Wednesday, November 11, 2015

I Finally Become a Doctor in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - My Mom Would Have Been Proud

Yes, I had a Jewish mother who wanted me to be a doctor. She had to settle for a teacher. But not all is lost.

I will be playing Doctor Spivey in the Rockaway Theatre Company production of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" opening Friday, Nov. 13 and running for 6 performances over two weekends. This is only the 2nd show I've been in where I have a bunch of lines - even a short speech - and for me memorizing them and the cues from other actors has been tough. We have only 2 more rehearsals and though I'm getting close I still need to nail stuff down. And then yesterday they told me I am not talking loud enough - use your teacher voice they told me - I haven't used my teacher voice for 20 years. I will take a shot at it at tonight's rehearsal. I am in only 3 scenes and when I finish each one I race off the stage, feeling I've just finished a test.

Well, anyway - if you want to come and see me make a fool of myself - but more importantly see a play that will echo in your mind about some of the schools you may have worked in - call the RTC hotline: (718-374-6400). 8PM performances Nov. 13, 14, 20, 21 and 2PM matinees Nov. 15, 22.

There is so much meat in this play for educators working in often oppressive institutions that can at times seem like a mental institution.

In "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" a rebel revolts against institutional oppression. The extreme of a mental institution concept can be applied to society in general, a corporation and -Yes - a school. The beauty of the play is how McMurphy, the rebel, brings the very damaged people he finds himself with along and the very act of revolt against authority becomes a healing process and even when he is gone, has some long-term effects. It is quite a complicated stories with many themes running through it, which I will examine in my column in The Wave next week.
Frank Caiati and Matt Smilardi

Below is this Friday's column where I talk about this amazing cast of A-list actors who have been nice enough to humor this D-list actor.

Frank and Matt have been with RTC since they were teenagers and have played leading roles in many shows. Frank is now a guidance counselor and Matt runs youth programs in a public school, so the transition to a mental institution is an easy stretch.  Frank has also been my acting teacher and go to guy when I need a clue as what to do on stage.

The inmates with McMurphy in hat (John Stillwaggon). David Risley as Harding on the right

Submitted for publication to The Wave, November 13, 2015

Memo From the RTC

One Flew Over… Opening Weekend:  Crazy is as Crazy Does
By Norm Scott

It’s Monday night and I’m back from another rehearsal at the RTC. Hell Week in ON ­we do this every night until we open on Friday night. As the doctor, I am only in 3 scenes so I can get out to cheap seats to watch the A-list cast perform their magic. A-list is understating it. As you know, the entire play takes place in the rec room of an insane asylum. The production team, led by director Michael Wotypka, co-director Peggy Page and Producer Susan Jasper, have assembled a cast of actors that would do any asylum proud. Many of the guys have played leading roles in addition to having directed their own shows. Here’s an intro to just a few of them.

David Risley, an RTC mainstay, follows up on his very funny performance in Plaza Suite this past September by taking on the role of inmate Harding. David directed the wonderful “Lost in Yonkers” which also starred Linda Browning as the sympathetic Bella, who is now playing the very unsympathetic Nurse Ratched, a testament to her range as an actor. David will be directing Sunshine Boys next season.

Danny Velez (Martini) is coming off leading roles as Joe Hardy in Damn Yankees and Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls. One of the great things about RTC is how actors who playing leads are willing to take on small parts.

Frank Caiati (the tragic Billy Bibbit) is the reason I can get up on stage due to the acting classes he has taught at RTC  ­– if you have an interest in being on stage, Frank’s next 8-week course begins at RTC on November 29 at 10 AM. If I can do it anyone can. It’s wonderful to see a great actor in action from behind the scenes – this is the first show I’ve been in with Frank. He is finally acting again after directing so many great shows himself. He did Mary Poppins in September in Bay Ridge and Godspell at the RTC.

Matt Smilardi (Cheswick), who can do anything on stage, was Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls and also played the lead in Caiaiti’s Godspell as Jesus. Which reminds me to touch on the number of themes in One Flew Over…., the most obvious being the “Randall McMurphy” as Jesus theme where he sacrifices himself to free the inmates, especially the formerly deaf and dumb big Indian Chief, played by Rockaway community leader Jose Velez, who is “cured” by the dynamic McMurphy. The guys were matching up the inmates with the apostles. I’ll leave it to you to find these analogies when you see the play – which I will say right now – it is must-see theater and if you miss this you may have to wait another 10 years to see it again at the RTC when - if I am still alive - hope to reprise the role of the doc at age 80. Oy!

Nurse Ratched  - or Rat Sh_t, as McMurphy refers to her, ORDERS you to call the RTC hotline (718-374-6400) or face a heavy dose of anti-psychotic meds and severe assault on your self-esteem in group therapy.

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