between the playwright and the director.  The mounting period for this play has been so difficult.  A battle at every turn.  Trying to do what's right for the play.  Keeping it simple and honest without a lot of frills and extraneous, well, stuff.  Trying to preserve the dignity and importance of the piece.  Fighting to eliminate chicken noises and bear noises and strange laugh tracks and Three Stooges music and background crowd noise and overwrought blocking and clown noses and chess clocks and giant clocks on the wall and added, unwritten characters and huge pauses between scenes and, well, on and on.  I honestly cannot remember the last time I've been involved with such a difficult rehearsal period.  I just hated going to rehearsal every day because I knew there would be another argument.  And yet, unlike most other plays, I had to keep at it because this one was mine.  I wrote it.  I own it.  It didn't exist till I made it.  So I had to protect it.  Usually I would have bowed out long ago and just said, 'let's agree to disagree' and moved on.  But in this case I had no option but to fight for my words.  To daily run interference for my creation.  And all the while trying to learn one of the largest roles I've ever done.  It has utterly exhausted me.  And more, it has constantly affected my already tenuous health.  Stress is really bad for diabetes sufferers, I'm told.  Well, if I were to point an accusing finger at something that has hampered my management of the old 'silent killer' it would definitely be the stress of rehearsing this play.

I fought Golden Gloves for about five years back in the day.  I remember fighting an incredible welterweight by the name of Roger Leonard...he later went to the Olympics.  Roger beat the bejesus out of me.  I took two standing eight counts from him in a three round fight.  He had a hook I couldn't see coming and he clocked me with it about three dozen times.  My trainer told me between rounds two and three, "Just take a knee, Son.  You're gonna get hurt."  But I refused to.  In my mind, I told myself he was going to have to kill me to beat me by TKO.  So I stayed at it.  I lost all three rounds (now, mind you, I went 19-3 my last year, so I wasn't THAT bad).  But Roger outclassed me.  He was simply a faster, stronger fighter.

The process for this play reminds me of that fight all those many years ago.  I just couldn't stop.  I couldn't quit fighting.  Because there was a lot more at stake than my health.  There was personal integrity.  What I thought of myself.  I think once someone relinquishes that, it's all over.

Finally, about last night, I never really felt in the game.  Always just a half beat off.  Couldn't quite get into the center of it.  Couldn't quite enjoy the moment.  Always thinking of the next beat, the next moment, the next line.  I knew it and yet I couldn't stop myself.  It's an ugly spot for an actor.  Hopefully, the actor is proficient enough technically so that no one aside from himself really notices.  I hope no one noticed last night that I was having an 'off' night.

So until I have to go to the theatre and confront whatever off-stage drama there is there, I hope to have a relaxing Sunday with Angie and the puppies.  We have a lot of hurdles in front of us, Angie and I, regarding our financial stuff since she's no longer working.  But nothing can be done about that until tomorrow.  And worrying about tomorrow never did anyone any good.  Yesterday is gone, nothing to do about it.  Tomorrow isn't here yet, nothing to do about it.  But today has the promise of the here and now.  Today I have the opportunity to be kind and caring to the people in my life that make it worthwhile.  Today can be molded.  Today is all any of us really ever have.

See you tomorrow.