Thursday, September 25, 2008

a Long Day's Journey Into Night begins

Hi All
It's been almost 5 months to the day since I posted last on Bad Weeds. I hope you missed me.

So much has transpired since late April that it would be futile to sum it all up here and now. I'll spread it out a bit over the next few posts. Which is to say that there will be a few posts upcoming? Perhaps. We'll see.

Most recent news first.

I'm in a very exciting production of one of American theater's greatest plays -- "Long Day's Journey Into Night". It's at City College of SF in mid-November. The play is by Eugene O'Neill. He wrote it in 1939 - 1941 at his home not far from here in Danville, CA, "Tao House". O'Neill stipulated the play never be produced on any stage and that it not be published for 25 years after his death. O'Neill died in the early Fifties at age 65.

Well long story short, his widow Carlotta succumbed to financial pressures in 1956 and published the play. It won instant acclaim as one of his greatest works and took New York by storm in a production starring Fredric March and Jason Robards.

You might be familiar with the motion picture featuring Katharine Hepburn and Robards, made in 1962.

Fast forward to 2008.

I read about auditions for the play in mid-summer and set my mind upon auditioning. Auditions were ten days ago. It was a whirlwind process.

I showed up to an empty theater, except for director Susan Jacskson, on a dark foggy night out at City College. She looked grateful for the company since she was literally there alone. I did my monologue and afterwards we chatted. My monologue was from the play. I worked on it 14 years ago in an acting class. I always loved it and was delighted to perform it. (It may have been during that class that I first fell in love with "Long Days..." Susan liked it and asked me to do it again. We talked a bit about my connections with the College as an instructor. I pointed out I'd done "Urinetown" two years earlier. (There is at least one podcast from that ... check it out.)

I left after 20 minutes or so feeling pretty good. She already told me to come back for call-backs on Sunday afternoon. It's good when they don't make you wait to hear.

Well Sunday arrived and I headed out there at 4 pm. The place was a lot busier. There were 5 men reading for my role, Jamie. Three men were reading for Edmund (the younger brother ... based on O'Neill himself.) Just one man, the boyfriend of a good friend of almost 14 years, read for the dad, Tyrone. The most exciting aspect, among others, was that TV actress Lee Meriwether (Catwoman from the Batman pilot movie in 1966, Miss America 1954, and lots more TV in the past 40 years) was already cast as Mary Tyrone, the mother.

Susan was very organized; she had already grouped us into scenes and mapped it out on handouts. We took turns going into the theater to read for her and Lee. (The production was Lee's idea a few years back. Lee is an alum of CCSF and does a play now and then at her alma mater.) While we were waiting to read for them we practiced in the lobby of the theater.

It was telling but interesting that I read with Dirk (my friend's boyfriend) and Joshua at that point. I only read with these two during the entire callback. We really had a great chemistry. Josh is great... more on him later. But at that point I felt like my fate lay with these 2. Dirk was the only one reading for Dad and Josh was a ringer for little brother. But there were 4 other 'Jamies' reading...

One of the 'Jamies' looked a bit more the part, I thought, because he was thinner and looked more 'dissipated' (O'Neill's term for advanced alcoholism...) I was worried he'd land the role based on that (and that I look healthy, fit and fabulous... : )

For about a half hour I was worried that Jamie 2 was edging me out. He even read with MY EDMOND (Josh)! I was jealous.

But at the end of the auditions Susan looked at me and asked which scenes I'd read and I pointed out I'd not read one of the last scenes that the other guy (Frank) had read with Josh. She said "Oh come in and read that..." I felt much better after that point.

Just before I left Susan said I'd know something that night by phone... IF I got the role. If not ... no call.

I went home excited, hopeful, but anxious. We had friends over for dinner and I was on 'tenterhooks' waiting to hear. It got to be after 8 pm and I started to worry. Even though it was only two hours since auditions ended. You know how the mind distorts time when you are waiting for news...

Anyway, we were sitting eating and my phone rang. It was Susan's number on caller ID (new iPhone... love it btw.) I said casually "Oh it's her!" I answered and she said "It's Susan Jackson and we'd like to offer you the roe of Jamie Tyrone in Long Day's Journey Into Night.

I said yes!

Well there's lots more since then to blog about. Maybe I'll podcast it. But suffice to say I was exhilarated. I still am when I think of that call, those words "we'd like to offer you the role...". I've had a lot of NO CALLS and NO WORDS... as every actor does. But this time it was YES. For one of my favorite plays. With a TV legend no less! Oh my. Fun fun fun.

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