Curses

Maybe it’s the weather. There’s no denying that, like most people, my mood instantly improves once the sun comes out and the temperatures hit the 70’s. Plus the sudden outbreak of… what do they call those green things hanging from trees again? Oh, right. LEAVES. The sudden outbreak of leaves that signifies spring is *truly* here has an intoxicating effect.

Or maybe it’s the fact that after an intensely stressful last three weeks in the office I finally climbed back to the peak of Mt. Normal at about 11:30 yesterday morning. (And by “stressful” I mean on the admittedly low-grade scale of my job, not the kind of mind numbing, heart-palpitating stress that people with *real* jobs have to endure).

Maybe it’s the fact that the Sox are on a steady roll, winning with relative ease as every member of the roster contributes in some way. Although the fact that I haven’t been able to watch much more than post-game highlights would seem to negate this one.

Maybe it’s the fact that WKRP finally came out on DVD, and *despite* the music changes really serving to annoy me, watching the episodes has lived up to the immense hype that had been building in my mind (and on my blog) for the last month or so.

Any one of these things could be responsible for the ridiculous smile that was plastered on my face for most of the night last night. But I think the answer is probably something a lot simpler.

I’m having a fucking blast doing this show.

* * *

I don’t like musicals as a rule. While my appreciation for them as a form of theater has certainly grown over the years, they’re still not anything I would find myself running out to see if I didn’t feel I *needed* to. And my experience a season ago doing “Merrily We Roll Along”, while cool in that I met some new peeps, was miserable from a rehearsing/performing standpoint. It takes a different skill set and indeed a different *mind* set to put on a musical, and I’m just not sure it’s something I’m cut out for. Given the choice I’ll always take a straight play over a musical.

With that in mind, there’s something to be said about doing a show where everybody’s giving it their all, having fun, and there’s nary an ego to be found in the lot. Maybe the talent level isn’t as high in all places as you’d like, and certainly some of the execution could be a little more polished (particularly on my end), but I’ll trade a little sloppiness for a complete and utter lack of tension any day of the week. It’s refreshing to know that as long as you’re giving it everything you have you won’t get raked over the coals for not being perfect. At the same time there’s no let-up. We’re pushing ourselves and each other, and we’re not happy with less than our best. It’s not one of those “happy just to be here” kinda shows where people are having fun but nothing’s getting accomplished. It’s simply a positive environment, something that is sadly not as prevalent as it should be these days.

* * *

Relationships are strange, particularly in the world of the theater. I know a lot of people, I consider a lot of people friends, but there’s more than a fine line between those relationships which I would qualify as “personal” and those which fall into the “theater” pile. I can’t really say what causes me to put somebody into one category versus the other, but there’s certainly a feeling there that is tangible to me. Prior to this show I would consider my relationship with Tommy to be more of the latter. We’d never actually done a show together before this. We’re both on the Acme B.O.D., so we cross paths quite a bit. We Co-Produced this past year’s New Works Festival, but we didn’t really communicate much while doing so. We roomed together on the road during the “Lonely Planet” World Tour, but that was more of a “sleeping in the same room” arrangement than anything else. Given that we’ve more than once gone up against each other for a role, there’s a hint of competitive unease that I’ve always felt between us. I simply don’t know Tommy all that well. Aside from one isolated moment when I first met him, I’ve never felt any sort of real connection with him. So it was more than a little odd when he and I first talked about my being involved in “Curse Reversed”. I knew he was desperate for men and I was willing to help out, despite my intention to take a small break before “Pig” geared up for festival. He was concerned that if I was only doing it to be nice, rather than out of any real desire to do the show, it might put a weird strain on our friendship. At the time I remember thinking, “umm… what friendship?”.

So here we are, two months later, and while I can’t claim to know Tommy The Person any better than I did previously, the experience has certainly altered our relationship. I have always had the utmost respect for him as an actor. I now have even more respect for him as a director. I can’t imagine anyone doing a better job with this show, which makes the fact that this is his first directing gig even more amazing. He knows what he wants from the show. His ideas are spot on. His understanding of the material and the format is deep. He has a wonderful touch when dealing with the cast and crew. He has taken what could very easily have been a nightmare production and made it a dream to be a part of simply by keeping his focus sharp and his demeanor light. I can’t remember another show I’ve been a part of that was this relaxed and yet which had so much going on at once. It’s a testament to his leadership that things have gone as smoothly as they have.

