Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Special Guest Appearance!

Help me. I'm doing a cameo.

This week I'm playing the surly bartender in a short play for the Little Red Studio's "Erotic Shorts." I have about eight lines.

Which means over the course of an evening of nine plays, I have over two hours to think about my minute of stage time.

That's way too much time to think.

I'll admit--I'm not doing this for the acting experience, but as a favor to the director, who I love dearly and who has done me many favors in the past. But I should have learned by now that cameo roles have strange and significant challenges.

I once had a slightly larger role--though still "supporting," as we like to say--about 17 years ago as "Actor #2" in a production of the very odd play "The Protagonist" by Georg Kaiser. It's probably best known for its music by Kurt Weill, which is quite lovely for those that like Weimar-era dissonant string music, and sort of "Psycho-lite" for those that don't. The show was produced at the Southwark Playhouse, a small fringe theater in London.

My friend the director had some inventive and clever ideas about the staging. The theatre was a converted warehouse, and towards the back of the stage was a trapdoor that led to a tiny little storage closet under the stage, about four feet square. At the top of the play, I and Actor #1 would enter with the Protagonist, and he would send us off to stable the horses or something. We exited not to backstage but down the trapdoor, where the two of us would wait for the start of the "play within the play."

There we crouched. I timed it out once at 37 minutes. In a 4x4 box. With another actor. "No talking down there!" the director had yelled at an early rehearsal--the lead actor, the one walking around over us, loved dramatic pauses, and if he heard us he'd complain to the director, and we'd get yelled at again. So we couldn't speak above a whisper. Not that there's a lot to talk about when you're crouched with another actor in a dark hole under a stage.

Once we emerged, we had a nice scene where I got to put on a silly dress (which really looked good with my full beard) and move seductively against a window, until the lead actor went nuts and knifed someone or took poison or something else very angst-driven and Weimar-era. But this was only for about 15 minutes.

The play ran three weeks, Thursday-Sunday, with me spending more time sitting under the stage than on it. At times while I sat there I fantasized that the show would be picked up by a West End producer, and of course I would follow the show into a professional theatre, where it would enjoy a year-long run. Where I would sit. In a box. For 37 minutes a night.

This time? I can always wander back to the bar.

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