Tuesday, September 21, 2004

We're now officially off book, which means we can no longer use our scripts onstage. I'm doing better than expected, but I still find myself calling for and paraphrasing lines more often than I would like. Thankfully, though, tonight didn't go like the first night we went off book in The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940. When that evening ended it felt like someone had repeatedly kicked me in the stomach for two hours straight. Tonight it was more like a bratty kid kicking the back of your airline seat - annoying, yes, but nothing that would make you want to curl up into a ball and wonder why you were living. Strange analogy, I know, but it's true.

I found out yesterday that after our school matinee performances the adult cast members are going to participate in a question and answer session with the kiddies. I'm not certain they want me, of all people, giving advice to kids about acting. But, hey, whatever, man. I'll try not to corrupt their young minds too much. I just hope I get to say, "You have to find your inner sheep."

Also, we were told that after all our performances we would be expected to come out in character and sign autographs, talk to the kids and their parents, etc. We are not supposed to sign our real names when giving autographs - no six-year-old is going to look back at their Charlotte's Web experience and remember who I was - so it looks like I have to practice signing "Homer Zuckerman" or "Sheep". I'm probably going to go with the latter because I'm playing the sheep when the show ends and, well, Sheep is easier to sign. Maybe I can come up with some nifty "Homer/Sheep" signature. Or maybe I'll just sign everything "Frankie Valli" to keep myself entertained.

Tonight the theatre held auditions for their next show, Annie. Thankfully those were next door, but the dog tryouts were done in the actual theatre during our break. Well, dog tryout - only one dog was there, a golden retriever. She did a good job, coming to "Annie" when called, but midway through her audition she decided she had had enough and ran down the steps of the stage to try to get away from all the madness. However, she was thwarted in her escape attempt by her owner, who, waiting in the audience, grabbed her by her collar and hauled her back onstage. The dog didn't really understand why this young person kept saying, "Come here, Sandy!" You could tell she was confused. "I know what 'Come here' means, but what's this 'Sandy' stuff? Who's this 'Sandy' person, anyway, and why is everyone looking at me when they're saying it? Oh, well, maybe that kid has a treat."

Strange thing about that audition, though: Annie was being played by a young boy. I didn't ask if that was their final casting decision. If so, that little red dress is going to look mighty bizzare on that kid.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

This evening I tried on my costumes. When I am Homer, you will see me onstage decked out in overalls. When I am the sheep, I will be wearing khaki pants and a white sweater. I haven't worn overalls in about 25 years. It kind of freaked me out how farmer-like I looked when I put the costume on. Actually I looked like a hillbilly farmer. I took my sandals off when I was changing clothes, and when I looked in the mirror all I could see were the overalls and my bare feet. All that was missing was a jug of moonshine. I've been having trouble visualizing the character of Homer, but putting on the costume helped. And, no, he's not going to be a hillbilly.

I'm having no problems with the sheep. He's a blast to play. It's not every day you get to baaaa onstage.

The kid playing Wilbur came to rehearsals tonight wearing a Beatles Abbey Road t-shirt. Keep in mind that he's only 14 years old. Immediately I moved him into the "good kid" category of teen coolness. Of course, he earned extra points for stating, "I like Abbey Road, but I think Revolver is a better album." Any kid that loves the Beatles - and can actually cite different albums by them - at that age is alright in my book.

The other kids in the cast are just as friendly, although their very presence makes me feel old. For example, the youngest was born in January 1990, when I was a junior in high school. I have pieces of clothing hanging in my closet that are older than the majority of our cast. When I told them the year I graduated, they responded by calling me an old man. I warned them that they, too, will be 31 before they know it, and when they are, well, they can take solace in the fact that I'll be 48.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

I had to turn my bio in today for the show's program, but I had to keep it at fifty words or less. As all of you know from reading my blog entries and e-mails, brevity is not my strongest feature. Unfortunately, I've only done two plays in my life - Peach Boy does not count - and both of them have long ass titles that don't abbreviate well. How do you shorten The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940? It didn't help that the company I did it for was Madd Hatter Dream Machine, four words gone right there. Yes, I could have cut A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum down to just Forum, but that sounded weird so I left it. In the end, I was at 47 words after simply listing my name, the fact that I was debuting at The Artist's Studio, and the titles and companies of the two shows I've done in the recent past. I didn't know what to do with those last three words. I contemplated something strange, like "Pie tastes good", but then I realized I would have to explain it to every single person who read my bio. Then I thought about something genial, like "Thanks to everyone," but, while that's a happy and positive message, it's not really me. In the end I settled on "Find the girls!", my sole line from Forum. I think everyone who knows me will understand where that's coming from. All others will think, "The hell?!?!?"

Today I received a pin for my 5+ years of service at the library. They do this every year, honor those celebrating their 5, 10, 15, etc. anniversary by taking them and their managers out for lunch. This year was a big one. Since we opened five years ago and the staff increased tremendously at that time, there were a lot of people to honor. I wore my pin all day but, because I was afraid I would lose it - or run it through the wash - I gave it a new home on my bulletin board at work. It's holding up the certificate they gave me, which I thought was appropriate.

Since I was the first new hire of 1999, I remember pretty much when everyone that year started. I kept teasing Moira throughout lunch that even though she was being honored, she should never forget who has more seniority. (That would be me, by one week.) Karen of course started that year as well, as did Christy and Dawn. And about 30 Circ clerks. We spent the majority of our lunch talking about when we were hired, our interviews, our first days, etc. I can't believe it's been five years since I began working there. Blows my mind.

