Thursday, November 26, 2015

Memo From the RTC: No, Billy and McMurphy Didn’t Really Die

Memo From the RTC: No, Billy and McMurphy Didn’t Really Die
By Norm Scott

At the final performance we were standing on the receiving line some members of the sold out audience jokingly told Frank Caiati*, who as Billy Bibbit commits suicide near the end of the RTC production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, that they were so glad to see he was still alive. Thus the power and realism of the production, which is sort of funny, considering the entire story may have come out of The Chief’s imagination. The play can get pretty raw so I was surprised to see so many kids with their parents at the Saturday night performance – but these are RTC theater kids working on the upcoming production of Shrek, so they know the score. Still, one parent of one of most experienced young actors, now 16, told me her daughter was so moved, she cried as the ending unfolded. One of the key points in the play is how quickly it goes from comedy with the audience laughing to tragedy.
Photo Credit: Rob Mintzes

Those who didn’t get to the 6 sold-out performances in Fort Tilden, the first time an RTC non-musical has sold out, have no idea what I am talking about. Maybe next time in a decade for the 20th anniversary of the original RTC production when I can play the doctor as an 80-year old – if I’m still here.

There was a whole lot of sadness amongst the cast at the breaking up of a family that had been spending so much time with each other over the past months as people headed off to their regular lives and some to other projects. John Stillwaggon who received raves as McMurphy is off to Texas for a tour of his one man show based on David Sedaris’ “Santaland Diaries”. For a non-actor like me, seeing how a professional actor work up close is a special treat. John will be in Texas for the winter before returning to Brooklyn and we can hope to see him again at the RTC.

Most of the rest of the cast, having regular jobs, may not be pros in the strictest sense, but they have so much experience they might as well be. It was quite a treat listening to the talk backstage of the lead roles so many have played, from Willy Loman to Hamlet and everything in between.

One of the run things for me was getting to work with and know Geoff Rawlings who I had only heard of as an artist – I took a drawing session with him years ago. I had no idea he was also an actor who had played the role of Scanlon in the 2005 production. I found him one of the most interesting people to chat with. And oh those not for public consumption drawings that kept popping up around the set.

Sadness quickly turned to cast party – once the cast had followed orders to clean up the dressing room, store all costumes, wipe down the mirrors, etc. (no food until it was done). People were reluctant to leave so they engaged in some shenanigans on stage, the highlight being trying to fit the entire cast into the small booth meant to hold no more than 3 people. Everyone made it except me and one other cast member, but I managed to get a photo.

By noon Monday, Tony Homsey and his crew had taken down the magnificent set and we were down to bare stage, getting ready to put up the Shrek set.

Memo from RTC will be on hiatus until after the New Year, so have a happy holiday season. I will delve into the many themes in the play in my other column, School Scope.

*The only reason I can even think of going on stage is because of Frank Caiati’s acting classes. Frank will be offering an 8 week acting class at the RTC starting this Sunday. Contact me by email ( and I will forward it to Frank who will contact you if there is still room.

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