Thursday, December 16, 2010

Playing for Real

We've started rehearsals for Hysteria.

Really cool, complicated, funny, dark play.

It's "complex", as Freud would say.

It's a four person cast:
Stacey Fisher as Jessica
Robert Bonotto as Dr. Yahuda
Richard Snee as Freud
and myself as Salvador Dali.

Playing a character who is based on a real person is a little different from building a character from scratch: there's actual documentation, histories, books, videos, etc, at your disposal.

We just watched the YouTube video of Salvador on "What's my Line?" in rehearsal last night.


It's part mimic and part invention. 

Trying to really capture both the person in the play and the person from history.

Meanwhile, Tommy has started rehearsing a one-person show in which he plays architect, thinker and geodesic dome fan, Buckminster Fuller.

So the house is a little crazy right now.

All this prompted me to take a quick, totally self-indulgent inventory of the "real" people I've played in the past:

Nathan Leopold (with his special buddy, Richard Loeb), thrill-killer super mensch from Never the Sinner: The Leopold and Loeb Story at the Lyric StageJohn Logan, who wrote the recent Rothko smash Red, was the author.  This was a lot of creepy, sexy fun.  Bill Mootos, my good friend, played Loeb.

Werner Heisenberg, brilliant scientist, Nils Bohr's best pal  and "uncertainty principle" wonder boy, from Copenhagen.  This was one of the most difficult plays I've ever been in, hand's down: it's an incredible amount of text, and it's all psychics, spoken by the people who CAME UP with the theories.  It was also my ART debut.  And I was sharing the stage with Will and Karen, two of my favorite actors of all time.   At one point, Heisenberg's son was in the audience.

So, no pressure. 

I actually developed a rash, in my mouth, during the rehearsal process - purely thru stress. 

I had to keep reminding myself that I didn't need to understand all of the scientific principles: I just needed to ACT like I understood them.

Albert Einstein, from Picasso at the Lapin Agile.  The only play I ever did at the Merrimack, back in 2000 (the play is set in 1899, the dawn of the previous century, so there were a lot of productions back in 1999).  Really great cast: Ken Baltin, Bob Walsh, and Andrea Walker (who also played Loeb's girlfriend in Never the Sinner).  Tommy played this part in a early production of the play at the ART, with Bill Camp as Picasso.

David Sedaris, The Santaland Diaries (the play version of his real-life memoirs as an elf named Crumpet in Macy's - which he reportedly can't stand, even though it's one of the most-produced plays in the country).  This is the only play I've done three times.  It's SO much fun!  I couldn't stop laughing when I first read it.  But I purposely avoided listening to Sedaris tell the story himself (it's a NPR staple).  I still have never heard him do it.

Rush Limbaugh, Rush Limbaugh in Night School: this was a tough one, as I can't stand Rush Limbaugh.  But I think the distance gave me some perspective.  
I watched a video of his bile for research, and listened to his radio show. 
But I think it made a difference.
The play really tried to humanize Limbaugh, which (to me anyway) was a daunting task.
This was a one-person show at Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre, back in 1997 I think, and I played 30 other characters along with Rush (including, if I remember correctly, Cokie Roberts).  It's all about Rush taking Spanish lessons at the New School in order to attract Latino listeners, and falling in love with a feminist in his class.

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