Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Work

Tomorrow I shoot a scene as a very loud and aggressive drill sergeant for a new television thing with Ridley Scott (he's producing, not directing). I've been a fan of Mr. Scott and his work since Alien. Or maybe since Bladerunner. Whichever came first. The director's cut of Bladerunner is a piece of genius, the studio version, not so much. In any case, I doubt he'll be on the set in his capacity as a producer, which is too bad. It's a small role, but I'm hoping it will be fun. Yesterday the costumer and I got everything worked out.

My credit card took a major beating yesterday as we had our old Saturn completely refitted. But it was necessary. It was starting to sound a lot like the truck in The Beverly Hillbillies. And after all the repair and maintenance work, we had to take it over for the mandatory, California 'smog check.' Friday we're getting the tires 'rotated.' All of this car stuff sort of depresses me. Puts me in mind of Central Missouri, where people treat their cars with the same enthusiasm the rest of the country reserves for their children.

Nonetheless, there's no getting around it, LA is a car culture and the sooner one accepts that fact, the sooner one becomes a bona fide West Coaster.

The shoot for the new Indie with the wonderful Cathy Baker is the week of September 4th. Today I've got to get that patch of dialogue under my belt. It's a fun and clever script and I'm looking forward to playing with it a bit.

Also, the up and coming director/writer Jeremy Lanni sent me his new 'thriller' and we're going to do another 'industry reading' in September. Again with Powers Boothe and my buddy, Larry Cedar, of Deadwood fame.

And this Friday I go in for yet another read for the play, Underneath the Lintel, a one-person play, being produced with the Ensemble Theatre Company in Santa Barbara. The director is being, shall we say, VERY attentive to who he eventually casts. He's already scoured every decent, 50 year old actor in LA and NYC. He keeps calling me back in, so that's a good thing, I suppose. As I said before, it's one of those gigs that definitely falls under the 'be careful what you wish for' category. So, so, SO many damn words to learn should it happen.

I've done three one-person shows over my career; Golden Eggs, Farley and Daisy and, most recently, Give 'Em Hell, Harry, about the life of Harry Truman. With the 'Harry' piece, I had about four months to learn it after which I went into rehearsal, the piece firmly under my belt already. For me, learning that many words, especially in my advance age and with my addled brain, is more daunting than ever.

So the 'Lintel' piece scares the bejesus out of me. On the other hand, a few months in Santa Barbara, one of the most beautiful spots on earth, would be really cool. Although should it happen I'm not sure I'd be of the right mind to enjoy it all. I'll be too panicky about the script.

In any event, if it happens, I'll do my best, of course, and if it doesn't, well, I'll live with that, too. I have some friends out here, film people, guys that would rather cut off their right arm before they did an actual 'play.' One said to me a while back, 'Why do you keep doing that stuff? It's a dead art. It's like cave painting.' There may be some truth to what he says. But I'm an anachronism when it comes to live theatre; I still think it's important. In LA it's tantamount to practicing voo-doo in some people's minds. I've touched on this subject many times in this blog and to be perfectly honest, I'm torn sometimes. I definitely have a problem with 'friends and family' small theatre. And, to be perfectly honest, that's what a lot of theatre in LA is, especially with the smaller theatres. It's a shame, really, but undeniable. Back in the day, during my time in New York, it was surrounded with a very noble quality. Theatre, ANY theatre, was treated with unreserved respect. Not so much here in the City of Angels, although there is some startling and exciting work being done on the small stages now and then. Mostly, however, there is not. Most actors look at theatre work on the small stages as a way to get noticed by film people. And there's nothing wrong with that, I suppose, I'm just not sure it's a healthy way to approach the work.

But I've beaten that poor, dead horse quite enough over the past couple of years. I have one friend who says he only does theatre 'between real gigs.' Those are his words, 'real gigs.' It's discouraging, to say the least.

My favorite playwright, the late Lanford Wilson, has a line in his Pulitzer Prize-winning play, 'Tally's Folly.' It goes like this: 'The work. The work is very much to the point.' I've taken that line to heart over the past couple of decades. Doesn't matter where it occurs...the work is still very much to the point. At least for me it is.

See you tomorrow.