For my part I feel like I’ve done what I could to ease whatever fears he may have had about me. I didn’t come into this with the attitude that I was just doing a guy a favor, and I’ve worked pretty hard to do whatever has been asked of me, despite the overwhelming feeling that I’m in over my head. It’s not been perfect, and my insistence on self-flagellation certainly hasn’t helped, but at the end of the day I think I’m pulling my weight. And it certainly hasn’t put any strain on our friendship.

Yeah, that’s the right word now. Friendship.

* * *

There is always a certain amount of bonding that takes places among actors. Some shows you get along with everybody, but when it’s all over, you fall out of touch. Some shows you get along with everybody and remain connected for years after the fact. There’s no hard/fast rule as to why that is. More often than not the reasons are circumstantial. I’ve found that it’s not really related to how intense the bond was during the production. If anything it’s a personality thing.

I don’t expect that myself and my three fellow Rooters will be calling each other up and hanging out on weekends once “Curse” closes. I envision us going our separate ways and sharing a laugh and a memory whenever we bump into each other down the road. But for the last two months and for the next three weekends we’re the best of friends. And I’ll miss them when it’s all said and done.

As I’ve said, I’m not a musicals guy. My three partners in crime are. Yet they’ve taken me in, shown me the ropes, and never once have they made me feel like I was an outsider; some rogue “straight play” actor trying to crash their party. I’ve been the weak link in the dancing numbers from the get-go, yet I’ve never sensed any frustration on their part aimed towards me. We’re a pretty tight little unit; a cast within the cast almost.

Andy and I share the same sense of humor. Despite the fact that he’s about ten years younger than me, he manages to get all my movie references. On stage our character’s have a mentor/student relationship, and despite the fact the he’s more often than not teaching *me* offstage, the “big buddy/little buddy” dynamic holds even after we cross behind the curtain.

In a strange way, Ronny is like a kindred spirit. He’s the only person in the cast who can give me a run for my money when it comes to beating himself up. He simply won’t settle for anything. He wants it better. Watching him silently working through the dance numbers prior to rehearsal each night has pushed me to work harder.

Steve and I, we talk baseball. While all four Rooters are big Sox fans, Steve and I are the two that seem to be the most knowledgeable, so it’s been fun to commiserate with him about growing up a fan. Our age probably has something to do with it. It definitely has something to do with the fact that we’re forever complaining (good naturedly) about “the kids” and their inability to pick up after themselves.

The other day, as we were being bombarded with a variety of new costume pieces, we were each handed a denim jumpsuit for our factory worker scenes. “Go outside and get them dirty”, we were told. Flash forward to fifteen minutes later when, having rubbed dirt and motor oil on each other, the four Royal Rooters could be found on the concrete parking lot behind the theater playing catch with a softball. It was such a simple thing, and yet it was immensely satisfying. For all the hard work we’d put in, we’d earned a twenty minute game of catch. Of all the fun I’ve had while working on this show, I think it’s the one memory that will stay with mean the longest.

Four guys in dirty jumpsuits playing catch in a lot.

* * *

For a dress rehearsal, we had a pretty big audience last night. For me it was a chance to perform for a crowd of friends who were more than willing to laugh at everything I did (and wore). For my fellow Rooters it was a chance to get one show under their belts before opening. I’ve come to respect them each for their talents, while at the same time I’ve come to feel for them a bit as actors who are forever struggling to be appreciated. That may not be true, but it’s a certainly a sense I’ve got. Not so much Steve, who seems to work continuously and with great roles, but more so for Andy and definitely for Ronny. Listening to Ronny talk about shows he’s auditioned for (and not been cast in) and roles he longs to play, I get a strong sense of someone who hasn’t often been told he’s any good.

So it was with great satisfaction that I watched last night as this director who had come to see the dress rehearsal tripped all over himself praising Andy and Ronny and all but begging them to come audition for him. When Ronny kindly informed the guy that he previously *had* auditioned for him – and not been cast – the guy simply said, “Well I was an idiot. Either way I’m glad I came tonight because a performance like that is the best audition you can give.” The whole scene made me smile like a proud brother. We have been working so hard these past weeks that I’m not sure we ever stopped to think about whether or not the show was any good. Last night we were suddenly alerted to the fact that it is. It was nice to see two good guys reap some benefits from that.

Hell, it was even nice to have look up at me and say, “You too! You were fabulous! Come audition!”, as he hurried out the door.

* * *

Three months ago I had no intention of being a part of the “Curse Reversed” production. But, as is often the case with my life, it’s the experiences that I didn’t intend that I cherish the most.

Like I said…

I’m having a fucking blast doing this show.

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