It was on that date that I ran across a casting notice on Backstage.com, a site I pay dearly for but rarely access.
Though we rehearsed for weeks, I have to confess that it was not until our first public performance that I learned that the play had something substantial to reveal, and moreover, that I had been given a very showy part. (Full disclosure: I have NEVER been any good at reading plays, even established classics. I just do not have the skill to picture the action onstage while reading. The lack of this skill has always hindered my career).
I learned, during those three performances at the Festival, that I had been very lucky to play Ira in Boys of a Certain Age. Director Dan Dinero had cast me into my strengths, as the role carried a lot of the comedy of the piece, but it also displayed an emotional depth which I don't often get a chance to play. Ira's quick wit was on display throughout the play, but in the second half, it was sprinkled among his heartfelt (and sometimes harrowing) memories of the past.
|Ira's loss of so many during the early AIDS crisis thickened his skin but did not harden his heart, which remained compassionate and loving. He was a very rich character to play.|
|I don't even want to know how expensive it is to produce small theater in NYC, but our playwright did it. We had a fundraiser at a local watering hole to announce the run.|
|Brian Gligor played my nephew Christopher, a gay|
Republican. He had the toughest job, I think, making a
Trump supporter likable. Even back in Feb, it was hard to
accept anyone with a brain defending Trump.
Brian made it work. One of my favorite BOCA memories
is the night I enticed him to my place after rehearsal, where
I plied him with martinis and forced him to build my website.
RScottWilliams.com is proof that booze works.
The best laid plans, right? Soho Rep abruptly shut down all operations at their theatre, there were apparently certain building codes which they had been ignoring (and violating) for many years. Our contract to sublet was yanked.
This disappointment became a blessing in disguise. Another space was found, and our remount was rescheduled for February, 2017. This gave the playwright time to rewrite a sizable chunk of the script, a chunk which dealt specifically with the 2016 presidential election. During our summer run, the campaign had been in full swing, and it seemed assured that Clinton would win.
It was logical, and even necessary, to include current politics in the text of Boys of a Certain Age; four educated gay men could never spend an entire weekend together without ever mentioning the current state of affairs. But with the play now taking place after the election, this dialogue had to be rewritten.
We went back into rehearsal; we were a lively bunch. We embraced the theme of the play: the clashing perspectives gay men have with different generations of their own tribe:
We now knew we had something special to which audiences would respond, and we were eager to improve the piece. Both Dans (director and playwright) were open to collaboration, and the actors took full advantage of the fact.
|Here is the "black box theatre" in which we|
performed. Notice anything? Yep, it's all white. Not
a problem, but the permanent pole in the center of
the playing space was <ahem>challenging.
Moving into the theater was particularly challenging, as it always is in such situations. Because the space was being rented, the only rehearsals we had there were technical. Actors hate tech rehearsals, as we always feel we are in the home stretch before the audience shows up, and we want the time to polish. But there is no time for such fine tuning, and in our case, our tech rehearsals were commandeered by a set which arrived more complex than anticipated.
Further consternation was felt when, after several preview performances, edits to the script were delivered which were more substantial than expected. Tempers flared, and our opening weekend had lots and lots of <ahem> adrenaline.
All good things end, so I sadly said goodbye to Boys of a Certain Age on closing night in February.
The show was to reenter my life a few months later, quite unexpectedly. Our show had been submitted to the New York Innovative Theatre Awards, which celebrate Off-Off-Broadway productions. There must be hundreds of such productions in NYC every year, so I was stunned when this happened:
The NYIT awards cover a large swath of art, including solo shows, performance art pieces, as well as traditional plays and musicals, but there were only six of us nominated in the Outstanding Actor in a Lead Role category. This nomination was a very nice cap to put on the experience of Boys of a Certain Age; by the time the awards were given, all of us had moved on to other things. But I will remember Ira very fondly; his belief that there are things in the world worth fighting for was admirable.
Ira's sass was infectious, his compassion was humbling, his humanity was undeniable. I will always be grateful for the part he played in a year of my life.