I acted in college, in a small theater in a small town called Erie, Pennsylvania. The theater was a former barn, and we huddled in tight in a loft upstairs with our make-up and dim light as the voices of the audience filled in below, and we peeked down at them.
I didn’t know how to act but the director saw promise in me and I wound up getting some big parts. It’s easier to train someone who doesn’t have any training, was the thinking.
The choice to pursue theater was a direct response to getting arrested, mug shots and thumb-prints taken, then raked over the coals for furnishing alcohol to minors (as a minor myself, which seems sort of impossible). I was studying pre-law and saw all this as terribly corrupt, The System, and so I went with theater instead.
Theater training goes a long way in the corporate world: learning to breathe right, talk right, use your body…all that is good in meetings where there is posturing and frail lines of control and authority. It’s not much different than watching dogs wiggle and maneuver on a street corner, right before they sniff each other’s privates.
I got to be friendly with the director, who was older, and then he got to be real friendly with one of the girls I was dating, and then I think he got canned. I’m not sure. I can’t track him down on the Internet, now.
The first play we did was about a mentally-challenged boy who has the power to divine water (The Diviners). The guy who played the boy was a New Yorker with a thick accent and thick chest hair. We had to tone down the accent and down-play the chest hair because the character was like 13, or something.
Unfortunately, he wound up stealing a lot of money from the director and writing bad checks on his account.
The next play we did was The Marriage of Bette and Boo, about the playwright’s parents (Christopher Durang). I had a lot of long, manic passages to memorize with literary references that were way over my head (and many of the audience’s) but I went for it, despite. At 19, you’re still fearless enough to do shit like that, on a stage with hot lights in a small barn in front of your fraternity brothers.
After that, it was Talk Radio, by Eric Bogosian. I got to play a punk rocker and wear leopard spandex tights, along with the lead actor’s leather jacket. We got some real talent for this show, and I befriended these professional actors, who had a tangential relationship to the school somehow, but weren’t really students. They were sort of criminals in fact, but I won’t get into that here.
My favorite show was Michael Green’s Four Plays for Coarse Actors, one of which features a spoof on Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends As You Like It – also, a spoof on Chekhov called The Cherry Sisters, and yet another spoofing Beckett, which is pretty easy.Â See here for more on coarse acting.
This post dedicated to one of my favourite humourists RossÂ Murray, and the inspiration and enjoyment I get from his work…met through another favorite writer/blogger Michelle, who sent me a coffee mug for placing third in a contest she organized earlier this year.