Turing Test

Aimee directed a staged reading of Dominick DeGaetano’s play Turing Test for the John Drew Theater Lab at Guild Hall in Southampton this week. As you can see from this picture looking out into the house, this is an amazing theater. I don’t know what the design was based on, but it was very warm and inviting. Not to drop names but Alec Baldwin has a box in the back (the one in front of me in this pic, I believe) and Alan Alda has one across the aisle. Mr. Alda’s Hawkeye Pierce was one of my inspirations as an actor and as a person. Stand up against injustice and nonsensical authority but keep your sense of humor, even when things are at their worst.

The cast of Turing Test checking out the sound before the reading.

The cast of Turing Test checking out the sound before the reading.

It was cool to read with Minerva Perez, who is to my left in this picture. We worked on different readings of this and then were thrown together. Well, I was thrown with everyone else actually. I’m of two minds about saying this but Minerva was a child actor in the movie Caddyshack. She played the girl who threw the Baby Ruth in the swimming pool. I didn’t say anything about it and I’m sure she likes to forget about it but that was a real iconic moment from my childhood. She had quite a cold that night so she really deserves the MVP award for the night.

I like doing staged readings. There are many kinds. The trick is to make the script disappear. This is best exemplified by the Encores series at City Center. Really, that thing is a full production and they happen to have scripts in their hands. But for the most part the binders magically are invisible.

In a situation like this where we sit on the stools when we’re “off” and go to the music stands when we’re “on,” there can be a little pressure to keep things interesting. You don’t have staging to help clarify and tell the story.

I tend to work my music stand a lot. I pull it up and down. Use it as a podium. Aim it at other characters. Turn it into a bar and lean on it. Drum my fingers. Slap my script on it. So, I need to make sure it is pretty sturdy but also adjustable. The one in the picture was perfect for this. I’ll put one foot on one of the three feet pointed at me while the other two face the audience so it won’t fall over on the person in the front row.

I get very antsy before most readings. The best thing for me is to go for an hour or two-hour walk before it starts and think through the whole thing. It’s not memorized but I don’t want the audience to feel like I’m catching up to myself the whole time. I’ve seen those. They aren’t pretty. I also don’t like the feeling of only sketching where the character is emotionally. It’s like running alongside of a motorcycle, instead of being the motorcycle. In this situation, I have to keep reminding myself to keep up or get left behind. If you dwell on something that didn’t work, you run the risk of losing the next moment and the next moment.

Overall, I think this went over very well.

Hurlyburly

Had a great time working on Hurlyburly at the Chain Theatre. It’s such a great space. At one point it was a chain factory. They have space for small rehearsals downstairs. They can even build scenery there. The lobby is one of the biggest for Off Off spaces in the city and they always have a decent art show on display there. Plus the dressing room is big enough to hold 8 or more people without feeling crammed.

It was really nice of Rich Ferraioli and Greg Cicchino to ask me to audition for the show. It was one of those auditions where they’ve met me and like me but haven’t seen my work. That can be awkward if it doesn’t go well. Ever get in a relationship with someone and only find out too late that they’re not a talented actor? Or not as talented as they claim to be? I don’t recommend it.

Fortunately, this was not the case for me here. (Or, who knows, this may have been a pity casting.)

The cast was really great. Deven Anderson, Jackie Collier, Rachel Cora, Kirk Gostkowski, Brandon Hughes and Christina Perry pulled a lot out of this monster of a script, especially Kirk who was on nearly the whole time as Eddie. This is a long play, even though they got the okay to use the slightly shorter version New Group did in 2005. You don’t see many with that kind of running time nowadays. Part of the festivalization of the theater. I suppose I could argue the merits of both.

Me, left, Kirk, Deven and Brandon (on couch). I liked this set.

Me, left, Kirk, Deven and Brandon (on couch). I liked this set.

I played the role of Artie, who was played on stage by one of my heroes, Wallace Shawn recently and Jerry Stiller in the Broadway production from the ‘80s. I was a little nervous because a good friend of mine, Jackie Sydney, was his assistant back then and she came to see this production. (She gave me a thumbs-up personal review.)

Jackie Collier and me trying to out cool one another backstage.

Jackie Collier and me trying to out cool one another backstage.

It was good to be on stage with other people having spent most of last year doing a solo show. It is a bit strange to me now to not have to carry every moment of a play. But I did to have a ton of laughs backstage. I haven’t had that in a long time. Welcome relief due to a lot of sadness in real life recently. Aimee’s mom died suddenly last month and it’s been, well, tough. I flew out with her for the funeral and other arrangements in Ohio and barely made it back in time due to the snow and cancelled flights to make half-hour for the first preview performance. I’ll write more about this when I have processed it better. On the other hand, this may stay private.