Friday, January 8, 2010
Kirk Jackson - SHIPWRECKED Blog - "Acting Muscles"
Spend January in Arizona instead of Vermont? Where do I sign? Not that that was my first thought when Matthew asked me to play Louis de Rougemont in Shipwrecked!, but it was my second. My first thought was, ‘How serendipitous.’ To understand why I must digress…
I hadn’t acted since Stones In His Pockets, which Ollie (Oliver Wadsworth) and I did at Actors Theatre and then again at The Adirondack Theatre Festival in 2003. Though I’ve been directing a lot, particularly while on sabbatical from Bennington College, which is when I did The Busy World Is Hushed at Actors Theatre.
Then a year ago I decided to attempt to reactivate my acting muscles. One of my students, a fine young actor named Max Wolkowitz, and I set out to find a two-hander that we could rehearse on our own and put up with minimal production support. We chose A Life in the Theatre by David Mamet. I directed it and Max, with his considerably younger brain, was able to be “on book” for rehearsals, meaning he knew all the lines. All we needed to add for performances was an usher.
I played an old master thespian full of unsolicited advice and he played an eager young talented actor who benefits from my tutelage but then needs to graduate from the dysfunctional aspects of the relationship. Basically we played ourselves and with such brilliant casting the show went very well. Max did indeed graduate from Bennington and I got my actor muscles up and working again.
Soon afterward I auditioned for a venerable old summer stock theater in Dorset, Vermont. I was cast in two shows, a George S. Kaufman comedy and an Agatha Christie murder mystery. These were fun old warhorses for which I provided the exact identical function: curtain up on the old character guy involved in some activity (scribbling in a ledger, reading a newspaper), another character enters and we engage in a conversation that consists entirely of exposition. Once I’ve mentioned all the main characters by name and enough background information so the audience will recognize them, I leave the stage. This being summer stock it meant learning lines quickly and rehearsing play #2 during the day while performing play #1 at night. It was a blast. The company was filled with talented folks on every level and we laughed a lot.
Come August I’m feeling like an actor again. I shave off the handlebar moustache and goatee that served all three projects and I’m back teaching when Matthew calls with the amazing opportunity to do Shipwrecked! Ollie goes on-line, downloads a picture of the real Louis de Rougemont and I start growing my beard back the next day.