Sunday, January 3, 2010

Stage Struck

Today I completed a 10 week acting course at the Rockaway Theatre Company with actor/director Frank Caiati with my first acting performance in front of an audience. Thank goodness that is over. My monologue was a major rant from "Talk Radio" where I did 2 pages of yelling at the radio audience.

I'd been walking around my house ranting and fuming over my lines. And in my car, screaming at the radio. And in the bathroom - I won't go there. On the subway – in a silent mutter, or I don't think I would have survived.

Frank is about 23 years old and it is already my third class with Frank. I love learning stuff from someone young enough to be my grandchild. The first class I took with Frank two years ago consisted of short 2 person vignettes. In the second class we did a scene with a partner. I played a totalitarian cop who has to intimidate a prisoner, played by a strapping 21 year old. When it wasn't working, Frank handed my a large kitchen knife to wave as I did the interrogation and it did the trick. The kid still runs away when he sees me on ths street. That's what makes Frank a great director, in addition to a great actor.

This class was different. All eight of us did monologues. Frank created a little half hour show, with lighting and stage cues, etc. For the first time I felt a real part of a theater production. Then he told us to invite friends and relatives. I could have lived with that. But then he invited the entire Rockway Theatre Company world. Gulp!

I've been the videographer for the RTC for a few years and have been able to see up close and personal just how incredibly talented so many of the participants are. And these participants cover actors from 6 to 70. And wonderful sound and lighting and stage designers and all kinds of theater talent. I and my fellow classmates were expected to go in front of these almost (and in some cases actual) pros and perform? Double Gulp!!

No one ever has accused me of being shy. I've gotten up to speak in front of large audiences numerous times, though rarely to make a speech or anything like that. And what more critical audience can you find than 30 sixth graders? All day, every day, for an entire year?

But even though teachers do a lot of acting, I found preparing a piece - and mine was pretty long, lasting between 5 and 7 minutes depending on how panicky I was – for a live audience was a very intimidating thing to do. I've always been fascinated by what it took to do live theater and could never imagine myself doing it. Until today.

The class was supposed to end two weeks ago but we were snowed out. A reprieve. I really hadn't nailed my lines. So I spent the last two weeks really working at it. And though I pretty much got them all, I always managed to miss a few every time I practiced. But the good thing about a monologue is that you don't have to worry about flubbing your lines and mess someone else up. You can always cover up.

And that is what I had to do today. There were over a hundred people in the audience, including my Jets football buddies, who were only there because the Jets game was moved to tonight (YEA JETS!) The Priscos from Staten Island braved the icy winds (the theater is out at Fort Tilden where icicles form as you go from the parking lot to the building). And my wife and some friends. And many of the actors I had been watching with such admiration were looking up at me as I took hold of the phony mic simulating a radio show.

Motivation was easy. I imagined Michael Bloomberg was the audience. I was pretty much sailing along, ranting and raving. With lines like, "You're pathetic, I despise each and every one of you" I could have been speaking at a PEP meeting (except you Patrick.)

At the end, there is a sequence of epithets that I had to spit out - yellow-bellied, spineless, disgusting, etc. I had nailed them in both dress rehearsals earlier in the day. But this time I lost my way in the middle - somewhere around "quivering" and "drunken." So I just said anything that came to mind. I thought I really messed up. But people said it wasn't noticeable.

What a relief to get this over with. People were asking me if I was going to audition for a play. I'm not ready. And the time involved is almost incomprehensible, (though with people like Angel Gonzalez being retired and willing to race around the city organizing, I have plenty of time now). One of the directors did say she has a good role for me as one of the card players in the "Odd Couple" next November. Better start brushing up on my poker game.

(I have some video and will put up the link in this spot later so those masochists who want to see it can judge my rant on a scale from 1-10.)

1 comment:

The Wash. Teacher said...

This is absolutely wonderful. What a delightful entry- I can just imagine it in my mind. Another calling for you. You know what they say... to whom much is given... much is expected. Perhaps the next Mr. Fry.