Friday, November 11, 2011

NEXT FALL blog 7: David Dickinson (Brandon)

As an actor, you always put your heart into creating a performance, but rarely do you get the satisfaction of knowing how an audience perceived the show other than applause and laughter at the appropriate, you hope, moments. You hope no one walks out, but that is feedback too!

After two weeks of performing NEXT FALL, I have received a lot of feedback about the show from our audiences..

NEXT FALL makes no effort to preach or espouse a single viewpoint, but it is rather a social laboratory. The play places people with various viewpoints in real life situations and allows us to listen to the outcome. No one is completely right, but no one is dismissed (at least in the end). As with most plays audience members will identify with the character that expresses the viewpoint with which they are the most comfortable. But because the play is so neutral and non-judgmental, audience members find themselves open to the discussion on stage which takes all of us on a much deeper journey.

What drove this home to me came in an e-mail from someone who connected strongly with the voice of my character Brandon because of his Christian views especially on homosexuality. This is a testament to the play: Brandon's discomfort with homosexuality is a real discomfort shared by some in our community. I'm excited these friends are coming to the theatre. I'm thrilled they are joining the discussion and enjoying the journey as much anyone else.

NEXT FALL makes a case that all of the differences that separate us, our opinions, our religions, our beliefs, our prejudices are all "dinky" when you face the reality that we are only here on Earth for a very short time. It focuses all of us on what is important in life: not winning, not being "right", but loving, respecting and appreciating. Everyone responds to this.

I didn't expect this. While I was personally moved by the play when I first read it, I didn't see its universality. Every time I work at Actors Theatre, it takes me on a ride I'm glad I didn't miss. NEXT FALL is no exception. Thanks to all of you who have shared your thoughts and feelings about the play with me. It makes doing the show that much more joyful.

photo: John Groseclose; (l to r) David Dickinson as Brandon and Andi Watson as Holly

NEXT FALL blog 6: Debra K Stevens (Arlene)

I am a woman who will never wear Press On Nails in real life. I have had quite the journey with Arlene and her nails! How I wish she had had the time to get a real manicure before she had to catch that plane to New York. Here is what I have learned:

Don’t drink too much water during the show as the Press On Nails severely inhibit your ability to remove and restore your panty hose. Forget about it.

Make sure a fellow actor is standing nearby in case you want to eat an Altoid before your scene. It could take a full minute to trap the little sucker.

Forget about redoing your hair or making any adjustments to it after you apply the nails. You will end up with at least 2 dozen of your best strands stuck in the adhesive. It also hurts like a sonofabitch when they get pulled out.

I have new respect for women who keep their nails at a similar length and are still able to use a computer. How do they do that?

If your contact lens is irritating you—suck it up. You will never be able to remove, rinse, and reapply without assistance.

Don’t even try to use your Blackberry. Seriously.

photo: John Groseclose, (l to r) Debra K. Stevens as Arlene and Robert Kolby Harper as Adam

NEXT FALL blog 5: David Vining (Butch)

I can’t believe we are already in the last week of performances for NEXT FALL. If you are reading this, and haven’t yet seen this production, I hope you will be able to attend. It is a great honor to perform in a production that has managed to get everything just right—from the witty and powerful script, Matthew Weiner’s passionate direction, the perfect design elements, to an extraordinary ensemble of actors. Such experiences are rare for both audiences and “theatre makers”. I’ve been attending plays and performing in them for over 50 years—once in a great while an undeniable artistic miracle occurs, a very special combustion between audience and performers that leaves you astonished, thoroughly entertained and transformed. Those rare moments are the reason I chose to make the theatre my life’s work at the age of 8, after seeing a stunningly powerful performance of THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK in guilt-stricken Germany in the 1950s. Those occasional miracles are what have kept me working in the theatre all my life. You can’t force or predict them, of course.

When we started rehearsals for NEXT FALL, I was certain it would be a great show and a terrific experience---all the ingredients were there, after all. But it wasn’t until the final dress rehearsals and the attention of the first audiences that I realized I was witnessing the birth of another artistic miracle. Actually, I’ve been kind of afraid to blog about until now, a little superstitious that talking about it might cause it to evaporate! But now the magic has become very dependable, it happens every night as the lights come up on Andi and David. NEXT FALL will close on Sunday and will live on only in the memories of those who were witnesses to it. But productions like this truly feed the souls of actors and theatre artists and keep the art of theatre alive for generations to come. I hope you’ll come and experience NEXT FALL with us.

photo: John Groseclose
(l to r) Debra K. Stevens, David Vining and Chance Dean

Thursday, November 10, 2011

NEXT FALL blog 4: Robert Kolby Harper (Adam)

I’M COMING OUT!!!! Well kinda…..

I’ve been out of the closet since Jesus was a boy. But blogging is another story all together. I’m actually pretty shy. I mean, people who know me are often bombarded inappropriately with life snippets from the trivial to the sublime. But I find it intimidating to put stuff out there for the masses but as Next Fall enters its final week, I am inspired to put my fears aside and say something.

First off, this process has been nothing but magical. The cast is full of old friends, many of which I hardly ever get to work with. Andi Watson is perfectly cast as Adam’s best girl friend, Holly. Andi and I go WAY back. She was in my first musical I ever directed The Will Rodgers Follies and Stagebrush theatre about a 100 years ago. We both are no nonsense actors who find very few topics off limits while chatting. Debra K Stevens and I were last seen together in Childsplay’s production of Time Again in Oz. She played a Chicken and I played a dancing rock. She has a fascination with my butt (Debra, not the chicken). She Iikes to touch it and I like to let her. It’s a beautiful give and take. The David’s (Vining and Dickinson) are equally amazing and set various parts of my body a buzzing. They give SOOO MUCH on stage! Vining and I may have done A Christmas Carol together but otherwise we’ve never shared a scene and Dickinson is the official recipient of my show crush. I keep pinching myself that I (this musical theatre post chorus boy actor) gets to play in their ball park of theatre. Last but never least is Chance Dean. He’s the newcomer from L.A. Let me tell you that I’m pretty shy around men. I am just deficient when it comes to flirting or even speaking with a man who I think is cute. It’s embarrassing and frankly pathetic. Chance is gorgeous (queue my awkwardness) so I was ready to be a blabbering idiot throughout rehearsals, but his demeanor and generous spirit has made feel comfortable right from the start. In fact, with this new found confidence, I think maybe I’m ready to practice some new pick up lines. Like “Hi, How you doin?” Hmmmm….maybe I need an entire football team of Chance’s to help me in that department. Adam (the character) is lucky to have found Luke. Robbie (The actor) is blessed to have Chance play opposite of him. He makes it easy for me to fall in love with him every single night. He makes every risk I take safe. Much respect goes to this man.

And then there is Matthew Weiner. Words will never express how thankful I am for this opportunity. This is perhaps the most challenging thing I’ve done and it’s definitely the most rewarding. It’s been a gift.

I’m serious when I say GET YOUR ASSES DOWN TO SEE THIS PLAY. If you are gay or lover of them, it’s a must. If you are human, it’s a must. If you’ve ever loved someone beyond boundaries or reason, it’s a must. You won’t be disappointed.

See you at the theatre!

photo: John Groseclose, (l to r) Chance Dean and Robert Kolby Harper