When I was twelve, I was cast as King Richard the Lionhearted in a school performance of Robin Hood. I was thrilled that I was the only member of the cast who had a costume change (from disguised friar to King) – my mother, less so, as she was responsible for making TWO costumes. I remember so clearly the moment that I revealed myself as the King by lowering my hood. I remember feeling free and, strangely – or prophetically, being exactly where I belonged. Belonged being the operative word. The play was so well received by the school that we were asked to do a “command performance” for the PTA in the evening.
In high school I was cast as Atticus Finch in our production of To Kill a Mockingbird (loyal patrons will remember that I reprised this role some 45 years later at SMP!) I remember so vividly the moment that I stepped downstage during the trial to give my summation to the jury and caught the light in my eyes and realized that the audience was listening, waiting for me to speak. I felt so powerful as the vehicle for telling that story. I felt so at home on that stage – and in that moment. Time stopped. It was that moment that made me want to make this my life.
I have had the good fortune to have many more remarkable experiences on stage – in a production of Othello in Conservatory, in Cymbeline at Utah Shakes, in Henry V at Ashland, in Opus at the Fountain Theater here in Los Angeles. And in every play I have done at SMP. From the Stage Manager in Our Town (my introduction to SMP – which got me through my mother’s death during the run), to Atticus, to Jerry in God’s Man in Texas, and now as Sean in Bee-luther-hatchee.
I haven’t been on stage in three years – I will never again let it go so long. Acting is indescribably fulfilling for me (though were you to see me minutes before a performance you might think you were looking at a condemned man – I get so nervous and anxious.) It is transporting and cathartic and liberating and fun – oh, so much fun – and it is HARD. I’ve forgotten how hard it is. Hard because it calls for a degree of concentration that we are not often asked to provide. And the moment that concentration breaks – even for the briefest of seconds – catastrophe looms.
My eyes fall on someone that I know in the audience, I say a line a little differently, I overhear a comment from the house, something falls backstage, an ambulance goes by, your scene-partner skips a beat or gives you a different cue, all of these are invitations to “step away” for a moment. But if you do, you’ll miss your next cue or mangle the next line or be late in responding or you’ll initiate a cross at the wrong moment and then if you aren’t careful to bring yourself back these can cascade as you begin to think about your missteps!
And yet, the peril is worth it. Telling a story, sharing an idea, exploring a theme with the audience, being “in the moment” with you scene-partners, being “someone else” for a little while is why I fell in love with this. It’s why I will always be an actor first.
As always we here at SMP do all of this for you – our faithful patrons. I look forward to seeing you from the stage and in your favorite seats, at Bee-luther-hatchee! There are very few performances left – we close next Saturday, February 18. I do hope you’ll come – and stay to talk to me afterwards.
For tickets please call Mary in the box office at 626.355.4318. Hope to see you soon!