When we were given our certificates we had to go up front, shake a few hands and pose for a picture. It gave me high school graduation flashbacks. But at least this time they said "Waye" instead of "Wayne".

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Second day of rehearsals and all seems to be going well. I know my blocking for both acts, so now it's time to actually learn the lines and delve into the characters I'll be playing. It shouldn't be too hard; even though I'm onstage a lot, Homer is a quiet farmer who doesn't have much to say. Which means this time I'll get a lesson in reacting to others. I'm still trying to fumble my way around the story. Give me a break, it's been about 25 years since I read it. I'm sure I'll be fine when we open, which happens in - good God - seventeen days.

There are nine people in the cast, four of whom are high school students. They're good kids. They certainly keep things lively. I forgot how much energy a teenager has. You put four of them together in a room and you could probably harness that energy and light a city. For weeks.

I mentioned it before, but I gotta say it again: I love doing a show so close to home. Rehearsal ended tonight at 8:30. I was home at 8:40. I actually used the time tonight to brush up on my scenes, which I never had the time to do before. I might have to make the Artists Studio my permanent home. Nah, too many other shows I want to do around the city.

Oh, and my sheep outfit will be more of a suggestive costume than a literal one. Which kind of makes me glad, because I had this fear it would be a Walt-Disney-World-character-like full-body sheep costume. That terrified me because a) those lights are pretty brutal when you're normally dressed, let alone covered head-to-toe in fur, and b) I don't really want to be covered head-to-toe in fur. I am having fun with that character. He's a crusty old bastard, Mr. Sheep.

I'm off to memorize lines...

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Picked up my script today and discovered I will have additional responsiblities in this show: I am also playing a sheep. Don't ask me why, but when I heard that I started laughing hysterically. I never thought I would ever play a sheep onstage. Oh, I'm gonna have fun with that one.

The main role, Homer Zuckerman, isn't terribly big, but it's still going to be a lot of work. At a casual first glance, Mr. Zuckerman seems to be a bit of a fame whore, meaning he wants to be famous in the worst way possible. Maybe I misinterpreted it, but near the end he's inviting photographers and journalists on the farm to get a look at his pig and, according to the script notes, also enjoys getting his picture taken for the local newspaper. Yep, sounds like a fame whore to me. If I decide to play him that way, it'll be an interesting angle. Probably not the one E.B. White had in mind when he wrote the book.

I timed it. It took me eight minutes to get to the theatre. After driving 30 minutes one way for all the other shows I've done, eight minutes is going to be great. Now I can actually come home after work and have dinner! And after rehearsal I can get home at a decent time! It already feels like heaven.

I went grocery shopping this afternoon and overheard a young woman, in her early 20's, asking a produce clerk for empty boxes. They wouldn't have to be big boxes, you see, because she's moving and only needs them for "the littler things." Littler?!?!? What the hell is that word? She also threw about 15 "likes" in five seconds I heard their conversation, as in "they're for, like, littler things." I didn't stick around to see if she got the boxes so that she could transport her littler possessions.

Friday, September 10, 2004

I am not dead.

I have not been taken captive by anyone or anything.

I have not been wandering around the country in an RV trying to discover my roots.

I have been busy, dear blog readers. And for the lack of updates I sincerely apologize.

So I come home from work this evening and find a message on my machine from Rebecca, one of my fellow Forum cast members. She's directing Charlotte's Web in Fishers and had an actor leave the show unexpectedly. She's asked me to step in, and I, of course, said I would do it. I will be playing the role of Homer Zuckerman, the farmer. Not a big role, but big enough to have the song "Zuckerman's Famous Pig" named after him. (Alas, we are not doing the musical version, so there will be no songs centered around my character. Dammit.) We open October 1, which means I have three weeks to learn my lines and blocking before we go live. The show is meant more for children than adults, so, according to Rebecca, it's running time will be no more than 90 minutes and we're going to do some "Gee, Isn't Theatre Fun" performances during the weekday for some schools. In order to do that I'll have to take a few vacation days, but the time off will coordinate well when Val and Bianca being in town. At least I'll get to see them more than I thought I would have.

Unfortunately my trip to Memphis has now been postponed, for several reasons: 1) I have rehearsals that I can't miss. 2) My vacation time will have to be used for the week we're doing school performances. 3) My friend and yours, Mr. Money, has been saying for weeks now that it probably wouldn't be the best idea to take a trip right at this time. But I will get there soon. Dammit, I want to see Graceland in all its shag carpet beauty!

And that's not all: I've also been cast in The Lebanon Follies, which opens in November. Normally I would just do one show at a time, but Follies rehearses only on Sundays, so there will be very few conflicts between the two shows. The Lebanon Follies is a song and dance thing centered around a farm theme, which should come in handy since I'll be playing a farmer in Web. We've had one rehearsal so far, where we sang our little hearts out. I'm looking forward to doing both of them. But hopefully pulling double duty won't drive me insane.

So, let's recap this year of theatre:

April-May 2004 - Citizen of Rome, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
June-July 2004 - Ken de la Maize, The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940
Sept.-Oct. 2004 - Homer Zuckerman, Charlotte's Web
Aug.-Nov. 2004 - Song and Dance Guy, The Lebanon Follies

And to think I laughed after my Forum audition, convinced that I blew the entire thing and would never get cast. (Don't believe me? Go back a few months and read the post from that evening.) I'm having a ball doing all this theatre, so expect it to continue. Especially if I never have to audition again. These immediate casting calls are great for my ego.